The Weird Psychology Of Why Some People Avoid People Wearing Red

Registered Yoga Teacher By Georgina Berbari
Registered Yoga Teacher
Georgina Berbari is a Brooklyn-based health and wellness writer who reports for mindbodygreen, Elite Daily, Bustle, and elsewhere. She's also a certified yoga teacher through the Yoga Alliance and teaches both yoga and meditation.
Unrecognizable Man in a Red Suit

Image by Javier Díez / Stocksy

The color red is known to evoke an emotional response: From warmth, to aggression, to anger, to danger, red is a powerful color. But first and foremost, red often symbolizes passion, sexuality, dominance, and love. It is, after all, the star of the show each year on Valentine's Day.

This romantic association is so ingrained that research has found wearing the scarlet shade can affect the way we perceive people donning it. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General revealed that simply wearing the color red or "being bordered by the rosy hue" made male participants more attractive and sexually desirable to women. The inverse has also been proved true: A paper published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that women wearing red were sat closer to and asked more intimate questions by men. Moreover, a 2016 study revealed that red's association with passion and love increases feelings of sexuality and attraction in both men and women wearing the color.

But new evidence suggests there's a catch in this weird color psychology: the onlooker's marital status. A three-part study published this month in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied suggests that men wearing the color red may actually cause married women to avoid them—in an effort to maintain their relationship.

The first two parts of the study included 1,009 female participants (aged between 18 to 50) and concluded that married women found photos of men displayed against a red background less attractive. However, the opposite was found when it came to single women. The third part of the study consisted of 412 married women, and the researchers found that photos of men on a red background prompted women to recall words related to relationship threat and commitment, as opposed to photos with men on a white background. 

Nicolas Pontes, study author and lecturer at the University of Queensland, suggested that red's association with sex and romance may actually push away married people, who may feel compelled to protect their relationship by avoiding the attractive other.

"While most research would suggest that wearing the color red can enhance one's attractiveness to others, our research suggests wearing the color red in an attempt to increase attractiveness and impress another may backfire and essentially lead to undesired outcomes when the person is married, which is the case for more than half of the population," Pontes told PsyPost

So if you're wearing the color red in order to increase your perceived attractiveness, maybe consider your audience. Not everyone may be enthused by the sexy undertones.

When in doubt, remember the wise words of couples' therapist Shelly Bullard, MFT: "People who we tend to perceive as 'naturally attractive' likely spend less time trying to create an appearance that fits a particular aesthetic, and more time cultivating an inner connection to who they are."

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