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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Prof Robert A. Barton

Wiedemann, D., Burt, D.M., Hill, R.A. & Barton, R.A. (2015). Red clothing increases perceived dominance, aggression and anger. Biology Letters 11(5): 20150166.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

The presence and intensity of red coloration correlate with male dominance and testosterone in a variety of animal species, and even artificial red stimuli can influence dominance interactions. In humans, red stimuli are perceived as more threatening and dominant than other colours, and wearing red increases the probability of winning sporting contests. We investigated whether red clothing biases the perception of aggression and dominance outside of competitive settings, and whether red influences decoding of emotional expressions. Participants rated digitally manipulated images of men for aggression and dominance and categorized the emotional state of these stimuli. Men were rated as more aggressive and more dominant when presented in red than when presented in either blue or grey. The effect on perceived aggression was found for male and female raters, but only male raters were sensitive to red as a signal of dominance. In a categorization test, images were significantly more often categorized as ‘angry’ when presented in the red condition, demonstrating that colour stimuli affect perceptions of emotions. This suggests that the colour red may be a cue used to predict propensity for dominance and aggression in human males.