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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Buechner, V.L., Maier, M.A., Lichtenfeld, S. & Schwarz, S. (2014). Red - Take a closer look. PLoS ONE 9(9): e108111.

Author(s) from Durham


Color research has shown that red is associated with avoidance of threat (e.g., failure) or approach of reward (e.g., mating) depending on the context in which it is perceived. In the present study we explored one central cognitive process that might be involved in the context dependency of red associations. According to our theory, red is supposed to highlight the relevance (importance) of a goal-related stimulus and correspondingly intensifies the perceivers’ attentional reaction to it. Angry and happy human compared to non-human facial expressions were used as goal-relevant stimuli. The data indicate that the color red leads to enhanced attentional engagement to angry and happy human facial expressions (compared to neutral ones) - the use of non-human facial expressions does not bias attention. The results are discussed with regard to the idea that red induced attentional biases might explain the red-context effects on motivation.

School of Education