We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Research & business

View Profile

Publication details for Professor Robert A. Barton

Hill, R.A. & Barton, R.A. (2005). Red enhances human performance in contests. Nature 435(7040): 293.

Author(s) from Durham


Signals biologically attributed to red coloration in males may operate in the arena of combat sports.

Red coloration is a sexually selected, testosterone-dependent signal of male quality in a variety of animals and in some non-human species a male's dominance can be experimentally increased by attaching artificial red stimuli. Here we show that a similar effect can influence the outcome of physical contests in humans — across a range of sports, we find that wearing red is consistently associated with a higher probability of winning. These results indicate not only that sexual selection may have influenced the evolution of human response to colours, but also that the colour of sportswear needs to be taken into account to ensure a level playing field in sport.