Seeing Red: Does color affect emotion?

Ashton Hurst has been our psychology intern this summer. She is a psychology major at Ouachita Baptist University. She has helped around the office with several projects and contributed greatly. Below is another contribution she is sharing with us.


This past semester, at Ouachita Baptist University, I conducted a psychology experiment which resulted in a presentation at The Carl Goodson Honors Program’s Annual Scholar’s Day. I studied the link between color and emotion. Our experiment was about the color red in particular, and its connection to anger. The experiment was proceeded by a large amount of research. One of the most interesting things I found was that there is a strong biological tie between human biology and the color red. Red is a “signal color,” which is among one of the first colors babies can see after they are born (Peromaa & Olkkonen, 2019). This makes red one of the most easily identifiable colors for humans. Regardless of what it signals, the signal is innately clear universally and from a young age. From another biological perspective, when we become angry our face naturally flushes red (Wiedemann, Burt, Hill, and Burton, 2015). Because of this, it is biological to associate red with anger. Red also signals anger due to the fact that the color is frequently associated with of negative emotions such as danger, aggression, and dominance.


In a study looking at the possibility that wearing red clothing outside of a competitive setting causes dominant and aggressive perception, a correlation was discovered. Compared to men wearing blue, the men wearing red were consistently rated as more angry, dominant, and aggressive (Wiedemann, Burt, Hill, and Burton, 2015). This doesn’t just happen with men, there are very strong internal cues that signal threat and danger when faced with the color red (Young, Elliot, Feltman, & Ambady, 2013).


The link between color and emotion is something that is really helpful to be aware of in

everyday life. Although it seems red could make you look angry, this doesn’t mean

that you should take all of the red out of your closet. Rather, it is beneficial to be mindful of such possibility in a range of settings. There are some good emotions associated

with the red as well. One study that showed a stronger male attraction to women

wearing red (Elliot & Niesta, 2008). There are also times in life, perhaps when giving a big

presentation at work or for a teacher on the first day of school, that one would

want to appear dominant and in control. Be aware that the color you are wearing can have an impact on the way you are received and could even use it to your advantage.


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