Is there an association between women wearing red, fertility and aiming to increase attractiveness?

A study published in the PLOS ONE Journal reveals that women are more likely to wear red color clothing when expecting to interact with men to increase their attractiveness.

However, such inclination towards red has not been observed in women in highly fertile days of the menstrual cycle.

Study: Antecedents of the red-romance effect: Men’s attractiveness and women’s fertility. Image Credit: RomanSamborskyi/Shutterstock.com

Study: Antecedents of the red-romance effect: Men’s attractiveness and women’s fertility. Image Credit: RomanSamborskyi/Shutterstock.com

Background

The implication of the red color has been observed in many social contexts, including power, dominance, anger, aggression, and, most evidently, romantic attraction.

Since ancient times, red has been used to symbolize love, lust, sexuality, and passion. Current evidence indicates that red is associated with various mating-related perceptions and judgments.

Considering existing scientific literature on the association between red color and romance, the scientists have formulated two hypotheses.

One hypothesis predicts that women are more likely to wear red color attire when expecting to encounter a highly attractive man. Another hypothesis predicts that women prefer red color attire during the most fertile days of their menstrual cycle.

In the current study, scientists have used a reasonably powered conceptual replication to test these hypotheses along with multiple theoretically relevant independent variables, including relationship status, age, and current weather.

The relationship status of the participants was considered an independent variable with the assumption that single women are expected to have greater interest in meeting attractive new partners than already committed women. Thus, they are expected to use red as a mating tactic.

Participants' age was another variable that could influence the desire to meet new partners.

Current weather was considered a potential variable assuming that women might be more likely to use red when cold or dreary.

Study participants

A total of 281 pre-menopausal women aged below 50 years were enrolled in the study. None of the participants were pregnant during the study period.

The participants were assigned to either of two experimental conditions, i.e., the high attractiveness condition and the low attractiveness condition. In the high-attractiveness group, a photo of an attractive man was sent to the participants through email.

Similarly, a photo of an average-looking man was sent to the low-attractiveness group. All participants also received instructions about their meeting sessions through the same email.

Participant-provided information about the menstrual cycle was used to estimate fertility timing. During the session, each participant's preference to wear red, as well as the degree to which they wore red ("how much" and "how obvious"), was assessed.

Important observations

The analysis of normally cycling women revealed that about 73% of participants in the high-fertile phase of the menstrual cycle expected to meet a highly attractive man who wore red. In contrast, only 37% of participants in the low-fertile phase of the cycle wore red while expecting to meet an attractive man.

However, the observed effect of fertility on color preference disappeared when the analysis was adjusted for the participant's age, relationship status, and current weather. The effect of fertility was also not observed in participants who were using hormonal contraceptives.  

The analysis of the degree of wearing red revealed that participants expecting to meet an attractive man wore significantly redder than control group participants who were not provided with a photograph. A similar trend was observed in participants who were using hormonal contraceptives.

Comparison of the current study with pre-existing literature

For conceptual replication, the current study findings were compared with a recent publication reporting the effect of a man's attractiveness on a female's preference for wearing red attire.

In accordance with the recent publication, the current study reveals that women prefer to wear red attire when expecting to interact with an attractive man. However, the study could not find any association between fertile menstrual cycle days and an inclination to wear red attire.  

Journal reference:
Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta

Written by

Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta

Dr. Sanchari Sinha Dutta is a science communicator who believes in spreading the power of science in every corner of the world. She has a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree and a Master's of Science (M.Sc.) in biology and human physiology. Following her Master's degree, Sanchari went on to study a Ph.D. in human physiology. She has authored more than 10 original research articles, all of which have been published in world renowned international journals.

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