Wearing Red: The Danger Signals It Sends

Post image for Wearing Red: The Danger Signals It Sends

New study shows that everyone knows what wearing red means, so watch out!

Red is very much in fashion in psychology at the moment.

Last year PsyBlog reported on the exciting news that women are more likely to wear red or pink dresses at the most fertile time of the month.

On the other side, as it were, other research has shown that men think that women wearing red is a sign of sexual receptivity.

Still, vital questions have been left unanswered.

For example: do women notice that their man has noticed that another woman is wearing some red apparel and, therefore, get all protective and jealous?

I’m happy to say, thanks to a new study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, we now have the answers (Pazda et al., 2014).

They showed women pictures of other women dressed in dresses of either green or red (see above).

Then they tested for signs of either ‘derogation’ or ‘mate-guarding’.

The lead researcher, Adam Pazda, explains:

“Derogation [involves] speaking poorly of another person to make them seem inferior, undesirable, or unlikeable, while making oneself seem superior and more likable by contrast.

Mate-guarding is the act of protecting one’s own romantic partner from romantic or sexual encounters with others.”

The answer: yes, women were more likely to ‘derogate’ and ‘mate-guard’ when the target woman was wearing a red dress.

So there it is.

Evidence that we all know what red means: the people who wear it, those who see it and those who see them seeing it.

All you wearers-of-red have been warned about the ticking time-bombs you are draping over your bodies.

Better to play it safe and dress in gray, I say.

Image courtesy of Society for Personality and Social Psychology

About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 12 July 2014

Text: © All rights reserved.

Images: Creative Commons License