Red a winning color, researchers report
(Posted May 27, 2005Courtesy Natureand World Science staff)
"Come on you reds!" is a cry heard at football fields throughout Britain. But
those dressed in scarlet may need less help than you might think. A recent
survey suggests athletes are more likely to triumph if they are wearing
Russell Hill and Robert Barton of the University of Durham, U.K. studied
four one-on-one sports in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games—boxing, tae kwon do,
Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling—in which combatants were randomly assigned either red or blue clothing or body protectors. Those wearing red, but otherwise matched in skill to their blue-wearing opponents, were more likely to
win, the researchers reported in the May 19 issue of the research journal
The researchers pointed out that red is linked with high testosterone,
fitness and aggression in animals—an effect that might also operate in humans
and subconsciously put an opponent on the back foot.
The report is one of the latest in a series of findings supporting the controversial idea that subconscious signals can affect our brains and, perhaps, our actions.
Recently, scientists have also found that so-called subliminal messages, such as
words flashed on a television screen too quickly to be noticed consciously, do
have such effects—despite the fact that early research backing this notion was
How about the alternative hypothesis that judges and referees favor red? I doubt that top athletes do anything but maximum at the Olympics, no matter what ever else is happening around them. They break bones and keep going!
All the sports these researchers looked at are judged subjectively. How about (objective) team sports where one side either scores (a goal, a basket, etc.) or does not? Do red jerseys win more often? How about other subjectively judged sports where the blue/red (and other colors) are not assigned randomly, e.g., figure-skating (red dresses win more often?) or horse dressage (chestnuts and palominos tend to beat bays, browns, greys and blacks?).