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Is red the colour of love?
NYU marketing professor Adam Alter examined several recent studies for his new book Drunk Tank Pink, which examines details that affect how people think, feel and behave. His findings showed that the colour red generated more positive responses in almost every instance. ‘The message here couldn’t be simpler,’ Mr Alter writes. ‘If you’re trying to attract a member of the opposite sex, red dresses and red shirts give you an ever-so-slight romantic advantage.’
One of the studies, conducted by Nicolas Gueguen, a psychologist at the University of Southern Brittany in France, used digital software to create six photos for each of the 64 women participating in the study. Each of the six photos was identical except for the colour of their T-shirts. Every two weeks they rotated the image on the website. Twenty-one per cent of their emails arrived when they wore red, whereas the other colours – black, white, yellow, green and blue – attracted 14 to 17 per cent of the total.
Mr Alter explains that red has long been a colour linked with sex, love and lust, from a rose to a red-light-district – that we have learned to associate the colour red with passion – and the reason for this lies in biology. ‘Animals, from humans to baboons to finches, flush red when they’re sexually receptive,’ he wrote on Slate.com. ‘A woman’s skin tends to redden as she approached ovulation, and then lightens during the infertile midpoint of her menstrual cycle.’
Another study conducted several years ago by Andrew Elliot, a professor at the University of Rochester, concurred. In this study, heterosexual male undergraduates were asked to spend five seconds looking at the photo of a young female stranger, and to rate her attractiveness on a scale ranging from 1 to 9. All of the undergraduates saw the same woman wearing the same clothes – but the researchers changed the colour of the thick border that framed the photo, alternating among white, red, blue and green.
The study showed that the male undergraduates who rated the photo bordered in red, found the woman more attractive, were more interested in asking her on a date and willing to spend more money during the date. However, the men didn’t believe the red-bordered woman was more likeable, kind, or intelligent – only that she was more attractive and sexually appealing.
But the colour of your T-shirt isn’t the only factor affecting your chances of scoring a date. Mr Alter also cites an OkCupid report examining the success rates of messages between users. The 2009 study found that just 32 per cent of first-time messages draw a response, but, if your spelling is poor, the response rate crashes. The response rate for messages featuring common text message abbreviations such as ‘ur’, ‘r’ and ‘u’, for example, is less than 10 per cent. A single ‘hi’ doesn’t go much further, generating replies in just 23 per cent of cases. Whereas a more personal message, using phrases like ‘you mention’ or ‘noticed that’ can have a more positive impact. This gives the sender a 50 per cent chance of getting a reply.
So, if both you and your inbox on your online dating profile haven’t been seeing much action lately, it may be time to update your photo – and wardrobe.