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Red clothing increases perceived dominance, aggression and anger

Wiedemann, D.; Burt, D.M.; Hill, R.A.; Barton, R.A.

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D. Wiedemann


The presence and intensity of red coloration correlate with male dominance and testosterone in a variety of animal species, and even artificial red stimuli can influence dominance interactions. In humans, red stimuli are perceived as more threatening and dominant than other colours, and wearing red increases the probability of winning sporting contests. We investigated whether red clothing biases the perception of aggression and dominance outside of competitive settings, and whether red influences decoding of emotional expressions. Participants rated digitally manipulated images of men for aggression and dominance and categorized the emotional state of these stimuli. Men were rated as more aggressive and more dominant when presented in red than when presented in either blue or grey. The effect on perceived aggression was found for male and female raters, but only male raters were sensitive to red as a signal of dominance. In a categorization test, images were significantly more often categorized as ‘angry’ when presented in the red condition, demonstrating that colour stimuli affect perceptions of emotions. This suggests that the colour red may be a cue used to predict propensity for dominance and aggression in human males.


Wiedemann, D., Burt, D., Hill, R., & Barton, R. (2015). Red clothing increases perceived dominance, aggression and anger. Biology Letters, 11(5), Article 20150166.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 19, 2015
Online Publication Date May 13, 2015
Publication Date May 13, 2015
Deposit Date May 8, 2015
Publicly Available Date May 13, 2016
Journal Biology Letters
Print ISSN 1744-9561
Electronic ISSN 1744-957X
Publisher The Royal Society
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 5
Article Number 20150166
Keywords Red, Dominance, Aggression.


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