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Red enhances human performance in contests

Hill, R.A.; Barton, R.A.



Signals biologically attributed to red coloration in males may operate in the arena of combat sports. Red coloration is a sexually selected, testosterone-dependent signal of male quality in a variety of animals and in some non-human species a male's dominance can be experimentally increased by attaching artificial red stimuli. Here we show that a similar effect can influence the outcome of physical contests in humans — across a range of sports, we find that wearing red is consistently associated with a higher probability of winning. These results indicate not only that sexual selection may have influenced the evolution of human response to colours, but also that the colour of sportswear needs to be taken into account to ensure a level playing field in sport.


Hill, R., & Barton, R. (2005). Red enhances human performance in contests. Nature, 435(7040),

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date May 19, 2005
Deposit Date Sep 8, 2008
Journal Nature
Print ISSN 0028-0836
Electronic ISSN 1476-4687
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 435
Issue 7040