Biosocial examinations of the degree of attractiveness of a particular color are of great importance both for studying the structuring of relationships between individuals in society and assessing and further managing natural processes in ecosystems which are tied to the use of light. While it is well known that the difference between perceived shades of light is the physical wavelength, some studies show that red color is associated with the object’s attractiveness (Lehmann, Elliot, and Calin-Jageman, 2018; Berthold, Reese, and Martin, 2017). For instance, the use of red elements in everyday wear — whether it is a tie, T-shirt, or jacket — makes a man more attractive to the eyes of women. Furthermore, it was shown that the red shade of clothing is associated with increased sexuality, authority, and seductiveness (Elliot et al., 2010; Peperkoorn, Roberts, and Pollet, 2016). The use of this phenomenon formed the basis for a key question in this study, which provoked a scientific question: if red increases a man’s attractiveness, should we expect a woman’s heart rate to be higher when observing a man with a red appearance element?
The selection of participants involved is crucial to maintain the high accuracy of the experiment and to obtain results with great reliability. From the large number of volunteers who responded to this project, participants who
- were not color blind,
- were of the appropriate age, and
- did not show any previous interaction with other women or especially men were selected.
One of the central criteria for selecting specific volunteers is the degree of familiarity. The participants of this biosocial study were five (5) men and 100 women who had never interacted with each other before. Such a large difference between the number of participants of different sexes was due to the nature of measuring the heart rate of an individual woman while observing a man.
The age of female participants was also an important characteristic of the experiment, although it was not considered a mandatory parameter for observation. In particular, the age range of hundreds of women should be represented by both young participants (18-30 years) and older participants (31-50), although the mean age should not be shifted in either direction. Moreover, although color blindness is traditionally considered a disease associated with men, some studies have illustrated the development of color perception dysfunction in women as well (Mulligan, 2019). For this reason, the choice of participants included a study of the collected anamnesis.
Finally, male participants were represented by five (5) men with similar morphological, age, and ethnic data. This choice was justified by the mechanics of observation, namely, the desire to reduce the impact of the variable appearance of a particular man. The selection of specific men from the list of volunteers was based on the maximum similarity of appearance, and wearing a mustache, beard, piercing, or face tattoos were prohibited. Thus, the average portrait of a man in this experiment could be described as a white male of 30 years of the standard build.
The central measurement device for this experiment was an electrocardiograph, which records changes in the heart rate of female participants. Since this data must have high measurable accuracy, the space where the observation takes place must be comfortable and not distracting to a woman. With the help of several sensors attached to the participant’s chest and cuff attached to the pulsating area of the vein on the wrist, the heartbeat results are recorded directly in a computer database. The curve called an electrocardiogram corresponds to normal and pathological vectors of myocardial cell depolarization (Sadr et al., 2018). In fact, the cells of the cardiac muscle tissue, generating electricity, are charged and discharged depending on the passage of the excitation wave. Electrocardiogram examination reveals the activity and the zone of distribution of the electrical impulse to the heart. Subsequently, the results are statistically analyzed by both computer software and health care professionals.
The experiment is tied to the high accuracy of following the instructions because any deviation from the planned design can affect the quality of the results. To test the strength of the connection between red and male attractiveness, a hundred (N = 100) female participants were divided into three groups: red only (N = 40), red in combination with other colors (N = 40), and two controls group (N =2*10). It is important to note that no communication was observed between the participants, but if this fact was found, the results of measurements of specific women were not taken into account.
A preliminary step in preparing a database for the experiment was to measure the heartbeat trends of each individual woman medically. Thus, already before the first target observation, specialists knew the mean value of the number of heart beats per minute for each of the participants. Then, each woman in the first (A) group was asked to take turns to look at a man dressed in a classic dark suit with some red element: it could be a tie, shirt, or the color of his glasses. Next, a woman’s heartbeat during the observation was registered and recorded on her identification card.
Women in the second group (B) were asked to evaluate men dressed in multicolored shades, but at least one red detail should have been worn. Again, a woman’s heartbeat was recorded, and the data were reflected in the summary observation table. A control group of twenty women was further divided into two subgroups to assess the quality of two variables at once. In particular, the third group (C) observed men only in classic dark suits, while the fourth group (D) measured the heart rate of women observing men in colorful suits but without red.
The collected heartbeat data have been statistically interpreted both to determine the average heart rate of each participant and to track the rise or fall of this parameter. Cardiograms were studied by professional health care professionals who record not only the intensification (or slowdown) of heartbeat frequencies but also the height of the R and T waves, which are responsible for excitation of the inner chambers of the heart.
Female participants’ heart rate is an observable variable, interpreted as an effect of male attractiveness. In particular, the observed frequency intensification may indicate a participant’s arousal, which is equivalent to an interest in the observed male (Köbele et al., 2010). On the other hand, if the rapid heart rate is not noticed, or even if the frequency is reduced, then a woman does not find a man in this suit especially attractive. Although the overall relationship between the measured parameter and the interpreted result seems transparent, there are several concerns about the results’ reliability.
First of all, it concerns the personal interests of the participant: some men may seem more attractive than others, regardless of the clothes they wear. In order to smooth out this undesirable effect, the most similar men were chosen. Moreover, age is another variable that is expected to show amazing results. It is likely that young participants may be more interested in men than older ones, so age accounting is a necessary milestone. It was also interesting to see if the color environment affects attractiveness: two sample sizes were created for this purpose. In this case, if women from group B will have higher heart rates, so it can be expected that the combination of colors also has a greater effect than the red and black combination of a classic men’s suit.
This biosocial experiment is a promising work to investigate the effect of red color on male attractiveness. The potential of such a project is great: obtaining reliable and confident results can have an effect not only on social research of interpersonal relationships but also on the fashion industry. Moreover, the development of this relationship may expand the range of topics under study and lead to investigations of the effects of other color shades.
As a finished work, this research will be able to determine the nature of the relationship between male attractiveness and wearing red elements of clothing, taking into account the most obvious variables. Nevertheless, some of the project’s weaknesses and limitations should be discussed. In particular, there are risks associated with collecting quality data since the basis of the acquaintance criterion should be the trust in participants. Moreover, the measurement will require significant time resources as there will be a considerable time between the selection of volunteers and statistical interpretation of the electrocardiogram results. Short-term changes in heartbeat rhythm characteristic of the moment when a man appears in front of a woman were also not considered. Excitement, stress, or extra interest may affect the heartbeat rate even before the participant meets a man.
Berthold, A., Reese, G. and Martin, J. (2017) ‘The effect of red color on perceived self‐attractiveness’, European Journal of Social Psychology, 47(5), pp. 645-652.
Elliot, A.J., Niesta Kayser, D., Greitemeyer, T., Lichtenfeld, S., Gramzow, R.H., Maier, M.A. and Liu, H. (2010) ‘Red, rank, and romance in women viewing men’, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 139(3), pp. 399-417.
Köbele, R., Koschke, M., Schulz, S., Wagner, G., Yeragani, S., Ramachandraiah, C.T., Voss, A., Yeragani, V.K. and Bär, K.J. (2010) ‘The influence of negative mood on heart rate complexity measures and baroreflex sensitivity in healthy subjects’, Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 52(1), pp. 42-50.
Lehmann, G.K., Elliot, A.J. and Calin-Jageman, R.J. (2018) ‘Meta-analysis of the effect of red on perceived attractiveness’, Evolutionary Psychology, 16(4), pp.1-5.
Mulligan, K (2019) Can women be color blind? Web.
Peperkoorn, L.S., Roberts, S.C. and Pollet, T.V. (2016) ‘Revisiting the red effect on attractiveness and sexual receptivity: No effect of the color red on human mate preferences’, Evolutionary Psychology, 14(4), pp. 1-13.
Sadr, N., Jayawardhana, M., Pham, T.T., Tang, R., Balaei, A.T. and de Chazal, P. (2018) ‘A low-complexity algorithm for detection of atrial fibrillation using an ECG’, Physiological Measurement, 39(6), pp. 1-8.