Gad Saad Ph.D.

Homo Consumericus

Female Hitchhikers Wearing Red Are More Likely To Be Picked Up (By Men)

Female hitchhikers and male drivers: The “lady in red” effect.

Posted May 01, 2011


My most popular post to date (302,000+ total views; see here) is one in which I described a study conducted by Nicolas Guéguen on the links between a woman's breast size and the likelihood of her being picked up as a hitchhiker. Of note, the post garnered some animus toward me especially from a few fellow bloggers. Some thought that the teaser image that I had chosen (a beautiful woman with large breasts sitting in the passenger seat of a car) was tantamount to sexist pornography. Others scolded me for engaging in "ageism" given that I had used an image that glorifies the beauty of a young woman. The blogger who started off the diatribe wrote a post attacking me publicly.  He reprimanded me for having reported the findings in the manner that I did (notwithstanding the fact that I reported these exactly as they were presented in the peer-reviewed journal). His indignation continued in the Green Room (a chat room reserved for PT bloggers) where he accused me of peddling pornography. I was admonished for tackling "sensationalist and sexist" topics that apparently have no place in a forum such as Psychology Today.  I suppose that moral grandstanding can take many forms. Needless to say, I responded to all of the attacks although it was nice to see that many of my colleagues (and some readers) came to my defense (see here for a post put up by Robert Kurzban in my defense). Politically correct thought policing is a dangerous cultural cancer.

In today's post, I'd like to report the findings of a more recent study by Guéguen, in the same spirit as the aforementioned one, wherein he manipulated the color of T-shirts worn by female hitchhikers to see whether this variable might affect the likelihood of being picked up (by male or female drivers). The theoretical rationale in this case is that men respond favorably to the color red in part because it mimics various elements of female sexual arousal. Several studies, most notably those by Andrew Elliot at the University of Rochester, have demonstrated this "red effect." Incidentally, in my forthcoming trade book due out shortly (The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature), I discuss the distinct effects of the color red in the contexts of intersexual wooing versus intrasexual rivalry. Returning to Guéguen's study, here are the key findings:

Whereas for female drivers, the color of the T-shirt had no effect on the likelihood of picking up a female hitchhiker (i.e., all six percentages were statistically equal to one another), in the case of male drivers, the only percentage different from all five others was for the color red (i.e., 20.77% was larger than the other five percentages).

That red serves as an attractant color for men manifests itself in the ubiquity of using red for some beautification products such as red lipstick, red lingerie, and red stilettos.

Note to the thought police: I realize that to not be "sexist" or "ageist", I should not have chosen a teaser image of a beautiful young woman. Instead, to demonstrate the "red effect" I should have used an image of an elderly man solving a system of differential equations using a red pen. Ah well, you can't please all the people all of the time.

Source for Image:

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