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Red and Valentine’s Day

Should you wear red on February 14? It depends.

The color red has been linked to romance and Valentine’s Day for a really long time. Should it be? Should you repaint, or at least buy a new shirt featuring this hue for February 14? The research evidence is clear about how you should color your world for Cupid’s holiday.

Andrew Elliot and his colleagues have investigated red and the role in plays in romantic situations—and their findings will make traditionalists happy. Women wearing a standard, typical red or standing against a similarly red background in photos are seen as more attractive and sexually desirable by men than women not wearing red or near those red backgrounds. The red has no effect on a man’s belief in a woman’s overall likeability, kindness, or intelligence.

Not surprisingly, whether men are wearing red or standing in front of a red background has an influence on how women respond to photos of them. When men are in red or against red, women find them more attractive as well as more sexually desirable.

Men in red or near red are perceived by women as having higher status than men who aren’t wearing or near red. Also, wearing or standing against a red background did not influence how likeable, agreeable, or extraverted a man in an image seemed to women viewers. The red did not influence how men perceive other men.

Roughly the same research team has linked seeing the color red, even very briefly, with impaired analytical performance on knowledge work type tasks and seeing the color green with enhanced creative thinking while doing the same sort of work. So, if your February 14 activities tend to the more cerebral, select your Valentine’s Day colors accordingly.

Now, before February 14 comes and goes, add some red to your life, or not.