The amount of bizarre research out there about what does or does not make someone an online “match” is enough to make even the most optimistic romantic throw up his or her hands and take a lifetime celibacy oath. Based on some of these studies, we humans are such silly, irrational creatures that something as arbitrary as the color of a shirt or blouse can significantly affect how attractive we think someone is. If you think I’m engaging in hyperbole to make a point, take a look at two different studies involving the power of color in how we perceive physical attractiveness.
A then-groundbreaking study by the University of Rochester in 2008 showed men pictures of various women and asked the men to numerically rate the physical attractiveness of each woman. The results found that men rated women wearing red as more attractive than those wearing any other color, even when presented of identical pictures in which only the color of the woman’s shirt had been changed. In fact, the study found the color red so powerful that men did the exact same thing when only the frame of the picture was changed to red.
And not only did men find the “red” ladies more physically attractive, when asked the question “how much money would you be willing to spend on your date” with the women pictured, the respondents consistently offered a bigger chunk of their wallet. So ladies, the next time some blowhard tells you that men are the more logical sex, change into a red dress and watch him become putty in your hands.
[Tweet “Sometimes even common sense is forced to bow at the altar of mad romance #MakeThemSeeRed”]
But then two years later, research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that women are just as susceptible to the seemingly-random influence of color as the men were, and not just in the United States. This multicultural study found that women in the US, England, Germany and China all found men more attractive when wearing—or even framed by—the color red. The breadth of the study was important because it answered whether the power of red was culturally influenced. It turns out that no, you don’t have to be an idiot American (of which I am one) to be irrationally hypnotized by the color of a blouse or polo shirt.
A secondary, but equally interesting, finding in the latter study was that red’s inexplicable-but-clinically-demonstrable power held only for the opposite sex. When asked to rate the power and masculinity of the men pictured, male respondents were color-blind, rating their own sex as no more or less masculine when wearing red than any other color. So boys, that red power tie of yours won’t serve you any better in a business meeting than if it were hot pink.
So what do these two studies say about us and our own online mating rituals? Primarily, it says that our choice of online mates may be considerably more illogical than we’d like to admit. But most of all, it says that it may be time to pull out that red sports coat or crimson cocktail dress and take a new profile picture, because sometimes even common sense is forced to bow at the altar of mad romance.