Brief Communications

Nature 435, 293 (19 May 2005) | doi:10.1038/435293a; Published online 18 May 2005

There is a Brief Communications Arising (27 October 2005) associated with this document.

Psychology:  Red enhances human performance in contests

Russell A. Hill1 & Robert A. Barton1

Red coloration is a sexually selected, testosterone-dependent signal of male quality in a variety of animals1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and in some non-human species a male's dominance can be experimentally increased by attaching artificial red stimuli6. 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.

  1. Evolutionary Anthropology Research Group, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3HN, UK

Correspondence to: Russell A. Hill1 Email: r.a.hill@durham.ac.uk

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