It's traditional wisdom that for a woman to wear red to attract a man, but why is that? Blame biology, according to a new research by psychologist Adam Pazda of the University of Rochester at New York:
When many primate females—from chimpanzees to types of baboons called mandrills—become fertile, their estrogen levels peak, opening up their blood vessels and turning their faces bright red. This flushed complexion seems to give males the signal that it's time to make their move.
The same could be true for humans, Pazda says. In a previous study, scientists showed that men seem to be more attracted to women clothed in red rather than in a blah color such as white. That's regardless of the cut, he adds. "It doesn't have to be a red dress or a sexy outfit," he says. "It can be a red T-shirt."
To understand why, Pazda and his colleagues conducted a simple experiment. They showed 25 men a photo of a single woman doctored to look, in different cases, like she was wearing either a red or white T-shirt. The researchers then asked the volunteers to gauge, on a scale from 1 to 9, how keen the model seemed to be on romance. In other words, the men answered the question: "Is she interested in sex?"
Men interpreted the red outfit as a signal that the woman was indeed more open to sexual advances. In fact, the guys tended to grade the woman's disposition to sex about 1 to 1.5 points higher when she was wearing a red rather than a white tee, Pazda and colleagues report online this month in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. That perception, in turn, explains why men's lust perks up for women in red, Pazda suggests. It's well known that males tend to inflate a woman's sexual appeal if they believe she'll be more open to a pickup line.