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The psychology of colour: red

Each month, Martha Roberts, creator of The Colour File, investigates how colour makes us think, act and feel

by Martha Roberts

Red has always been an important colour for humans, from the moment we painted our caves, and ourselves, with it to protect us in the afterlife. It’s the colour of love, good fortune and status, and, after black and white, it’s the first shade babies see – it’s apparently also the first colour people suffering from temporary colour blindness start to see again after a brain injury.

Queen of Hearts

The psychology of red research shows that men feel more attracted towards women in red – in one study, not only did the men flirt more with waitresses in red, but they also gave them 26 per cent bigger tips than those in other colours. Red also makes people perceive us as warm and confident but, more importantly, it can make us feel good about ourselves, too. In fact, a recent study revealed that people wearing red feel more attractive and positive about themselves than in any other colour.

Colour psychologist Karen Haller says: ‘Red can help us to feel more awake, motivated and energised, as well as sexy and sassy.’ However, red in the wrong situation may be negative. ‘We might come across as aggressive, angry and confrontational, especially if wearing too much or the wrong tone for our personality type,’ she says. ‘We may feel invigorated and powerful, but it could leave others feeling overwhelmed, and they might find themselves going into a fight-or-flight response.’ 

Your colour challenge

● This month’s colour challenge is to wear various shades of red as much as you can, to see if this energises or enervates you.

● Wear red in several guises – scarves, nail polish, block colour, even shoes, if you are feeling daring. Notice how doing this makes you feel, and how other people react to you.

Find out more about Martha here.

Images: Martha Roberts

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