STOP, Look and Listen: The Effects of the Color Red on Our Performance

If I ask you to enumerate things that usually come to your mind whenever you think of the color red, how many can you name? Better yet, what are those things? Well, for starters, you might probably picture a yummy food, your favorite shirt, your test paper corrected with red ink and even stoplights or taillights you see on the streets every day. Most people, however, might associate it with flowers, hearts and other romantic things. In fact, you might have already heard about the study of Elliot & Niesta (2008) where they found that women who wear red appear to be more attractive and sexually desirable to men.


On a very different note, Elliot, Maier, Moller, Friedman & Meinhardt (2007) found that this color also has an impact on performance attainment. Their study investigated whether exposure to red, green and a neutral color (white, gray, black) prior to an achievement task would influence the performances of high school and undergraduate students. After comparing the results, they were able to confirm that perception of the color red unconsciously impairs students’ performance on achievement tasks. Furthermore, they learned that it is because we often associate this color with the danger of failure and it evokes avoidance motivation.


Therefore, this study suggests that whenever we have an exam coming up or maybe job interviews we must keep ourselves from seeing or even wearing this color. Who knows, you might not only be helping yourself but also your friends who might be under the risk of performance impairment just because of seeing your red shirt.

It’s just so interesting to know how a simple color might affect us in many ways. I’ve always thought of the color red as just one of the pieces on my box of crayons as a child or even just a tube on a watercolor set. I didn’t realize it can have such influences on people.


Elliot, A. J., Maier, M. A., Moller, A. C., Friedman, R., & Meinhardt, J. (2007). Color and psychological functioning: The effect of red on performance attainment. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: General, 136(1), 154-168. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.136.1.154

Elliot, A. J., & Niesta, D. (2008). Romantic red: Red enhances men’s attraction to women. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 95(5), 1150-1164. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.95.5.1150

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