Why is red lipstick such a symbol of power, why does it make such a statement that women are advised to wear red – including red lipstick – to express their assertiveness?
According to Allure magazine: “Red is not a colour you wear when you’re feeling shy. You swipe on red lipstick or put on a red dress when you want to be noticed. It’s sexy but assertive, not demure. After all, it’s also the color of stop signs, of anger, of extreme heat.”
A study published in the Psychological Science journal found that when rhesus macaque monkeys were offered food by scientists wearing red, blue, and green, they “paid no mind to green or blue. But in the significant majority of cases, they steered clear of the red-clad humans and stole the food from the other tray.”
The researchers believe that “this aversion to red reflects an evolutionary adaptation. It is no accident, then, that humans know that red means no.”
“We — primates and then humans — are very visual,” Dartmouth College neuroscientist Jerald D. Kralik explains. “We are also very social.”
In both realms, color has important effects, from telling us which food is edible to helping us gauge the emotions of others by the relative redness of their skin. Put the two together, he says, “and we start to see that color may have a deeper and wider-ranging influence on us than we have previously thought.”
While we learn what those influences are, the researchers warn the organizers of competitive activities, such as sporting events and even academic exams, to avoid using color “in ways that may unfairly influence people,” says
“Avoiding red or acting submissively in its presence may stem from an inherited psychological predisposition,” says Kralik.