Revisiting the effect of red on competition in humans

in the series Evolutionary Demography Seminar

Date: Monday 27 March 2017
Time: 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Venue: LG7, LSHTM, Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT, UK
Type of event: Seminar
Speaker(s): Laura Fortunato, Oxford University

Hosted by the School's Evolutionary Demography Group

Abstract: Bright red coloration is a signal of male competitive ability in animal species across a range of taxa, including non-human primates. Does the effect of red on competition extend to humans? A landmark study in evolutionary psychology established such an effect through analysis of data for four combat sports at the 2004 Athens Olympics (Hill & Barton 2005).

Here we show that the observed pattern reflects instead a structural bias towards wins by red in the outcomes of the competition. Consistently, we find no effect of red in equivalent data for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which present a structural bias towards wins by blue. These results refute past claims of an effect of red on human competition based on analysis of this system. In turn, this undermines the notion that any effect of red on human behavior is an evolved response shaped by sexual selection.


Admission: Free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis.

Contact: Laura Streeter

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