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Want to turn on the ladies? Wear red

Linda Carroll writes: Men who want to be more magnetic need only don an article of red clothing, scientists now say.

Researchers from the University of Rochester and other institutions around the globe have discovered that the color red makes a man more attractive and sexually desirable to women, according to a report published this month in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

For the new study, researchers showed young women a series of photos of men. In some pictures, men wore shirts or other pieces of clothing or stood against a red background. In others there was no red. Consistently women were more attracted to men associated with red. What made the results especially believable was that they were the same, whether the women came from England, Germany, China or the United States.

The color’s charm can be traced to its ability to make men appear more powerful, says the study’s lead author Andrew Elliot, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. “We found that women view men in red as higher in status, more likely to make money and more likely to climb the social ladder,” he explains. “And it’s this high-status judgment that leads to the attraction.”

As far as Helen Fisher is concerned, the call of crimson goes a lot deeper than that. These kinds of signals are wound tightly into our DNA, says Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and author of “Why Him? Why Her?”

In the animal kingdom, red is attractive because it’s a sign of high testosterone, Fisher says. Certain monkeys develop a redder rump – and higher levels of testosterone - as they climb the social ladder. Male robins with the reddest breasts, caused by high levels of the hormone, are the most attractive to females of the species because these males are the most dominant and the most likely to be able to protect the nest and secure food for those hungry hatchlings.

Modern women may not want the man with the most testosterone. But we’re still unconsciously wired to be attracted to the outward sign of it – red color.

“I’d say we’re soft-wired, rather than hard-wired, to find males wearing red attractive,” Fisher says. “What I mean is, we have a huge cerebral cortex. So, if a man walks into a bar wearing a red sweater and has messy jeans, bad teeth and a bad haircut, we’re not going to be fooled by the sweater.”

But it works the other way around, too -- men are more attracted to women in red, a 2008 study shows.

Is there a color you find hot on the opposite sex? Tell us about it in the comments.

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