University of Rochester

Rochester Review
July–August 2011
Vol. 73, No. 6

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PSYCHOLOGY The Power of Red
color_red (Photo: Adam Fenster)

RED ALL OVER: What links speed, power, and the color red? Rochester dancer Samantha Johnson ’11, a neuroscience major—and president of Louvre Performance Ensemble—from Half Moon Bay, Calif., demonstrates that it’s not a sports car: it’s your muscles. That’s according to a new Rochester-led study that finds that when humans see red, their reactions become both faster and more forceful, but people are unaware of the color’s intensifying effect. Andrew Elliot, a professor of psychology, and his colleague Henk Aarts, a professor of psychology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, say the findings, published this spring in the journal Emotion, may have applications for sports and other activities in which a brief burst of strength and speed is needed. “Red enhances our physical reactions because it is seen as a danger cue,” says Elliot, a lead researcher in the field of color psychology.

—Susan Hagen