Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Fast Track to Attraction--A Splash of Red

Hey, ya’ll. I hope this blog finds you well. I don’t know about you,
but here’s hoping 2009 is an improvement over 2008! Even though,
of course, there are always blessings if you look for them…in 2008,
for example, I did get nibbles from agents and editors, even though none
swallowed. So, here's to a New Year!

One way we’re trying to make this blog better is to have some continuity. Trish will be blogging in a series about and reviewing paranormal TV shows and movies on a biweekly basis. I’m going to follow along with the theme and blog in a series about the psychological research available on attraction. Since I’m supposed to give my first writing presentation ever in July on you guessed it, The Psychological Aspects of Attraction, I thought this would be a good way to make sure I have something to say when the time comes!

Even though I’m a psychologist in my day job and discussing the methodology is my bread and butter (I’m not a clinician, couldn’t analyze you if I tried—I crunch numbersJ), I’ll keep the technotalk to a minimum. My hope is describing the research findings will enrich your writing. The more you know…

Today, I wanted to start at the beginning (a very fine place to start). What happens when someone meets someone for the very first time? What characteristics, manner of dress, are most likely to turn you on?

From a distance, men are attracted to (and isn’t this cool the researchers studied this?!) the color red. Surprise! I never considered color important to basic attraction other than to spaghetti sauce. The first indication researchers had was with monkeys and then they wondered, could this apply to men? You can draw your own conclusions as to the scholars’ logic.

The connection between red and sex has a long history. Think the Scarlet Letter and red dresses and red valentines (I considered waiting to divulge this information until Valentine’s, but I’m a woman and I’m saving love for February 14, not lust). Our historical connections you might think mean we’re taught the association. Not necessarily so. Okay, this may not be for the squeamish, but Dixson and his colleagues have found red is also associated with female parts in primates. The more estrogen in a female’s body, signaling ovulation, the redder her parts—in baboons, chimps, and macaques, the connection is very colorful, shall we say. In other species, the signs don’t have to be as vivid, but the guys get the message.

For human females, we’re not so brazen, but…women’s general skin tone lightens around ovulation because the blood is going south. Women tend to wear less clothing at midcycle because their body temperature is higher. Also, because the body is very ready at that point in time, women are more likely to blush and flush (turn red right above the breasts, neck and face)—and the primitive man’s brain responds.

In five different studies (2008), Andrew & Niesta tested college-aged men of different races. They found the following: a woman’s face against a background of red was seen as more attractive and more sexually appealing. She wasn’t seen as more likable, kind, or intelligent. Women don’t experience this effect. The effect was seen over any other color, even including men’s perennial favorite, blue.

Just as a final note—the men didn’t see the color as having any effect, even though it had an effect over and above the woman’s facial expression and the way she was dressed. When directly asked, they say they're more influenced by the woman's honesty and so on. Hah.

So, how about a little red today?


Trish Milburn said...

Interesting post, Lexie. And it's funny that you talk about red today. I just wrote a scene yesterday in which my hero and heroine go out for the first time, and she's wearing a red dress and stilettos.

Evonne Wareham said...

Lexie This is fabuolus. I must go and buy a red dress so heroines can borrow it - they already wear my shoes. And I hope you are seriously nibbled by agents and editors this year.

Anonymous said...

What about werewolves? As canines, wouldn't they be colorblind?

Although the one in my WIP falls for a woman with red hair ...


Savanna Kougar said...

Lexie, thanks, absolutely fascinating. I knew about red and men...however, not near the detail you went into...
I find myself using red a lot for dresses and gowns in my novels. And I love wearing red as one of my fave colors.

Lexie, may this be the year you make that publishing breakthrough.

Pat, while in human form a werewolf might see color as humans do, only maybe enhanced. However, wolves and dogs are not actually color blind. They do see color differently.

Lexie O'Neill said...

And to think I myself have never utilised this information. I've not actually used my psych knowledge at all. My WIP is an Indian kind of world so no heels, but she's definitely going to be clothed in red!

Lexie O'Neill said...

Thank you! Your heroines wear your shoes? That's great!
I return the wish about the editor and agent nibbling right back at you. I feel like we're second round buddies,

Lexie O'Neill said...

I may try to do a blog on scent research, that's my guess as to the sense werewolves would rely on. I know I've been fascinated by how smell actually works--I used to tell my students they should solve the mechanisms of the nose and they'd win a Nobel Prize.
A few years ago, researchers from Chicago did exactly that! I'm psychic?
Oh, I digressed...smell instead of color and smell definitely changes according to what stage in the cycle a woman happens to be in:)

Lexie O'Neill said...

You're welcome--and thanks for the good wishes!
As far as using red, I'm thinking we might want to go beyond clothes, too--bits of the decorations in rooms, flowers, and other background material. I wonder if book covers with red entice guys as well:)