Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Mind

Should Winners Wear Red?

By Megan Mansell WilliamsAugust 6, 2005 5:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal have dominated British soccer for the last 40 years. Each team wears red uniforms. Coincidence?

Perhaps not, says soccer fan—and Durham University evolutionary biologist—Russell Hill. He and his colleague Robert Barton studied four combat events at the 2004 Athens Olympics in which contestants were randomly assigned red or blue uniforms. In the competitions (boxing, tae kwon do, Greco-Roman wrestling, and freestyle wrestling), red beat blue on average 60 percent of the time in close contests—much more than predicted by chance alone. The color also proved victorious for team sports. Five clubs at the Euro 2004 soccer tournament scored an average of one goal higher when they wore red versus other hues.

The results apply only to male athletes. “Wearing red may cause elevated testosterone in the wearers, suppression in their opponents, or possibly both,” Hill speculates. His and Barton’s work builds on earlier studies that show crimson plays a role in animal behavior. Attaching a red band to the leg of a male zebra finch, for instance, boosts his dominance. And male mandrill monkeys develop red facial streaks when they rise to power and lose them when their reign ends.

Hill and Barton don’t know if wearing red affects female athletes. That will be a subject for future research. Meanwhile, they point out that red doesn’t necessarily lead to gold. “Skill and ability,” says Hill, “are still the primary determinants of a sporting outcome.”

    2 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%

    Subscribe

    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In