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Red Is Not a Proxy Signal for Female Genitalia in Humans

Johns, Sarah E., Hargrave, Lucy A., Newton-Fisher, Nicholas E. (2012) Red Is Not a Proxy Signal for Female Genitalia in Humans. PLoS ONE, 7 (4). e34669. ISSN doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034669. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034669) (KAR id:29942)

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0034669

Abstract

Red is a colour that induces physiological and psychological effects in humans, affecting competitive and sporting success, signalling and enhancing male social dominance. The colour is also associated with increased sexual attractiveness, such that women associated with red objects or contexts are regarded as more desirable. It has been proposed that human males have a biological predisposition towards the colour red such that it is ‘sexually salient’. This hypothesis argues that women use the colour red to announce impending ovulation and sexual proceptivity, with this functioning as a proxy signal for genital colour, and that men show increased attraction in consequence. In the first test of this hypothesis, we show that contrary to the hypothesis, heterosexual men did not prefer redder female genitalia and, by extension, that red is not a proxy signal for genital colour. We found a relative preference for pinker genital images with redder genitalia rated significantly less sexually attractive. This effect was independent of raters' prior sexual experience and variation in female genital morphology. Our results refute the hypothesis that men's attraction to red is linked to an implied relationship to genital colour and women's signalling of fertility and sexual proceptivity.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034669
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Depositing User: Sarah Johns
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2012 10:12 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 12:40 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/29942 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Johns, Sarah E.: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7715-7351
Newton-Fisher, Nicholas E.: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7657-2641
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