Red, not blue, is the colour of success, Durham scientists say.
A study found that wearing red gives contestants in competitive sports a distinct advantage.
Researchers at the city’s university saw the pattern both in one-on-one combat events, such as boxing, and soccer matches.
The study suggests that Manchester United’s red strip might have accounted for some of the club’s phenomenal success over the years.
Scientists compared the fortunes of fight competitors dressed in red and blue. Those in red came out on top most of the time.
Similar findings emerged from a study of football teams wearing different colours in different matches.
According to the university, red is a "sexually selected, testosterone-dependent signal of male quality in a variety of animals".
The thinking is that wearing red makes a competitor feel confident and his or her opponent intimidated.
Scientists tested the theory at last year’s Olympic Games. Contestants in four combat sports - boxing, tae kwon do, Greco-Roman wrestling, and freestyle wrestling - were randomly assigned red or blue outfits, or body protectors.
In every case, those wearing red won significantly more fights.
The results were "remarkably" consistent across rounds in each competition, with 16 out of 21 having more red than blue winners. Only four rounds had more blue winners.
The scientists, led by anthropologists Russell Hill and Robert Barton, wrote in the journal Nature: "These results indicate that artificial colours may influence the outcome of physical contests in humans."
A preliminary study of the results of the Euro 2004 soccer competition suggested that colour could also influence the outcome of team events.
The researchers added: "Across a range of sports, we find that wearing red is consistently associated with a higher probability of winning.
"In humans, anger is associated with a reddening of the skin due to increased blood flow, whereas fear is associated with increased pallor in similarly threatening situations. Hence, increased redness during aggressive interactions may reflect relative dominance."
May 18, 2005