Elliot, along with postdoctoral researcher Daniela Niesta, conducted five experiments. In one of them, men and women were shown photos of a woman framed by a border of either red or white. They were asked questions such as, "How pretty do you think this person is?"
Another three experiments contrasted red with gray, green or blue respectively. In the last experiment, the woman's top in the photo was digitally altered to either red or blue. (In all five trials, the brightness and saturation of each color were kept identical; only the hue was changed.)
Men were asked to rate the woman's attractiveness and to answer the question: "Imagine that you are going on a date with this person and have $100 in your wallet. How much money would you be willing to spend on your date?" In each situation in which there was red in the photo, male subjects rated the woman significantly more attractive and sexually desirable.
Color had no effect on women subjects' ratings of the photo model's attractiveness. Nor did color affect men's ratings of the woman's likeability, intelligence or kindness. Though men's responses could simply be a sign of social conditioning, Elliot and Niesta think they have biological roots. "Our research demonstrates a parallel in the way that human and nonhuman male primates respond to red," they wrote.
"In doing so, our findings confirm what many women have long suspected and claimed: that men act like animals in the sexual realm. As much as men might like to think that they respond to women in a thoughtful, sophisticated manner, it appears that at least to some degree, their preferences and predilections are, in a word, primitive."