Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


‘Red Effect’ sparks interest in female monkeys


Recent studies showed that the color red tends increase our attraction toward others, feelings of jealousy, and even reaction times. Now, new research shows that female monkeys also respond to the color red, suggesting that biology, rather than our culture, may play the fundamental role in our “red” reactions.

“Previous research shows that the color red in a mating context makes people more attractive, and in the fighting context makes people seem more threatening and angry,” explained Benjamin Y. Hayden, a coauthor of the study and professor in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

Hayden, whose research often involves primates, and Andrew J. Elliot, a professor of psychology at Rochester who has published several articles on humans and the red effect and coauthor of the study, sought to uncover what causes humans’ response to the color. Is it triggered simply by repeated cultural exposures, or is there a biological basis that may help explain why the color tends to amplify human emotions?

As Hayden put it, “is this just because every year on Valentine’s Day we see these red things everywhere and it creates a link for us between the color red and romance, or is it really a fundamental thing rooted in our biology?”

One way to test for biological influence would be to assess reactions in individuals who have not been conditioned to associate the color red with romance, Hayden said. “What if we could test this in someone who is not even human, but was exposed to a lot of the same evolutionary pressures? Well, that would be a monkey,” he said. “So, we conducted experiments to see if monkeys would have similar biases as humans, and in a nutshell the answer is, yes, it seems like they do.”

The new study, which appears in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, involved rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) from a free-ranging population of approximately 1000 residing at the Cayo Santiago field site in Puerto Rico. The animals live in naturally formed social groups and are habituated to human observation.

The researchers conducted two trials that measured the amount of time the primates looked at black and white images of the hindquarters of adult monkeys. The stimuli, which included images of both sexes, were surrounded by an “extraneous” color, framed by either red or blue. The researchers also used an image of a common shell found on the island as a control data point.

Hayden noted that a standard measure to gauge interest in those who don’t have language—primates or babies, for example—is by how long they look at a given object. The longer the gaze indicates a greater amount of interest.

In the first trial, the researchers displayed sequential images of male hindquarters surrounded—in random order—by frames of red or blue, to adult monkeys of both sexes. They were also presented with the shell image.

The researchers found a significant female bias toward the images of male hindquarters, but only when a red frame surrounded the image. “To our knowledge,” the researchers said, “this is the first demonstration of an extraneous color effect in non-human primates.”

In a second trial, the researchers displayed images of female hindquarters surrounded, again by either a red or blue frame. Female monkeys did not show a preference for other female hindquarters, regardless of the color of the surrounding frame.

But, surprising to the researchers, male monkeys did not show a preference for the female hindquarters, either, even when surrounded by the color red.

The researchers say additional work is needed to understand why males did not respond to the extraneous colors. One possibility is that the reproductive state of females is reflected in facial color changes rather than changes in the hindquarters. Images of females, which were restricted to the hindquarter region, may have been too limited to elicit male responses.

That female rhesus monkeys’ interest in images of the opposite sex appears to be influenced by extraneous color suggests that the “red effect” is not unique to humans. Instead, the researchers argued, it appears to be supported by an “evolved biological mechanism.”

Neither males nor females displayed a bias toward the shell image regardless of the color of its frame.

Kelly D. Hughes, a doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester, was lead author of the study. James P. Higham, an assistant professor of anthropology at New York University, and William L. Allen, a post-doctoral fellow in anthropology at the University of Hull, are coauthors.

The Sloan Foundation, NIDA, and two Reach fellowships from the University of Rochester to undergraduate research assistants supported the work. The population of rhesus monkeys at Cayo Santiago is currently supported by the National Center for Research Resources, the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs of the National Institute of Health, and the Medical Science Campus of the University of Puerto Rico.

Contact Author(s)
Monique Patenaude

Monique Patenaude | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

nachricht Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein
22.03.2018 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Modular safety concept increases flexibility in plant conversion

22.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data

22.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>