5 Crazy Ways the Colors Red and Blue Control Your Life
Imagine that somewhere there is a huge button that will activate a doomsday device that will destroy the planet. Picture the button in your mind. What color is it?
Approximately 100 percent of you imagined a red button, for a lot of the same reasons Darth Vader's light saber had to be red. But society isn't color coded this way just for the hell of it. Your brain and body react to two colors -- red and blue -- in distinct and downright weird ways that science doesn't completely understand. In different situations, red or blue can ...
Give You an Unfair Advantage
We previously mentioned how hockey players who switched to black jerseys suddenly took a turn for the aggressive, because on a subconscious level black signifies sin and death and the worst jellybean. Not only does black spur aggression from the players, but it cues the referees to hand out more penalties because, hey, they must be the bad guys if they're wearing black. But if you want to get on the ref's good side, apparently red is your color.
During the 2004 Olympics, judges were found to award more points to people in red, especially in hand-to-hand sports like boxing, taekwondo, Greco-Roman wrestling and the synchronized bitch slap. A separate study had taekwondo refs watch matches between blue and red competitors, then watch the exact same matches with the colors digitally reversed. Athletes were 13 percent more likely to get points when they wore red.
"Sir, they clearly came in last. It doesn't operate on a 'should have' system."
And if you think that red is only a "power" color because we've been raised to associate it with warning signs and fire trucks, then why do monkeys also react to it? In one experiment, researchers wore red, blue or green before presenting rhesus macaques with dinner. The monkeys didn't have a problem with blue or green, but they treated the red shirts like they were the monkey Grim Reaper presenting death on a plate. Yes, even our poop-flinging cousins think red equals danger. And danger equals power.
"Oh, don't give me that crap. It was a gift from my kids."
This manifests itself in humans in so many ways that you can probably find an example in the room you're in. Like lipstick. A study in France showed that women who wear bright red lipstick get a tip boost from men, which is a big deal because France already includes a 12 percent gratuity charge on receipts (lady patrons weren't nearly as impressed by their red-lipped waitresses). So what if red lipstick makes you look like Pennywise and you prefer peach or nude? Wear a red shirt instead. Another study found that men give 14.6 percent to 26.1 percent more to waitresses wearing red shirts.
The researchers noted that the rise in tips by male customers could be due to red being "associated with an indication of estrogen levels, sexual arousal and health" (hint: all of this comes back to the fact that red is the color of blood), so when a lady wears red, it tricks a man into thinking that she's ready to mate. At which point he will happily give her whatever she wants.
"Can I get your dongs any more boner sex? Sir, why are you looking at me like that?"
It will also lower his IQ, because color can also ...
Manipulate Your Intelligence
Yep, it's been found that seeing red shortly before an IQ test will drastically lower your scores. Students solved significantly fewer problems when red was around because it makes you more cautious. It also causes you to avoid challenging or difficult situations, such as all things Elmo-related. A state of high alert isn't always the best for productive thinking.
So what color returns you to a cool, thoughtful state? The same color that you imagined as soon as we said "cool": blue. Researchers gave over 600 participants six different cognitive tests on computer monitors that had blue, white or red backgrounds. If the task was creative, like brainstorming or drawing a picture out of a bloodstain, participants did twice as well with blue backgrounds as they did when they had red monitor backgrounds.
"For the next experiment, we'll cover half of you in blue spray paint and administer the SATs."
It's not that red makes you stupid, though. In that monitor study, participants actually did 31 percent better at proofreading or solving anagrams when their text was on a red background. Red light is better for anything that requires attention to detail because, well, it gets your attention.
What causes blue to broaden our horizons and red to narrow our thinking? The exact reasons are unknown, but scientists believe it's psychological. Maybe it seems obvious, but blue is associated with the sky and the ocean, two big, open spaces. Basically imagine a kid lying on the ground and staring up at the sky, using his childlike imagination to see the clouds as boners.
"Come, let me embrace his penile fluffiness with vigor!"
But it doesn't just work on your brain. Red can actually ...
Make You Physically Stronger
Not to beat a red horse, but red will actually make you faster and stronger as well. In one experiment, students were asked to squeeze a metal grip while reading the word "squeeze" from a red, gray or blue background. When the word was on a red background, kids squeezed harder and faster, and had to secretly wonder if they hadn't been tricked into jerking off a robot.
"Andy, why do you keep repeating your parents' names?"
And while blue typically does the opposite of red, it also has several unique beneficial physical effects of its own. Blue light helps wake you up ... even if you're blind. You do not have to actually "see" blue for it to alter your body chemistry. There are light receptors in the eye that have nothing to do with vision. When they detect light, especially blue, the receptors repress melatonin, which regulates your sleep cycle. This also has other benefits. People exposed to bright lights that utilized more of the blue spectrum consistently scored higher on memory tests -- guys who sat before an LED screen radiating an azure glow showed nearly a 70 percent improvement in some cases. In fact, blue light is so effective in this regard that researchers liken its effects to a drug.
And if you take blue drugs in a blue light, prepare to have your fucking mind blown, baby.
Unfortunately, all our new electronic devices use more of the blue wavelength because it's easier on the eyes and more efficient to produce (this is why half of the gadgets in your house have little blue LED lights that stay on whether you're using the thing or not). Which is why some scientists are worried that our iPads, laptops and smartphones may be contributing to sleep problems.
"Does anyone know what the bluest level is on Angry Birds? I have a surgery at 1 a.m., and I need to wake the hell up."
Speaking of how your body reacts to light, the right wavelengths can actually ...
Now we're getting into Star Trek territory. Different frequencies of light have actually been shown to help heal the cells of your body. NASA has been the leader in this research, because when you're out alone in space, you need every advantage you can get. And if your damaged cells could heal, say, 150 to 200 times faster, that would be a pretty good thing to have once we inevitably find some aliens to fight.
And when we start having sex with those aliens, it'll be equally useful.
NASA scientists found that that's exactly what happens when you expose cells to near-infrared light (light just beyond the red that we can see -- it's like a super red). High Emissivity Aluminiferous Luminescent Substrate, or HEALS technology, condenses the power of 12 suns (not making this up) into a heatless device. By stimulating the cells with long wavelengths, it encourages growth and repair. They've used it to heal burns, diabetic skin ulcers and just about any other kind of hole you can imagine.
Specifically mouth holes. Five to 15 percent of cancer patients receiving radiotherapy develop a condition called mucositis, painful sores in the mouth, as if cancer wasn't enough. NASA discovered that just two weeks of using light therapy 88 seconds a day reduced pain in 96 percent of patients. Let's say that again. Powerful red flashlights can heal your flesh and ease your pain. Your move, Dr. McCoy.
"Crap, dial it back, we've turned him into a douche!"
Not to be outdone, blue has a few tricks up its azure sleeve as well. Blue light kills bacteria and reduces inflammation. Doctors have used it as a safe way to treat everything from plaque, gum disease and acne to the super-resistant staph infections MRSA and SARS. And in fact, purple and ultraviolet lights do it even better. Health officials have used UV rays as a disinfectant and to purify water for almost a hundred years.
You might recognize UV rays as the stuff that gives you sunburns. It's actually dangerous to most forms of life, even human cells. Blue is a better compromise -- it's safe to use on us, but microbes still don't like it. However, researchers have developed a special blend of safe purple and white light to disinfect hospitals. Chemical disinfectants can miss cracks and crevices, but this germ-slaying violet flashlight can shine into hard-to-reach places, helping to reduce the environmental transmission of pathogens. Purple: It's not just for talking dinosaurs and pimps anymore.
Which is why ravers never get sick.
Influence How You Buy Things
You had to know this was coming -- companies don't spend millions thinking up logos and color schemes for nothing. It's all about pushing your color buttons.
For example, people bidding online will pay substantially more when there's a red background on the selling page, but only when they perceive that they are competing against others. If, on the other hand, you don't think anyone else is bidding against you, red will tempt you to lowball the seller -- it's all about winning. Either way, you're on your guard and out to get someone. So what happens when the background is blue? You're more generous and willing to pay more.
Stores have also found, through experience and several studies, that a blue environment leads to more purchases, fewer purchase postponements and a stronger inclination to shop and browse than a red environment does.
Shit, that reminds us, we need more peanut butter and condoms.
Even though it's been shown that people are definitely more attracted to bright, warm colors, it's the cooler, inviting shades of blue and green that are rated more positive and pleasant. They make people feel less cautious and safer.
Not that blue works 100 percent of the time -- it depends on the product. If red makes people more watchful and defensive, companies that are promoting a product based on how it deals with negative issues can use red to encourage sales. If you're "fighting" something, your best bet is red:
It's actually a DVD on how to fistfight ants.
But aspirational messages like "prevention" or protection work best with blue.
Crest tried to emphasize their cavity-fighting power by having the site flash red, but that just caused seizures.
In other words, do you want to scare people? Use red packaging. Do you want to make them think they're a better person, maybe even saving the world? Use blue.
We see what you did there, Obama.
For more things that weirdly influence your brain, check out The 6 Most Surprising Ways Alcohol Is Actually Good for You and 7 Insane Ways Music Affects The Body (According to Science).