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5 Sneaky Color Illusions

Is it you? Or the hue? How color affects behavior.

By Sarah Stebbins
Woman red dressPlamen Petkov

Red attracts. A 2012 French study reported that female online daters received nearly twice as many e-mails from potential mates when they wore ruby shirts over another shade. The reason: “Red reminds people of how their face looks when they blush in the presence of someone they’re interested in,” says Adam Alter, an assistant professor of marketing at New York University, in New York City, and the author of Drunk Tank Pink ($13,

Blue may reduce criminal behavior. After officials near Kyoto, Japan, installed blue streetlights in dangerous neighborhoods in 2005, the overall crime rate fell by 9 percent. It turns out, says Alter, that “the lights mimic those atop police cars and seem to imply that the police are watching.”

Shoppers are less likely to buy bright yellow bananas than warmer yellow ones. Warm yellow suggests “a riper fruit,” says brand adviser Martin Lindstrom, the author of Brandwashed ($12, “Fruit producers plant crops under conditions most ideal for creating the just-right shade.”

Strawberries have long been packaged in complementary green baskets, which make even imperfect berries appear vibrant and juicy, says Leatrice Eiseman, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

Red and yellow are go-to choices for the logos of fast-food chains, like McDonald’s and Burger King. Bright, warm colors “leap” forward (whereas cool shades recede), beckoning you to the drive-through, says Eiseman. Ruddy and golden hues also stimulate the appetite because of the plethora of foods in those colors. Hello, burgers and fries!

For more on the psychology of color, see How Color Affects Your Spending.

Read More About:Shopping Guide

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