It seems fitting that with the Olympics being in full swing, I share with you how colors can affect the outcomes of certain Olympic events. Everyone knows it takes skill, practice and dedication of the athletes to win an Olympic medal. But, what does the color of their uniform have to do with it?
Research from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games showed that atheltes in the combat sports like, taekwondo, boxing and wrestling who wore red clothing or body protection (as compared to blue) had a higher chance of winning – an amazing 75% of the time.
The initial explanation for why the athlete wearing the red uniform would win was simple and made sense to some degree. In the animal kingdom, the color red is associated with male dominance, blood and danger to others. The psychologists claimed that people are also subject to this red-dominance effect, and therefore, in combat sports, the athlete wearing red had a psychological advantage over their opponent wearing blue.
Could wearing red really have a psychological influence on your opponent? Turns out that there was a psychological factor at play here, but not with the athletes, instead it had an effect on the referees.
The statistics were correct, contestants wearing red really do win more, but the researches came up with an unproven theory for the explanation. A new study during the 2008 Beijing Olympics used filmed taekwondo competitions and experienced taekwondo referees to watch the fights. In the study, the referees were shown identical competitions, but they had digitally altered the colors of the uniforms of the athletes. In each case the referees awarded more points to athletes who had been colored red than to athletes who had been colored blue.
In some of these types of competitions a referee has to make a call in a split second of blurred motion. It does seem that in these “blink-of-an-eye” situations, the judgment call can be influenced by the athlete’s uniform. Color really does produce a psychological effect, but it is in the minds of the referees not in the athletes.