You pull that trusty red dress from your closet and you feel sexy. Silly? Or science? More and more, it’s beginning to sound like science. Here are four areas of research on the hue that could impact your daily life.

You pull that trusty red dress from your closet—the slinky, silky one that gets you a flood of compliments—and you feel sexy. Silly? Or science? More and more, it’s beginning to sound like science.

In the past few years, experts around the globe, from anthropologists to social psychologists, have found some weird—and wonderful—ways that the colour red affects our brains.

Here, we zero in on four areas of research that could impact your daily life.

It can make you seem more attractive—or like a threat

While it’s long been known that men see a woman in red as more attractive and desireable (and that women like guys in red, too), recent research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin went a step farther: to see how the hue affects women’s perceptions of each other.

Female participants who looked at photos of ladies wearing red, white, or green rated the women in red as more interested in sex and, in turn, viewed them as a threat. So that could explain why, when you arrive at a party rocking that red dress, even your best friend may cling to her date more tightly.

But no one’s especially conscious of their reactions, suspects Adam Pazda, a social psychologist at the University of Rochester who conducted the study. “We didn’t test whether women in our study were consciously aware that red was affecting their perception of other women,” he says. “I think it’s probably the case that it’s a very subtle effect.”

If a red dress isn’t your style, consider amping up the blush or bronzer. Having a slightly flushed skin tone may get you more attention, says Ian Stephen, PhD, a senior lecturer in psychology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. “We know from our research that red facial skin, a slightly flushed look, makes you [appear] healthier, more attractive.”

By Kathleen Doherty