Friday, November 07, 2008

The red clothing effect

A little fun for our Friday...

I'm not a big fan of interviews. Particularly ones that are unstructured (e.g., different questions for different candidates, no rating scales, etc.).

Why? Aside from the fact that research has shown them to be much less predictive of job success, they're problematic because most people think they are above average interviewers (they're obviously not), that they're particularly good at picking up things like deception and lies (once again...they're not), and that interviews are done easily and quickly (they shouldn't be).

Another reason interviews are tricky is they're susceptible to all kinds of perceptual errors. Some of the more common ones include:

- The "Halo" effect: something about the candidate biases the way you see other things about them. My favorite example is having positive feelings toward someone because they went to your alma mater.

- The contrast effect: your opinion of a candidate is biased because they followed a particularly good or bad candidate.

- The fatigue effect: the way you evaluate candidates changes over the course of a day or week because you get tired of interviewing.

This is just a sample of cognitive biases that enter into the interview process. Other typically non-job related factors come also into play, such as someone's height.

Now we may have to add the red clothing effect. A recent study of undergraduates at the University of Rochester found that the color red, compared to other colors, led heterosexual men to find women more attractive (it had no effect on female participants' perception of other females).

The researchers validated this (albeit with small samples) using a variety of experiments, including digitally altering the shirt color of the same image. They even looked at other factors such as willingness to ask out on a date (hint for straight women: chose red over blue).

The silver lining for us is that color had no impact on perceptions of likability, kindness, or intelligence. Still, it's something to be aware of that could potentially have important consequences. After all, remember what happened to Neo.


Jamie said...

Interesting stuff. I think I also once read a study that sports teams that have black jerseys made refs more likely to give them penalties. So it's not surprising.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go buy a bright red suit.

Daniel said...

I have actually read the same studies you mention. However, I believe the a priori hypothesis about the increase in penalties related to the cultural archetype that black represents "evil" and white represents "good." The authors speculated that referees would assign a higher number of penalties to dark colored jerseys rather than light colored jerseys due to an implicit confirmation that darker teams are more aggressive, malicious, hostile, and so forth. Cool stuff!

Katie said...
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