Friday, July 19, 2024

Olympic Athletes Who See Red May See Defeat

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Olympic Athletes Who See Red May See Defeat

Some research suggests that athletes who wear red may have an advantage over other athletes. The research hasn’t raised any red flags yet, but Canadians can always hope!

If you’re seeing red right now, it could be because you’re watching Olympic athletes who know a thing or two about getting an edge on their opponents. According to some past studies of Olympic athletes, those who wear red may have an advantage over blue-wearing competitors.

Lest you should assume that this means Canada should take all at the Summer Games wearing their mostly red uniforms, the red advantage seemed to apply mostly to one-on-one sports where judging was involved.

Red at Athens=advantage

A study done in 2005 by researchers at Durham University in Britain looked at athletes competing in combat sports, such as tae kwon do and wrestling, at the 2004 Athens Olympics. This study identified an advantage for those athletes who wore red.

Red to apes=dominance

The researchers suggested that the effect may be due to an association between the colour red and dominance. They attributed this dominance effect to humans’ hard-wired perceptions that date back to more animalistic times.

Anthropologists point to the example of primates. Where two apes are competing for the same mate or territory, one will demonstrate dominance through a testosterone surge which shows red on its chest or face.

Red to referees=advantage

And in a more recent study, researchers from the University of Munster in Germany looked at the results from Durham University to see if there may be another explanation for the red advantage. Their study tested the impact of the colour red on the referees involved in judging the outcomes of the sports.

They clothed tae kwon do sparring partners in either red or blue protective gear and showed videos of these bouts to 42 experienced tae kwon do referees. They asked the referees to assign points to each fighter. They were then shown the same videos that had been digitally altered so that the red-wearing fighter was now wearing blue and vice versa.

What the researchers discovered was that these experienced tae kwon do referees consistently assigned more points to the red fighters, even after the colours had been digitally switched. Their conclusion was that, when athletes are relatively well matched, referees’ decisions may tip the scales toward the one in red.

Red at London Olympics=Hope for Canada

There doesn’t seem to be enough evidence just yet to be raising a red flag about the advantage of red-clad Olympians. But we Canadians can always hope! Go Canada Go!

Photo credit: Rob Wilson /

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