Red could help some people comply with health eating recommendations, but for high sensation seeking personality types, this may not be the color of choice, suggested a study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Certain personality types are more likely to rebel rather than comply when seeing the color red, said the study Indian-origin researcher.
The study was inspired by a problem faced by a Dutch child helpline that offered free counseling to children aged eight to 18. The Dutch child helpline that ran the counseling service were frustrated because of the high percentage of prank calls they received who had no interest in genuine counseling.
‘Red could help some people comply with health eating recommendations, but high sensation seeking personality types are more likely to rebel rather than comply when seeing the color red.’
Researchers launched an experiment that showed three different colors on the chat screen while callers were on hold for a counselor. They expected that red would reduce the number of prank chats.
"To our surprise, the prank chatting was higher with the red color background than the white or blue. Prank chatting occurred about 22% of the time with the red background, compared to 15% for the white or blue," said Ravi Mehta, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois.
The researchers realized that the color red can increase non-compliant behavior in people with sensation seeking personality types.
To test whether personality type influenced the response to red, the researchers conducted another study. In this experiment, college students completed an online questionnaire to assess their level of sensation seeking.
They answered questions to evaluate their attitude toward compliant behavior and the questions were presented on either a red or white screen. People high in sensation seeking who viewed the red background preferred statements that were resistant to compliant behavior. This did not happen when they saw a white background.
The findings suggest that the assumptions about the color red may not apply to everyone and this could have implications for things like anti-smoking and safe sex campaigns. "Using red to promote these preventative health measures might not work for people who are high in sensation seeking, and it might even backfire," added Mehta.