When competitors in sport are equally matched, the team dressed in red is more likely to win, according to a new study.
That is the conclusion of British anthropologists Russell Hill and Robert Barton of the University of Durham, after studying the results of one-on-one boxing, tae kwon do, Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling matches at the Olympic Games.
Their study shows that when a competitor is equally matched with an opponent in fitness and skill, the athlete wearing red is more likely to win.
Hill and Barton report that when one contestant is much better than the other, colour has no effect on the result.
However, when there is only a small difference between them, the effect of colour is sufficient to tip the balance.
The anthropologists say that the number of times red wins is not simply by chance, but that these results are statistically significant.
Joanna Setchell, a primate researcher at the University of Cambridge, has found similar results in nature. She studies the large African monkeys known as mandrills. Mandrills have bright red noses that stand out against their white faces. Setchell's work shows that the dominant males - the ones who are more successful with females - have a brighter red nose than other males.
Setchell says that the finding that red also has an advantage in human sporting events does not surprise her and she adds that 'the idea of the study is very clever.'