When red means go: Non-normative effects of red under sensation seeking

Ravi Mehta, Joris Demmers, Willemijn M. van Dolen, Charles B. Weinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although previous research has identified red as the color of compliance, the current work proposes that this effect of red may not hold under high sensation-seeking propensity conditions. It is argued that the color red has the capability to induce arousal, which in turn has been shown to enhance a person's default tendencies. Further, because high sensation seekers have a higher tendency to react, the exposure to the color red for these individuals will increase reactance and thereby non-compliant behavior. One field study and two lab experiments provide support for this theorizing. The first experiment, a field study, examines prank-chatting incidences at a child helpline and shows a positive effect of red on such non-compliant behavior. Experiment 2 confirms this finding in a controlled lab setting and shows that when one has a high sensation-seeking propensity, the color red positively affects one's attitude towards non-compliance. The final study illuminates the underlying process and explicates the role of arousal and reactance in the color–non-compliance relationship. Both theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-97
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Consumer Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Arousal
  • Color
  • Non-compliance
  • Reactance
  • Sensation seeking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Marketing


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