“It seems clear that we’re burying negative evidence,” Calin-Jageman told me.
“It’s not the whole story.” It also contributes to our likely mistaken belief that the red-romance connection is strong.
The majority of the published data are positive findings showing the effect working. Scholarly journals often actively reject papers with negative findings, and in the case of red-romance, it seems that the studies that said it mattered were published while the ones that showed no effect were ignored.
Evidence for this comes from replications studies—scientific efforts that attempt to replicate an experiment to ensure that the previously found effect remains.
One such replication study was published last week in by Robert Calin-Jageman and Gabrielle Lehmann of Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. The issues at hand seem to be the same ones surfacing again and again in the replication crisis—too much weight given to small samples, a tendency to publish positive results and not negative results, and perhaps an unconscious bias from the researchers themselves.
A few years ago, a quirky bit of science came out that made a big splash, perhaps thanks to its practical application potential: Your date would likely find you more attractive if you turned up wearing red.
That was the suggestion behind one 2008 study, which showed that male undergraduates based in the United States consistently rated women with the color red in their photographs (either their clothes or the background) as substantially more attractive.
Calin-Jageman and his student have since gone further to accumulate the data as part of a yet unpublished meta-analysis, which they have shared with Elliot.
Put together, the meta-analysis—consisting of data from nearly 4,000 participants—shows no effect for women rating men and a weak effect for the inverse.
Signaling in Internet Dating Markets,” economists Soohyung Lee and Muriel Niederle ran an online event through a Korean dating site in which participants were given a couple of “virtual roses” to signal their interest in someone special.