Previous research has established red as the color of compliance, for example with warnings, social norms, and instructions. When applying red as a background color to the website of the Dutch child helpline in an attempt to reduce prank chatting, however, we found that red had the exact opposite effect; prank chatting incidence increased rather than decreased when we changed the color of the background to red. We decided to follow up on this finding and conduct a series of experiments. We found that the color red induces non-compliant behavior in people with “sensation seeking” personality types. Hence, the widespread use of the color red to signal danger, warn people, or stop unwanted behavior may actually be counter-effective for high sensation-seekers. This has important implications for the widespread use of red to induce compliance with stop signs and warnings, because high sensation-seekers are more likely to ignore these signals in the first place. Red may only exacerbate rather than mitigate this inclination. This work has been published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology:

Mehta, R., Demmers, J., Van Dolen, W.M., & Weinberg, C.B. (2016). When red means go : Non-normative effects of red under sensation seeking. Journal of Consumer Psychology.