Viewing Red Prior to a Strength Test Inhibits Motor Output


  • Payen Vincent
  • Elliot Andrew J.
  • Coombes Stephen A.
  • Chalabaev Aïna
  • Brisswalter Jeanick
  • Cury François


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Arousal
  • Color Perception
  • Emotion Cognition et Comportement
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Muscle contraction
  • MuscleSkeletal
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult

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The present research was designed to examine whether viewing a subtle threat cue, the color red, prior to a simple motor task influences strength output. Thirty-nine participants performed a maximal voluntary contraction of the thigh, viewed red or a chromatic or achromatic control color, and then repeated the maximal voluntary contraction. Participants also reported their general arousal and mood, and were asked to guess the purpose of the experiment. Results indicated that viewing red (relative to a control color) inhibited the rate of force development, but did not influence the peak amplitude of force production. Null findings for general arousal and mood indicated that the observed effect on rate of force development could not be accounted for by these self-report variables; no participant correctly guessed the purpose of the experiment. This research, in conjunction with recent work by Elliot and Aarts (in press) [19] clearly establishes a link between red and basic motor output, and highlights the importance of attending to the functional, as well as aesthetic, value of color.

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