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Dressing For the Negotiation

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Does what you wear influence the outcome of a negotiation. Yes, it seems. If you want to get something done, wear red.

Let’s Negotiate

To test whether the color of one’s clothes could affect the outcome of a negotiation, an experiment was designed where 48 men and 48 women were asked to negotiate about the import and export of coffee. Since earlier research had shown that sex has an influence when negotiating (men appear to attain better results when negotiating with women, the opposite turned out not to be so), women negotiated only with women, and men with men in this test. The only thing that varied in this experiment, was the color of the test subjects clothes, they either had to put on a white shirt, or a red one.

Red For the Best Deal

The results showed that both the ‘buyers’ and the ‘sellers’ that wore a red shirt performed markedly better in getting desirable results than their white shirted colleagues. For example, people wearing white appeared to adjust their opening offer more to the red dressed negotiators than the other way around. According to the researchers, this is because people automatically tend to shrink back when being exposed to the color red. Through this evasive behavior we have the tendency to subconsciously conform to someone who wears red.

The Influence of Color

It has been known for quite a while that color has a noticeable influence on our emotions, behavior, our functioning and perceptions. Previous research has shown that people who had to judge soccer players (they didn’t know) on their skills, consistently thought players in red shirts possessed better soccer skills. It has also been found that people about to take an intelligence test scored worse if they were exposed to the color red before the test than if they were exposed to the color gray.

This particular study also looked at the influence of the clothing color on perception, but no significant results were found. Conversational partners dressed in a white shirt were given the same average score on traits such as honesty, assertiveness and aggression as people that were wearing a red shirt.

So, the next time you’re going to negotiate with someone (or trying to get a raise from your boss), wear red and the odds of success will increase.


  • Hoek, C. (2011). Red clothing makes you a better negotiator. Scientias. (Published March 4, 2011) (http://www.scientias.nl/rode-kleding-maakt-u-een-betere-onderhandelaar/26498)
  • University of Tilburg, press release. (March 3, 2011). Successful negotiating? Wear red clothing. (http://uvtapp.uvt.nl/fsw/spits.npc.ShowPressReleaseCM?v_id=4242401207483994)
  • ScienceGuide. (March 7, 2011). Red (http://www.scienceguide.nl/201103/rood.aspx)


carol roach
Posted on May 6, 2011
Posted on May 5, 2011

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