Do certain colors attract police?

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In today’s era of radar and laser detectors—not to mention soulless speed cameras—the easy answer is no. Most police officers will explain that if you’re speeding, you’re going to be pulled over no matter the color of your car. But could law enforcement subconsciously be focusing on brighter colors, and red in particular?

They might be, at least based on research conducted by Dr. Mark Changizi, professor of Human Cognition at 2AI Labs. An evolutionary neurobiologist, Changizi’s online biography details his studies as a means to “grasp the ultimate foundations underlying why we think, feel and see as we do.”

2010 Ferrari 458 Italia
2010 Ferrari 458 Italia

According to his studies of primates, our eyes have evolved to detect subtle changes in blood oxygenation. In layman’s terms: we notice pigment changes when, for example, someone turns red with anger or pale with fright. “It’s all about emotions,” says Changizi. “Our eyes are designed to see these color changes.” Primates with less fur on their face and rump (such as baboons and chimps) can detect these pigment shifts.

Different emotional states depend on how oxygenated your blood is. “Red is a symbol of strength physiologically,” says Changizi, while mentioning recent studies that have proven wearing red sportswear leads to a higher probability of winning. Changizi says cultural factors also play an important role. Think about a red car, and chances are good a low-slung Ferrari or Corvette springs to mind.

Millions of years of evolution, along with some clever marketing, means that brighter colors (especially reds) could simply be hard-wired in our minds as being powerful, fast and strong. Just don’t try to wiggle your way out of a speeding ticket by telling a cop he was genetically programmed to ticket your little red sports car.

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