The power of red

Red is an emotionally intense colour for many people, often associated with passion, power or danger. Why is this?

In Britain, we affectionately associate red with many culturally significant objects: traditional telephone boxes, London buses, the Red Arrows, the uniforms of Beefeaters and other royal guards... the list goes on.

It is often used for things we need to pay attention to and is the international symbol for 'stop', used on traffic lights and signs. In many parts of the world, red is the colour of good luck, success and happiness.

Vision researcher Dr Greg Edgecombe and artist Liz West (who created the light installation in Colour and Vision) ponder the significance of the colour red for people, and possible reasons for this.

In nature too, scarlet hues often carry an important message, be it 'eat me: I'm a juicy ripe berry' or 'stay away, I’m toxic and I taste bad'. Find out more in our rainbow nature article about red.