If you want to win at combative sports, emulate the most aggressive and dominant animals: wear red. That's the message of recent research by Russell Hill and Robert Barton, evolutionary anthropologists at Durham University, UK. Their analysis of the 2004 Olympic Games was reported recently in Nature (435:293, May 19, 2005).

The duo made use of the Olympic Committee's random assignments of red or blue head protectors and other items to closely matched combatants in four sports: boxing, tae kwon do, Greco-Roman wrestling, and freestyle wrestling. The assignments were meant to make matches easier to judge, independent of any research. Across the four sports (and the majority of weight divisions within them), individuals wearing red had significantly better chances of defeating their blue-clad opponents. The effect was most apparent in bouts in which competitors were closely matched in ability, while highly asymmetric contests tended not to be influenced in the...

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