Why Penn State Needs a Football Uniform Color Change


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Okay, maybe that's asking a little much, but I promise there's some reasoning behind that outlandish suggestion. In keeping with my last blog about athletic advantages, this time I decided to take a look at a different factor-something seemingly much simpler than an athlete's perception of time. Thanks to a mother with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a Psych 101 class I took during my senior year in high school, the science behind the psychological effects of color have always fascinated me. There is of course some simple and standard knowledge about this science: gray makes us sad, yellow makes us happy, paint your kitchen blue because it suppresses appetite, etc.  However, I've found that an article that talks about the influence of jersey color on who has the advantage in sport.

I found this topic interesting mostly because I had never considered the influence of color in the athletic environment. However, the idea that it would have an influence now makes total sense. Researchers at the University of Durham claimed that athletes who wore red had an increased probability of winning competitions in a wide range of sports.  Before I continue, I feel as though I should clarify that jersey color does not take precedent over skill and strength in regards to winning an athletic competition. However, the subconscious influence of color does extend back thousands of years. I think I'll be reserving that exploration for another blog post, so sorry for being so brief about it here.

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Essentially, some of the scientists hypothesized that the presence of red sports outfits either increased the testosterone levels of its wearer, decreased the levels in the opponent or possibly a little bit of both. In nature and amongst wildlife, red is a sign of "fitness, aggression and high levels of testosterone".

The researchers' conclusions were mostly influenced based on the results of sporting events, but I thought the argument on the basis of evolutionary science seemed very strong. Is this enough to argue why one team has an advantage over another? Will it influence who you bet on in athletic contests? Do you think you'd feel more confident if you were wearing a red jersey?

5 Comments

This is definitely an interesting topic. There may be a small subconscious factor, but I doubt the color of a team's jersey has a significant effect on the percentage of winning games or or a noticeable different in the ability to play a game. But, I look forward to reading your subconscious influence of color analysis in another blog post to understand what those subconscious influences exactly are and why they occur. Maybe it has something to do with how our brain observes the sight of colors and therefore reacts in a certain way. Maybe, for example, wearing red could give each player a lot of confidence or motivation? Because red is such a dominant color that certainly could have a subconscious effect like that.

While I have heard that the color of a room could affect mood, I had never thought that the color of the jerseys could have any influence over athletic performance.
I have to wonder, though, if any increase in performance is because an athlete plays better when wearing red (the whole "increased testosterone levels" thing), or because the opponents are affected when playing against a team wearing red. I would think that seeing the color red would make you more focused and help you perform better, regardless of whether the color is on a teammate's jersey or an opponent's.

Here's a New York Times article about the performance differences between blue and red: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/06/health/06iht-color.1.19983382.html
It's definitely an interesting topic.

Interesting. Maybe it's not so much the color the effects play but the way the uniform looks in general. Here's an idea to consider: psychologically, how "sharp" a team's jersey looks could effect play of both the players wearing the jersey and the opponents. Teams who have flashier, aesthetically pleasing and overall more stylish uniforms may have slight boost because wearing such a "cool" uniform generally gives them a confidence boost whereas the opponent could be put at a slight disadvantage 1) because they do not have the same confidence boost or 2) their subconscious is telling them that their opponents will be good because of their outward appearance, based on the notion attractiveness of any sort equals success in some way. It is a somewhat unique idea but is it possible that not only color but overall design could be a factor here as well?

I'd have to disagree with your proposal of changing our colors. Blue and White are THE traditional Penn State colors. They represent our team, our home, and us without words. Everywhere you look, you see blue and white. Out on the field the players put everything out on the line while repping the blue and white colors that we've grown so familiar with. Also, you normally don't see the colors you are wearing while you have a helmet on. You just see the field and other players. Do you know what other team is blue and white? The superbowl XVLI champions the NY Giants.

About the comment regarding the fact that you don't normally see jersey color with a helmet on, the article noted that the influence of color was most notable in close-contact, hand to hand sports like wrestling. I wonder if wearing something as simple as a red armband could make the wearer feel more confident and strong. It'd also be interesting to see how this affected women's sports in the same way it affected men's sports.
Lastly, sorry to anyone who didn't get that I was joking about changing Penn State's colors, but hey, at least the title caught your attention! Considering Penn State's original colors were black and dark pink so while blue and white are the current colors, I also think it's misleading to call them the university's "traditional" colors.

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