Both Arsenal and Liverpool won close contests in football this week wearing red shirts, confirming, if only anecdotally, the research referred to in the last post. That both were decided on penalties, with the winning sides having fallen behind (Liverpool by 3 goals in the first half and Arsenal in terms of overall possession), may offer some further behavioural clues about success and failure the longer a contest is played.

However, the more interesting update on the red issue, was the chance intervention by a biologist who informs us that to represent the vervet monkey as a possible detractor from the “red indicates potency theory” may be wrong, and a fault either of the BBC, or the quoted academic.

The reason, we think, is to do with information framing. Our cognitive biases are manipulated by the way in which information is framed. The same information can have different effects on us, depending on how it is presented.

So a former air stewardess informed us this week of a scam the “trolley dollies” used to operate to make money out of organge juice sales, because they were rewarded on those but not other drinks. By stressing the word “orange” when the drinks were offered, they generated more sales.

Classically, the marketing imperative “hurry, while stocks last” induces a fear of hypothetical loss of a purchase we had no intention of making.

So to cut a long story short, it may not be just the blueness of the vervet monkey’s testicles that indicate his potency, but how that information is framed. The framing, the biologist informs, is his red arse!

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