A common claim thrown around is that red and orange are great for restaurants because it stimulates hunger. However, I've heard time and time again that this does not work in web design because you need a whole room to be red/orange to stimulate hunger; one such claim is here but I can never find an academic source to back this up.

How much of a color is necessary to actually provoke this reaction? Is it feasible for on-screen design to actually evoke hunger or is that a misapplication of this finding?

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting question - I think the problem with the link that you have provided is that it lacks any actual evidence or data. Can you provide links to anything that actually suggests red/orange can stimulate hunger? My assumption would be that this is a myth and piece of folklore from designers with little or no actual factual basis. $\endgroup$ – vizzero Apr 14 '12 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ @vizzero it's a claim I see cited very often, especially in regards to mcdonalds, looks like skeptics didn't find a source, there are some papers on Google scholar though. Edited. $\endgroup$ – Ben Brocka Apr 14 '12 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ @BenBrocka Do you still have the references? I searched on Pubmed and didn't find anything. Some of the original basis of the "McDonalds" color scheme was to move people through the restaurant quickly (I couldn't find a ref for this either (!!), but I heard it during a psych course a number of years ago, which doesn't mean anything, I realize) to promote turnover rate rather than hunger. $\endgroup$ – Chuck Sherrington May 13 '12 at 4:43
  • $\begingroup$ Appetite is not the same as hunger. I don't think any amount of red can make your stomach growl. Regarding appetite it still is without foundations. $\endgroup$ – rus9384 Sep 23 '18 at 13:34

I tried to find a source to back up the claim that 'red' stimulates hunger. I couldn't, and in fact I found a study that suggests the exact opposite: the color red reduces food intake, because it acts like a stop signal (Genschow et al., 2012).

This also reminded me of a study by Brian Wansink and colleagues at Cornell, who had study participants consume Pringles in which every 7th chip was dyed red. They found that these people actually consumed fewer chips than controls (where none of the chips were dyed red). This may be due to the color of the chip, but another likely hypothesis is that changing colors gave participants an implicit signal of how many chips were eaten. (i.e., if all chips were red, their intake would be the same as controls)

If red/orange does stimulate hunger, it is likely a very weak effect, and highly context-specific. Therefore, asking "how much red" might not be the appropriate question to ask.

Genschow, O., Reutner, L., & Wänke, M. (2012). The color red reduces snack food and soft drink intake. Appetite. LINK

Geier, A., Wansink, B., & Rozin, P. (2012). Red potato chips: Segmentation cues can substantially decrease food intake. Health Psychology, forthcoming. PDF

  • $\begingroup$ Not sure of the relevance of the second study; dyed food is inherently different from a red * environment*, the first is sort of interesting though. Like many things in marketing it may be well known just because everyone knows it... $\endgroup$ – Ben Brocka Nov 13 '12 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ agreed that the second study is only tangentially on topic, though you didn't say in your Q anything about red food vs red environment. not sure what you mean by 'its well known because everyone knows it'. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Nov 13 '12 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ It's fairly common knowledge in marketing groups. It just seems to be one of those things everyone knows, but no one knows why everyone knows. I just meant it's hard to separate marketing myths from research based stuff. $\endgroup$ – Ben Brocka Nov 13 '12 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ ah, yes. i think advertising in particular is full of voodoo. marketing journals have some good stuff, though. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Nov 13 '12 at 16:45

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