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Human colour in mate choice and competition

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Rowland, H. M., & Burriss, R. P. (2017). Human colour in mate choice and competition. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 372(1724), 11. doi:10.1098/rstb.2016.0350.

The colour of our skin and clothing affects how others perceive us and how we behave. Human skin colour varies conspicuously with genetic ancestry, but even subtle changes in skin colour due to diet, blood oxygenation and hormone levels influence social perceptions. In this review, we describe the theoretical and empirical frameworks in which human colour is researched. We explore how subtle skin colour differences relate to judgements of health and attractiveness. Also, because humans are one of the few organisms able to manipulate their apparent colour, we review how cosmetics and clothing are implicated in courtship and competition, both inside the laboratory and in the real world. Research on human colour is in its infancy compared with human psychophysics and colour research in non-human animals, and hence we present best-practice guidelines for methods and reporting, which we hope will improve the validity and reproducibility of studies on human coloration. This article is part of the themed issue 'Animal coloration: production, perception, function and application'.