Psychological Society Conference: Dumb blonde image is still alive and well

Cherry Norton
Friday 09 April 1999 23:02 BST

THE DUMB blonde image perpetuated by Marilyn Monroe is as alive today as it was in the 1950s, according to a new study. Researchers have found that people make snap judgements about levels of intelligence, shyness and popularity based on a women's hair colour.

"Most people are unaware that they are reverting to stereotype, which is frightening if they are interviewing someone or the meeting has an important outcome," said Doctor Tony Cassidy of the University of Coventry, who presented his findings at the British Psychological Society's annual conference yesterday.

The research showed that platinum blondes were rated as less intelligent, brunettes as more shy and natural blondes as more popular when compared with other hair colours.

In the study, which involved 120 men and women aged between 20 and 25, participants assessed four photographs of a 21-year-old female model who was wearing a brown, red, natural blonde or platinum wig. They rated each photograph on a seven-point scale for intelligence, shyness, aggressiveness, temperament and popularity.

Although the platinum blonde was rated as popular by both men and women she was seen as less intelligent, particularly by the men. "We have found that the dumb blonde stereotype is alive and well and is particularly extreme in men," said Dr Cassidy.

The study found that there was no difference perceived in aggressiveness or temperament for the four different hair colours and both sexes had the same prejudices about women's hair colour. But red-haired women were not rated as more temperamental than the other hair types, suggesting that the fiery redhead stereotype no longer exists.

"The popular natural blonde may be part of the generalisation that is often portrayed in the media that blondes have more fun," added Dr Cassidy.

Blonde: Marilyn Monroe

The image that started it all. She may have more fun but the platinum blonde hair colouring automatically makes people assume the person is dumb

Natural blonde: Ulrika Jonsson

Blondes who didn't revert to the dye bottle were seen as more popular than those with other hair colours

Brunette: Jackie Kennedy Onassis

This hair colour was seen as indicating a shy person while the fiery redhead stereotype appears no longer to exist

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