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Friday, 9 April, 1999, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Platinum blondes are labelled as dumb
Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe - dumb blonde?
Both men and women, it seems, actually believe in the old stereotype of the dumb blonde.

Psychologists have found that many people believe that hair colour is associated with certain personality characteristics.

Dr Tony Cassidy and Georgina Harris, of the University of Coventry, asked 120 people - 60 males and 60 females - to look at pictures of a female model wearing four different coloured wigs, platinum blonde, natural blonde, brown and red.

The subjects were asked to rate the model for intelligence, shyness, aggressiveness, temperament and popularity.

The researchers, who presented their results to the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Belfast, found that the platinum blonde model was rated less intelligent - particularly by men.

The brown model was rated as more shy, and the natural blonde as more popular.

Dr Cassidy said: "It seems that the stereotype about dumb blondes did exist, but only in terms of the platinum blonde."

The natural blonde was not regarded as "dumb" but was given the highest popularity rating.

'Frightening' findings

Dr Cassidy, who admitted he was surprised by the findings, said: "It's important to understand that we do make judgments based on stereotypes, and if we make judgments that have important implications for the people we are judging, we need to be aware of this situation.

"It's quite likely that the people who rated this individual less intelligent were not actually aware that they were doing it, which is frightening."

He could not explain why the "dumb" label should be attached to the platinum blonde but not the natural blonde.

"I suspect that the stereotype is probably stronger in men than in women," he said.

Dr Cassidy thought the dumb blonde stereotype probably emerged with the development of films, television and glossy magazines.

See also:

23 Mar 99 | Health
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