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Psycasm

Psycasm is the exploration of the world psychological. Every day phenomenon explained and manipulated to one's own advantage. Written by a slightly overambitious undergrad, Psycasm aims at exploring a whole range of social and cognitive processes in order to best understand how our minds, and those mechanisms that drive them, work.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

ResearchBlogging.org

[Wherein our Hero considers the consequences of being Blonde. Notes for femme fatale bank-robbers...]

So this was a topic I received via twitter, or perhaps I was being alerted to a finding via twitter... in any event I've decided to run with it.

The tweet was referencing the degree of eye-contact men make with women who have different coloured hair. Though I couldn't find an article addressing that direct question it seems that the implication is that hair colour influences the perceived attractiveness of women in men. I think the folk wisdom is that, yes, it certainly does; but the bigger question is how might such a difference manifest in the real world. Ok, so men are nicer to women who they find more attractive? There are some good (evolutionary) reasons why this might be the case; and I would also suggest that women are nicer to men they find more attractive.

But again, so what?

Well, apparently there are some pretty big differences. Let's begin with those who receive tips during their work. It seems tips increase with breast size, and hip-to-waist ratio, but start to decline if the ratio is too large or the breasts are too far either side of some 'optimum' tipping size. Importantly (well, for this blog, anyway) hair colour has an influence. Blondes receive a more tips (measured as a percentage of the meal price) (Lynn, 2009). Though it's important to point out here that this is only going to hold in places where the men are of Caucasian/Euro descent. Additionally, I didn't find the methodology in Lynn (2009) particularly compelling, but it really is just a continuation of more established research...

But again, so what? Tipping is a decision we make (at least you US folk do) and we're free to tip to whatever degree we want.

But - and this is actually pretty scary - Ahola, Christianson & Hellstrom (2009) found something - we should be concerned about. In a mock-jury reconstruction participants were asked to rate characteristic traits of alleged offenders of crimes. These crimes ranged from Theft and Fraud, to Child Molestation and Homicide. It seems that women were rated significantly more positively than men, and that attractive women were given the most lenient appraisals of all. It's important to note though that these are comparative terms - the appraisals were bad, but for attractive women they were less bad.

Finally, and this one's a bit of fun, researchers in France took the hair colour paradigm to the street. The following is their abstract:

To test the effect of women's hair color on the frequency of offering help, male (n = 1,508) and female (n = 892) French motorists were tested in a hitchhiking situation. Five 20- to 22- yr.-old female confederates wore a wig with blonde, brown, or black hair. Each confederate was instructed to stand by the side of a road frequented by hitchhikers and hold out her thumb to catch a ride. Blonde hair, compared with brown hair or black hair, was associated with a small but significantly larger number of male drivers who stopped to offer a ride (18 vs 14%). No difference was found for those with brown and black hair (14 and 13%, respectively). No effect of hair color was found for female drivers who stopped. The greater attractiveness associated with blonde hair for women appears to explain these data. (Gueguen & Lamy, 2009).

That's actually pretty freaky. Imagine you're driving along and you see a hitch-hiker. At the point where you can assess hair colour (and the point where men presumably decide to start braking, pulling over, and inviting the hiker in) they can probably only make out the colour and nature of clothing, the hair colour, and the amount of baggage. They can't make out other features like general attractiveness, breast size, and waist-to-hip ratio (measures in the previous study). So they decide to begin pulling over based on one feature alone. Now unless some begin to slow down then decide "Oops, wait, she's only a 6..." then speed back up again, it seems men have a fairly low threshold for what constitutes attractiveness and some altruistic behaviour.

Fortunately, it would seem that men also have a fairly low threshold for being tricked. It seems there might be genuine economic and social reasons to want to be blonde (by either a wig, or by chemical processes). I don't know what the individual's thoughts are on 'faking' such things, but it seems to me an inconsequential lie with potentially significant returns. Though hair-colour is not a factor for me, I went through a period of lying about my name while delivering Pizzas in order to maximise my tipping. Ultimately it didn't work, but I tried it anyway, and I'd still be doing it if it had.

And if you, as a blonde, are motivated to hitch-hike in order to murder the generous passerby, steal his money and car, and try to make a run from the law - if you get caught you can be satisfied in the knowledge that a brunette would probably serve more time than you, and be less liked for it generally. So maybe, before that next Alter-Ego Charlie's Angels style bank robbery, you should consider going blonde. 

 

Lynn, M. (2008). Determinants and Consequences of Female Attractiveness and Sexiness: Realistic Tests with Restaurant Waitresses Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38 (5), 737-745 DOI: 10.1007/s10508-008-9379-0

Guéguen N, & Lamy L (2009). Hitchhiking women's hair color. Perceptual and motor skills, 109 (3), 941-8 PMID: 20178293

Ahola, A., Christianson, S., & Hellstrom, (2009). Justice Needs a Blindfold: Effects of Gender and Attractiveness on Prison Sentences and Attributions of Personal Characteristics in a Judicial Process Psychiatry, Psychology and Law, 16, 90-100 DOI: 10.1080/13218710802242011

 

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Blog Comments

Suzy
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Interesting study- because the only way to really do this - to control the experiment is to have the same girls change their hair color and then see how quickly they get picked up.

Attractiveness is too subjective. Eye color, eye shape ("doe eyes"), how much (or little) make up, one's scent, and the bust and waist all play a role. 

I had dark brown hair for a while and the main difference I noticed was that I was never asked for proof of age at any bar or club or the supermarket. As a blonde, I am always asked. The darker hair made me look older? Or maybe it looks more serious? I don't know. I don't want to look older. 

There was also a difference in the amount of eye contact people made with me with dark hair vs. blonde. 

I went through a period of lying about my name while delivering Pizzas in order to maximise my tipping.

So what name did you use that you thought would maximize your tip? Did you have two different names depending on who answered the door?

 


Suzy
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ha ha ha- nice pic there. Didn't have that up before. You might catch a little grief for it.

I think if the subjects wore bikinis while hitchhiking, it might negate the effect of hair color on driver choice on whether to stop or not.

 


Psycasm
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The pic is just there to catch the eye... 'The effects of scantily-clad women on blog viewership' [it's in the works ;) ]

My name and the pizza's? I'd pretend that my name was theirs - 'Oh, you're John, me too!'.

There's was some literature to suggest that people have greater liking for others of the same name, but it apparently doesn't translate into tippage...


Psycasm
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Woah... I just caught a bus to uni, and there was a girl who managed to stop a bus without the aid of a stop or anything. That never happens... and she was blonde!!

Now all I need to a brunette. Damnit, nature! Where are your controls?


Jason Goldman
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Picture? I don't see no picture...


Psycasm
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There's no picture in the posting. If you click 'blogs' on the main page and go to the list there you'll see the picture.

But to save you the effort:


Suzy
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That's better. I was wondering what her shoes looked like.

She's got one of those double jointed elbows too.

That name test is funny. I think it didn't work because I bet most people have their money ready and waiting by the time you get there.


Prabodh Kandala
Texas Tech University Health Science Center
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Interesting Article. When I first visited pub, I tipped three times my actual bill. And she was a blonde Cool


Evie
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Well, I gotta say big 'Duh' on this one.. all you gotta do is step outside, like you said in the US/EU/Israel zone to see that happen in practice. You could also take a look at Cali, with the infinite supply of women bleaching their hair blonde, and getting breast augmentation surgery. They do it for a reason..

From personal experience I can tell you that breast size is less of a factor than hair color when accounting for # of approaches by men. No question.

As an example, there was one Halloween when I dressed up as Alice in Wonderland. @Jade you might be interested in this, as it is exactly what you stated. The need for the same girl to be wearing a wig and not wearing it.. The first night out, I wore the outfit but not the wig. My hair is dark brown. I didn't get much attention at all. Less than normal in fact.

In general, I don't get a ton of attention, I'm more of the go out and pick what I want myself, rather than wait around and see what comes my way type.

The next night however, I did wear the blonde wig. And fuck yea blondes get WAY more attention. I was getting hollers from every direction, marriage proposals, free entrance to clubs/bars, free drinks, phone numbers, I was showered with gifts.. it was insane.

Same girl, same outfit, same everything, just with the addition of a blonde wig. Which btw was clearly a wig, it didn't look real or anything.

Also, in my 'normal' life as a brunette, I get blamed/accused for stuff all the time, I look guilty, I have those 'thinking' eyes that look too mischievous. I'm never the one responsible, but even when proven so, I'm always looked at like I am. The blondes around, don't ever even get questioned. And yes, they typically are the culprits.

Society has odd ways of deciding things.

Here's a pic from that Halloween http://twitpic.com/mczue the dude is a really good friend of mine.


Evie
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Hmm.. looks like that pasted twice.. you can delete it and Ill repost w just one copy.


Psycasm
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Yeah, I think I'd agree. And there's some interesting thoughts about the topic, but I consider them outside the domain of my blog so I didn't address them.

The biggest one is why. So, most guys (it seems) like blondes. Why such a drastic change in behaviour? Like you said yourself, same girl, same everything, different hair = much more attention. It's also very hard to imagine that somehow blondes are predisposed (genetically?) to be 'more fun'. Blondes must conform ot the same bell curve as everyone else - with their share of tarts and princesses, but also of geniune human beings and everything in between.

Why then can a Blonde stop a car at 100 meters, when another woman can't?

Personally, I can't wrap my head around it. Then again, I've never had a thing for blondes... though, I should admit, if there is a girl who I can identify as my 'type' (say, while I'm at work) then I am inclined to be nicer, all things considered.

Is it the same for women?


Evie
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In my observation it's actually more of a 'opposites attract thing' blonde guys often prefer or even only go for brunetters and vice versa.

I'm very different from, well, everyone else, so I can't say how women in general are. I also think the more aware you are of something, the less likely you are to repeat the same action, be it intuitive or otherwise.

I don't think I'm nicer to someone if I find them attractive. I am definitely nicer if I like them, not in the romantic sense, but in the 'yea that's a good person' sense, i.e. nice, helpful, honest.. If someone is my 'type' I think I am more likely to click with them, and be on the same wavelength which would facilitate communication and working together, but I don't think that would make me be nicer to that person than to anyone else.


Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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Evie, what if guys just think Blonde girls are easy and they saw your Brunette hair and thought, "That'd be WAYYYYY too much work." :P


Evie
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Are blondes easier..?


Evie
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Blonde girls I mean? In your excperience? I have no input.. Guys are easy in all forms.. in fact the hotter they are, the easier they are to get.. I think it's cause they don't feel the need to prove anything.


Image Goddess
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My fiance and I were at a restaurant the other day, the waiter had the same name as him - didn't get him a better tip. But it certainly made them talk a lot...

My natural hair color is light brown (my hair dresser say dark golden blonde but I don't believe him). I went light blonde for years with heavy highlights, simply because I liked it. I have fair skin and I thought dark hair made me look a paler. But now that I've gone back to my natural color - I actually get more complements, and people think I'm younger. Suprised the heck out of me.


Dr. O
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...it seems men have a fairly low threshold for what constitutes attractiveness and some altruistic behaviour...

Maybe I'm a bit cynical, but I think this has a bit to do with what men think they'll get out of their altruistic behavior, and it doesn't take much for some guys.

For the record, I was born a natural blonde, but my hair has darkened over the years. I get highlights now (nothing crazy, just enough to brighten it up a bit), and even my husband is nicer to me when I get home from the salon. Nothing else about me changes during the salon trip, so I don't think the "blondes are easier" argument makes sense. Although there's something to be said for him spending money on my salon visits...


JanedeLartigue
UC Davis
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I'll bare this in mind for my next mass-murdering hitchhiking spree!  I blame it on Dexter, he just made murder look way too cool!


Pascal Wallisch
New York University
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This is getting a little freaky.

Here is what I posted on my FB wall on October 7th:

If you are female, hitchhike and want a ride from a guy, it helps to be blonde (a little).

(Linking to the Perceptual & Motor Skills study).

But I didn't know this site or anyone on it, back then. That was before the SfN announcement.

So how are we correlated? Read Perceptual and Motor Skills a lot? (There is a followup on bust size in it, by the same guy).

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