Type “blonde jokes” into a Google search engine and you will get over 2.5 million hits. That’s a lot of jokes about hair colour. There’s no smoke without fire, as they say, so are the jokes justified? Are blondes dumb in reality? A research team in Ohio State University decided to find out.
Are Blondes Dumb Or Not?
The study looked at nearly eleven thousand American white women who reported having natural blonde hair. To ensure the study only measured natural blondes and to avoid any IQ test bias, the researchers only counted white women. The study availed of data from the National Longitudinal Study Of Youth 1979, which tested the participants for IQ as well as gathering information from a survey.
Looking at the data, the researchers were able to map the average IQ score against various hair colours. This is what they found:
Women with black hair had an average IQ of 100.5
Women with red hair had an average IQ of 101.2
Women with brown hair had an average IQ of 102.7
Women with blonde hair had an average IQ of 103.2
So, wait, are blonde actually more intelligent than their sisters of different hair hues? No. The difference is not statistically significant in any way other than conferring bragging rights!
“I don’t think you can say with certainty that blondes are smarter than others, but you can definitely say they are not any dumber,” research scientist Jay Zagorsky (who does not have blonde hair)
The study did find that blondes are slightly more likely to have high IQ and slightly less likely to have low IQ. However, the authors don’t put this down to hair colour. Rather, it is probably due to their upbringing and having access to more books.
“If blondes have any slight advantage, it may simply be that they were more likely to grow up in homes with more intellectual stimulation,”Jay Zagorsky
'Blondes are not dumb' says Science.Click To Tweet
For completeness, the researchers checked men’s IQ against hair colour and once again found no significant correlation. So the stereotype and the jokes are wrong, blondes are at least as intelligent as any other hair colour. So where did the stereotype come from?
A Short History Of The Dumb Blonde
The original dumb blonde? Mlle Rosalie Duthé.
In her book Encyclopedia Of Hair: A Cultural History, Victoria Sherrow traces the original dumb blonde back to 1775. Seemingly a French courtesan by the name of Rosalie Duthe was notorious for her empty-headed beauty. When in conversation, she had the unfortunate habit of pausing for long periods before speaking. This led people to observe that she was often quite literally dumb. She suffered the humiliation of being the subject of a satirical play entitled Les Curiosites de la Foire.
Hollywood was not averse to perpetuating the stereotype. Jean Harlow was one of the first stars to build on the image of blondes being more sexy. In fact, the term blonde bombshell takes its name from the her movie, Bombshell and her hair!
Marilyn Monroe pretty much adopted the stereotype as her persona, yet her friends and colleagues knew that she was anything but dumb.
“It takes a smart brunette to play a dumb blonde,” Marilyn Monroe
So science proves something that most of us knew to be true anyway, right? Was this study really worth the effort? Or was it a cynical attempt to grab headlines?
Previous research has suggested that people view blondes as being the least successful in the workplace. Interestingly, blondes are less likely to hold managerial positions in the workforce. Worse, similarly qualified blondes tend to start working on significantly lower wages than their brunette counterparts. So it seems that the stereotype of the dumb blonde is negatively affecting people in real life.
Hopefully this study will help in the changing of people’s attitudes. Also, it highlights how important it is to foster a love of reading in children. You can read more about that subject here – Want a super power? Try reading!
Right now I’m experiencing the downside of a greying stereotype but I’m just happy that I have hair at all!
What about you? Have you suffered from blonde stereotyping? Or brunette or red hair stereotyping? Who is your favourite not-so dumb blonde? Let me know in the comments below!
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OSU – No joke: Blondes aren’t dumb, science says
UNSW – Blonde Ambition: Are Brunettes Paid More Because They’re Worth It
Google Books – Encyclodpedia Of Hair: A Cultutal History by Victoria Sherrow
EBSCO Host – Hair Color Stereotypes and Their Associated Perceptions in Relationships and the Workplace
Wikipedia – Blonde Stereotype
Wikimedia Commons – Claude Jean Baptiste Hoin xx Presumed Portrait of Mademoiselle Rosalie Duthe