COLUMBUS, Ohio – The “dumb blonde” stereotype is simply wrong, according to a new national study of young baby boomers.
The study of 10,878 Americans found that white women who said their natural hair color was blonde had an average IQ score within 3 points of brunettes and those with red or black hair.
While jokes about blondes may seem harmless to some, it can have real-world implications, said Jay Zagorsky, author of the study and a research scientist at The Ohio State University.
“Research shows that stereotypes often have an impact on hiring, promotions and other social experiences,” Zagorsky said.
“This study provides compelling evidence that there shouldn’t be any discrimination against blondes based on their intelligence.”
The study found that the average IQ of blondes was actually slightly higher than those with other hair colors, but that finding isn’t statistically significant, said Zagorsky, who works in the university’s Center for Human Resource Research (CHRR).
“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.”
The results for blond white men were similar – they also had IQs roughly equal to men with other hair colors.
The study was published last week in the journal Economics Bulletin.
Data from the study came from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), a national survey of people who were between 14 and 21 years old when they were first interviewed in 1979.
The NLSY79 is conducted by CHRR for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 1980, participants in the NLSY79 took the Armed Forces Qualification Test, or AFQT, which is used by the Pentagon to determine the intelligence of all recruits. The overall AFQT score is based on word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, math knowledge and arithmetic reasoning.
In 1985, all participants were asked, “What is your natural hair color?”
To eliminate any bias in the IQ tests caused by ethnic and racial differences, Zagorsky dropped all African Americans and Hispanics from the analysis.
The resulting findings showed that blonde-haired white women had an average IQ of 103.2, compared to 102.7 for those with brown hair, 101.2 for those with red hair and 100.5 for those with black hair.
Blonde women were slightly more likely to be in the highest IQ category than those with other hair colors, and slightly less likely to be in the lowest IQ category.
The study can’t say whether there are any genetic relationships between hair color and intelligence, but Zagorsky did find one fact that could at least partially explain why blondes showed slightly higher intelligence: They grew up in homes with more reading material than did those with any other hair color.
“If blondes have any slight advantage, it may simply be that they were more likely to grow up in homes with more intellectual stimulation,” he said.
Zagorsky noted that more women than expected in the NLSY79 reported that they were blonde. In the survey, 20.7 percent of white women reported being blonde, compared to only 17.1 percent of men. Assuming that hair color is not related to gender and that men were less likely to color their hair, Zagorsky said the results suggest that about 3.5 percent of women reported their natural hair color as blonde when it was not.
Zagorsky said he couldn’t say for sure how that may have affected the results, but he said the major finding was almost certainly still true: Blondes could hold their own intellectually with those of any other hair color.
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Stereotyping basically involves establishing a general opinion regarding traits or particular groups as a whole. Within the context of stereotyping, there is relatively no room for individuality, only the assumptions and notions based on general or group characteristics. I have held a stereotype that blonde women are generally not very bright. I believe this notion of the blonde stereotype was basically inculcated into me via the media. Electronic media depicts blonde women as being relatively intellectually challenged and are only passionate about materiality and their physical appearance. I have come to carry this stereotype rather unconsciously and generalize every blonde female as naïve and without depth in terms of cognitive apt.
In critically evaluating the notion of stereotyping, especially the one in my case, I have essentially not exhibited to a certain degree, higher level thinking. Stereotyping basically eliminates the notion of keeping an open mind about the stereotyped group. Stereotypes are, and involve, not just mere generalizations, but false or misleading generalizations. For me to come to the conclusion that all member of the stereotyped group are basically the same regardless of their beliefs, experiences, achievements or without even getting to know them is narrow minded and biased. Another reason stereotyping isn’t practicing higher level thinking is that when faced or presented with contrary numerous instances of beliefs about a given group, for example, I meet a very intelligent blonde woman who is deep and versatile in a particular field of study in which I relatively know nothing about, there is that tendency to resist to review my stereotype notion about blonde women, thus leaving myself in self-denial. I have basically come up with excuses such as “she wasn’t born blonde, she must have dyed her hair” This act of resisting counterevidence shows an inadequacy in higher level thinking where one refuses to accept the obvious facts presented in plain sight.
Again, my stereotyping of blonde women as being incapable of high level intelligence may have been initiated from media portrayal. TV shows, magazines even to this present day portray blonde women as dull and un-street savvy.
Successful blonde women within society are most often depicted to have achieved the success through means of the physical appearance and their sexual appeal rather than via hard work and intelligence. Coincidentally, some of the blonde women I have met often do exhibit the characteristics attributed to them in the media. They are beautiful, materialistic and are the center of attraction based on their naivety.
I have on some occasions practically laughed at, or faulted the ideas of certain blonde females in some of my academic group gatherings. Though their ideas were not so impressive, but I must equally say, they were not that bad, I did not even present them with a chance to expatiate on the ideas or further reveal the motive behind such a concept, due to the stereotype I carried for blonde females I couldn’t care less.
It is in my opinion, that though with a certain level of discipline, stereotypes can be altered. This process may require a great deal of time, consistency and focused attention, but can be changed in the long run. One of the ways I believe this sort of stereotype could be altered is via the use of the bookkeeping model. By constantly and consistently stating or writing down that this stereotype is incorrect, one may naturally adapt to the correct information and thus embrace concurrent change, in my case, not all blondes are unintelligent. This method may seem relatively straight forward however, it does take a significant amount of repetition and does take time.
Another methodology I would employ in eliminating this stereotype and any other would be through the conversion model. This model is implemented in a situation where the old stereotype is completely done away with and the individual in question with the stereotype initiates a fresh opinion. This most often occurs once a stereotype has been proven to be untrue over and over again within different contexts, it becomes evidently noticeable that the involved party begins though gradually to rid himself/herself of this stereotyped opinion.
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There are a large number of stereotypes that society and its individual’s do fall accustomed to without even the slightest realization that such opinions are being formed. These opinions are formed without much thought and eventually become the basis through which an individual perceives a group of people. I have come to realize through critical evaluation, that a majority of the stereotypes, opinions or beliefs regarding a particular group of individuals are false generalizations and are in no way to a relatively high degree exclusive to simply those individuals. One constant question I continually ask myself in a bid to rid my mind of the blonde biased stereotype is “Are all brunets smart?”
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