Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Women's hair color. It doesn't pay to be average

Gene expression has run a second post on blonde preference. This time the analysis is based on the front covers of Maxim magazine, whose readership is 27.5 years old on average and thus provides a better guide of what young men prefer (Playboy’s readership is 32.5 on average).

The post makes two points:

1) After increasing from the mid-1960s to about the year 2000, preference for blonde women seems to have levelled off over the past 11 years.

2) In comparison to the white American population, there is an overrepresentation of women with either blonde or dark brunette hair on the front covers of Maxim. Women with intermediate hair shades are underrepresented.

The second finding is interesting because it bears out the frequency-dependent nature of hair-color preference. Men seem to have a stronger preference for less common shades.

7 comments:

Tod said...

Female celebrities/models show a tendency to go from natural brunette, mousey (and red)to bottle blonde. I think the dark brunettes who are getting a lot of work still have their natural colour.

I wonder, do any models with average hair colours go darker to get more work/look more attractive - this study shows they would be more successful with the less common dark brunette - if not why not?

Tod said...

Intermediate hair shades might be too close to the colour of the cover girls bronzed skin. Darkening of the skin is particularly apparent on the covers of Maxim type magazines (sexual inhibition releasing requires the look of an adults coat as you have adumbrated).

If the tanned look is essential and blondes on covers are effective visual marketing tools then tanned blondes would be used on covers untill frequency-dependence came into play. Intermediate hair having an insufficient contrast problem the dark bunette would logicaly benefit.

Peter Frost said...

If we accept the findings of the GNXP study, there should be a market among light-brown-haired women for products that darken hair color. If such a market exists, I imagine it would be in northern Europe or parts of North America where dark brunettes are uncommon.

You may have a point with respect to visual contrast. Men seem to identify the femininity of a face by the contrast between facial pigmentation and eye/lip pigmentation (see R. Russell. 2003. Sex, beauty, and the relative luminance of facial features, Perception 32:1093-1107; R. Russell. 2004 Male and female faces are differently pigmented », Congress of the American Psychological Association, Chicago.).

Dark hair may perform a similar role by making facial skin stand out more.

This is a problem with blond hair. It doesn’t ‘set off’ the face as well as dark hair. I suppose you can get around the problem by using a combination of tanned skin and blond hair, as you point out.

Tod said...

I didn't accept the frequency - dependent concept when making my first comment, it seemed too arbitrary, selecting without reference to fitness. All I could do was pose carping questions.
By incorporating it while writing the second comment it supplied all the answers - I'm sold on frequency-dependency.
Collecting the book tommorrow, what sold me on that was in the web essay section on colour meaning. I knew a second-hand car is worth more if its black.

Thanks for being so open-handed with your ideas and time.

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rick said...

IT makes sense, at least for me I find women that are slightly more exotic to be much more attractive. I mean you wouldn't want to see someone with massive hair loss on the cover of mens health!

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