The Effects of Stereotyping by Hair Color on Self Esteem
by: Shannon Cavanaugh

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Abstract
Introduction
Methods
Procedure
Results
Discussion
Conclusion
Practical
Implications
Relevant Links
References

Key Words: Stereotyping, Hair Color, and Self-Esteem

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Abstract
     People stereotype others based on physical characteristics. One of these characteristics that has stereotypes associated with it  is hair color. Literature tells us of different stereotypes that are both negative and positive for people with blonde, brunette, and red hair. The hypothesis of this study is that people are more likely to engage in stereotyping behavior of others based on hair color if the individual doing the stereotyping has low self esteem and low levels of exposure to the stated hair colors. 
      There were three steps in gathering information for this study. The first was the administration of the Coopersmith Self Esteem Inventory - Adult Form. Next participants read one of six stories about an individual going through their day different hair colors and gender were the only variables or differences between the stories. The participants had to judge the reactions of the character to several incidents in the stories. These judgments took place in the answering of questionnaire comprised of eleven questions related to the stories. Their responses were based on a five point Likert scale. The third and final portion of the study was the completion of a background information questionnaire. This questionnaire which like the stories and the questions that followed it were all created specifically for this study by the experimenter. The background information questionnaire had a multiple choice format and focused on  preferences relating to hair color, exposure to the different hair colors , and personal information such as age and gender.
      A 2 (gender of participants) X 2 (gender of character) X 3 (hair color) analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed on the dependent variable of self esteem. By examining estimated marginal means of the different variables that people stereotype there was no significant effects found. This implies a possible break in the tradition of judging based on appearance as well as a parting from social norms that state ideas such as what is pretty is good. Several stereotypes such as the perceived professionalism of blondes and brunettes, preparedness of brunettes, and brunettes ability to be in control of emotions corresponded with the predicted stereotypes. While the means for stereotypes about the temperamental nature of redheads, attractiveness of blondes, and likeability of blondes did not correspond with what was expected.
      These findings indicate that stereotypes are still present, may be changing or evolving and that future research should continue to be conducted in order to best understand what stereotypes are, where they come from, and the connections that they have to physical characteristics, social cognitions and self concept. 

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Introduction
     People seem to know that they are being judged by others most of the time. People are judged based on their physical appearance by factors like weight or clothing. They are also judged by what they have done like what job they have or where they go to college.  These judgments are based on the social categories or stereotypes that people develop over time. For example, there is evidence that people make snap judgments about others based upon the shape of their facial features or tone of their skin (Fink, 2001).Of particular interest is that, previous research on hair color and stereotypes indicates that people make assumptions about the character, intelligence, attractiveness and abilities of people based solely on their hair color (Clayson, 1986) . 
    It can be surprising to look at how often hair color is used as a factor in making judgments of other people. It is interesting to see what biases based on hair color there are and try to understand how they formed and why they are still in use if they are at all. Self esteem can play a major role in how people think and feel about others (Fein & Spencer,1997). Stereotyping and projection can occur when trying to process this information (Ames, 2004). It was interesting to look at the influence of self esteem on an individual and see how that relates to how they are perceived and how it influences the way they think of others and judge them physically. 
 

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Methods
 
     The participant group was composed of 10 male and 30 female introductory psychology students from a small Catholic liberal arts college in the Northeast ranging in age from 18-22. Participants received course credit for taking part in this research.
     Instructions were read as well as distributed to students. These instructions stated that an informed consent form would be completed followed by the completion of a standardized measure of self schemas. Reading a story with questions to answer based on their first impressions of an individual in the story was the next step . Then they were told that a background information questionnaire would be administered and when completed they would receive feedback about the study and how to contact the experimenter if they had any questions . 
     Students were given the adult form of the Coopersmith Self Esteem Inventory (Coopersmith, 1981). . There were twenty-five items on the Coopersmith Self Esteem Inventory (SEI). The scale of measure on this inventory was a choice between checking a box under the column marked Like Me or a box in a column labeled Not Like Me. The reliability of the Coopersmith Self Esteem Inventory was calculated by Bedeian, Geaugud, and Zmud (1977). They examined test-retest reliability using a sample of 103 college students and found coefficients of .82 for females and .80 for males (Bedeian, Geaugud, & Zmud, 1977). Validity for the Coopersmith Self Esteem Inventory was found to highly correlate with a number of other scales on convergent validity. Shaver and Robinson (1973) found correlations of .59 and .60 when comparing the SEI short form and the Rosenberg scale for college students. (Coopersmith, 1981)
     Participants also received one of six versions of a story created specifically for this study . This story has the same details of a man or woman going through his or her daily routine and facing the minor setbacks that occur in a day with the only difference being in some cases the individual in the story was either a blond, brunette, or redhead. Hair color and sex were the only variables in the story that changed. The story was designed to be open to interpretation so that character’s action could be perceived in a number of ways.  Also used in the study were a number of ways.  Also used in the study were a series of questionsabout the person from the story asking participants to rate the individual in the story on a number of attributes related to the different hair color stereotypes. These items were rated by the participants on a five point Likert scale. 
     The last item was another questionnaire, also created for this study by the experimenter, about exposure to hair color and consisted of 24 questions. This questionnaire was labeled the Background Information Questionnaire and was created in a  multiple choice format with questions about the participants personal information, preferences relating to hair color, and exposure to hair color. Other variables such as height and weight were also included in the survey in an attempt to keep the participants from figuring out that the focus of the study was based around hair color.
 
 

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Procedure
     Upon entering the testing site, participants were read instructions and then given an informed consent sheet. Next they completed the adult form of the Coopersmith Self Esteem Inventory. This was followed by the random assignment of one of six versions of the story being asssigned to each participant. They read the stories and then answered question evaluating the individuals in the stories.  Finally an exposure questionnaire was completed. After they completed all three phases of the testing they were fully debriefed. 
 

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Results
     Several different types of analysis were performed on the data collected in this study.  A 2 (gender of participants) X 2 (gender of character) X 3 (hair color) analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed on the dependent variable of self esteem. An ANOVA was used because they try to show the differences or variance  between groups. Also to see if there were any significant interactions between gender and hair color, cross-tabs of the gender of participant and hair color of character, as well as  gender of character and hair color of character were done. These cross tabs had hoped to show significance based on differences between nominal categories of information but no significance was found.
     The dependant variables in the study was the level of stereotyping done by the participants of the characters as measured by participants‘ responses on the questionnaire following the stories they read. The independent variables were the hair color of the character in the story as well as the gender of the character in the story. The dependent variable was influenced by their exposure to these different hair colors and their self esteem. The Alpha score of the reliability analysis - scale was Alpha= .7289 for the 43 cases of the 11 items tested. This indicated the degree to which the items on the questionnaires created for this study were reliable.
     The analysis of variance (ANOVA) did not produce any significant main effects. The closest to finding of significance was the gender condition (hair color ) (F (df=2)=2.950, p = .067) interaction. 
     When looking a the conditions of gender of the character and hair color of character some interesting means concerning self esteem appear. These means show that males in the  brunette condition had the highest self esteem. For females those with the highest self esteem were in the blonde condition. These findings do not have any impact on the study however because the participants were tested for self esteem high or low self esteem levels before completing the remainder of the questionnaires and therefore self esteem levels were not influenced by condition. 
     Other important means were found in the ANOVA. There were interesting combinations of expected and unexpected results in the presence or absence of stereotypes.When looking at the dependent variable as the characteristics of the character and the condition of hair color the expected stereotypical responses were demonstrated for professionalism, preparedness, and in control of emotions. Professionalism was highest for blondes with 2.875 for the mean compared to 2.825 for brunettes and 2.700 for redheads. Preparedness placed brunettes in the forefront with a mean of 2.075 compared to the 1.900and 1.483 means for redheads and blondes respectively.  The characteristic of being in control of emotions was represented with a mean for blondes of 2.858, brunettes at 2.775, and redheads at only 2.600.Each of these characteristics demonstrated the stereotypes mentioned in earlier literature. The means for temperament, attractiveness, and likeability did not correspond with what was expected.  (See Table 2). The  temperamental characteristic had means of  was 3.400  for blondes , 3.375 for brunettes and 3.350 for redheads. Attractiveness was brunettes with a mean of 3.325, redheads with a mean 3.000, and blondes with a mean of 2.992. Likeability was rated with means for redheads of 2.925, blondes of 2.842 and brunette of 2.700.
      A deeper investigation that looked at not only the dependent variable as the characteristics of the character but also the condition of the gender or the character ancondition of the hair color of the character provided some means worth mentioning. The best examples of important means in this section are the means for the temperamental rating  for female redheads with a mean of 2.550 compared to the higher means of 3.800 for blondes and 3.600 for brunettes. These means are contrary to what the literature suggested we would find. An example of means that would have been predicated by previous research  were that ratings for perceived responsibility in females. Brunettes had the highest mean with 3.050, followed by 2.750 for blondes, and 2.000 for redheads.
      The last group of means that we will discuss provided information about means of the dependent variables of the characteristics of individuals in the stories as well but this section was broken down by the conditions of gender and hair color as well as the gender of the participant. This provides many interesting means that give information about which stereotypes were present in the study and which ones the participants did not demonstrate. One example is the perceived preparedness of female brunette characters by male participants with a mean of 2.500 which was higher than all of the other scores. This follows the expected stereotypes. An example of means that did not follow the expected route is the female redheads being seen as the most warm by male participants. 
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Discussion
     This study intended to demonstrate the tendency people have to stereotype based on hair color when all other variables are controlled. It was expected that low levels of self esteem would contribute to a higher degree of stereotyping  and that the more exposed to different stereotypes an individual was the more likely they would be to avoid using stereotypes. However this was not found.
 The data failed to support the hypothesis and expected stereotypes were not always demonstrated by the participants. 
     Surprisingly they not only did not follow the patterns of stereotyping that the literature suggested, but in some cases actually answered questions in the complete opposite manner of the stereotype, thus supporting the reverse of the stereotype. Means discussed in the results section provide the evidence for this. Characteristics like professionalism, preparedness, and in control of emotions corresponded with the predicted stereotypes while the means for temperament, attractiveness, and likeability did not correspond with what was expected. A specific example of this would be the question on likeableness which indicated that redheads were seen as the most likeable. According to the literature blondes should have been seen as the most likeable (Clayson, 1986).

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Practical Implications
 
 
      Understanding and being sensitive to stereotypes is important. This information could be used in counseling to be sure sensitive issues an individual might have are not inadvertently ignored or irritated. Also this is important in interpersonal relationships, sensitivity to a partners’ issues about being stereotyped would be very helpful to the relationship. The more we know about these stereotypes the more information we will have about each other and the best ways to interact. Stereotypes are the first way that many people decide how to interact with other individuals and can have an impact on how someone who is being stereotyped feels about themselves. Understanding these interactions, what the outcomes and consequences of stereotyping are, why it is done, and what all of this information means is an important issue to research. 

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Conclusion
     In conclusion in this study it appears that not what was found but what was not is the most important thing to consider. Are we stereotyping less or not at all, or are the stereotypes we associate with hair color actually connected to something else like attractiveness, age or gender? These are possibilities to consider.

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Relevant Links

Stereotypes: Defintion and Related Topics
Self Esteem: Research
Hair Color: What's your Inner Hair Color?
Saint Anselm College
Google
APA

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References
Ames, D.(2004). Strategies for social inference: A similarity contingency model of  projection and stereotyping in attribute prevalence estimates. Journal of  Personality and Social Psychology, 87(5), 573-585. 

Clayson, D. (1986). Redheads and Blondes: Stereotypic Images. Psychological Reports,  59 (2), 811-816

Coopersmith, S.(1981). Self Esteem Inventories (SEI). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting  Psychologists Press.

Fein, S., and Spencer, S. (1997). Prejudice as self-image maintenance: Affirming the self  through derogating others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(1), 31-44.

Fink, B. (2001). Human (Homo sapiens) facial attractiveness in relation to skin texture.  Journal of Comparative Anatomy,115 (1), 92-99.

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