IT really is a case of blonde ambition. Women with fair hair are more aggressive and determined to get their own way than brunettes or redheads, according to a study by the University of California.
Researchers claim that blondes are more likely to display a “warlike” streak because they attract more attention than other women and are used to getting their own way — the so-called “princess effect”.
Even those who dye their hair blonde quickly take on these attributes, experts found.
The study could cast fresh light on the ability of Joanna Lumley, the actress and former model, to pummel ministers into giving all Gurkha veterans the right to settle in the UK.
It may also help to explain the success of the lead character in Legally Blonde, the hit West End musical based on a film starring Reese Witherspoon, who forces her way to the top of law school despite being perceived as ditzy.
The findings about aggression are contained in research by the University of California, Santa Barbara, to discover whether women who are judged more attractive than others are also more likely to lose their tempers to get what they want.
“We expected blondes to feel more entitled than other young women — this is southern California, the natural habitat of the privileged blonde,” said Aaron Sell, who led the study which has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. “What we did not expect to find was how much more warlike they are than their peers on campus.”
The researchers believe this is a useful measure of how far women are prepared to fight for their own interests.
The study, which examined links between confidence and aggression, involved 156 female undergraduates. It showed that blondes were more likely to be treated better than other women and were more willing to “go to war”. However, they were less likely than brunettes or redheads to get into a fight themselves — possibly to ensure they preserved their looks.
The research did confirm one theory: when male students were asked to rate the attractiveness of their female counterparts, blondes gained the highest scores.
Sell suspects that blondes exist in a “bubble” where they have been treated better than other people for so long they do not realise that men, in particular, are more deferential towards them than other women. “They may not even realise they are treated like a princess,” Sell said.
His research indicated that the more “special” people feel, judged by physical strength for men and looks for women, the more likely they are to get angry to reach social goals.
“I become more battling when I’m blonde,” said Vanessa Feltz, the broadcaster, who admits to dying her hair. “You’re noticed more.”
While more than 85% of the world’s population have black hair and brown eyes, Europe has been varied since the first blondes emerged 11,000 years ago because of a genetic mutation. There is even a “blond line” running from Suffolk to Liverpool. If you live south of the line you are 20%-49% likely to have fair hair; above it the odds leap to 50%-79% because of Scandinavian genes.
“Blondes are more confident in their abilities, although the results do not necessarily support their confidence,” said Catherine Salmon, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Redlands, California. “Maybe responding to their own stereotypes, brunettes tend to work harder and expect less special treatment. Women who go blonde quickly get used to the privileges of blondeness — usually male attentiveness.”
However, some blondes dispute the research. “As I’ve been every colour of hair under the sun and I’m not sure that my temperament has changed with my hair colour, I can’t verify this as true,” said the actress Emilia Fox, the star of Silent Witness. “My ambition comes from enjoying working hard, rather than being blonde.”