Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How Many Blonds Does it Take to Write a TimesOnline Science Review?

You might have noticed the media stir today about a study that reportedly proves that exposure to blond women makes men dumber. The alleged study, reported in the TimesOnline, concludes that men believe that they are dealing with an idiot when talking to a fair-haired female, and therefore mimic the perceived idiocy:

Researchers discovered what might be called the “bimbo delusion” by studying men’s ability to complete general knowledge tests after exposure to different women. The academics found that men’s scores fell after they were shown pictures of blondes.

Further analysis convinced the team that, rather than simply being distracted by the flaxen hair, those who performed poorly had been unconsciously driven by social stereotypes to “think blonde”.

“This proves that people confronted with stereotypes generally behave in line with them,” said Thierry Meyer, joint author of the study and professor of social psychology at the University of Paris X-Nanterre. “In this case blondes have the potential to make people act in a dumber way, because they mimic the unconscious stereotype of the dumb blonde.”

Of course, the TimesOnline provides no link to the original research, this month's Journal of Experimental Psychology (where the findings were reportedly published) mentions no such study, and a search for "Thierry Meyer" and "Journal of Experimental Psychology" produced nothing remotely similar to the research described.

But, for kicks, let's suppose that this study actually exists.

It's bunk. Experimenters merely had men view pictures of women and then gave them a test? How did researchers establish that men mimic the projected performance of the people seen in pictures? Did the men fail the test after being shown pictures of babies, because they know that babies are dumb? Would they have failed the test if taking it in the presence of, say, a guppy?

So, you can hold-off on affixing a warning label to those golden tresses, this is just more hype. Damaging hype for women, since we know that repeating a stereotype reinforces it. And as for this post's title question - it's a trick. The TimesOnline apparently doesn't cover science.


Anonymous said...

You couldn't find it because they messed up the reference. The study is from the Journal of Experimental SOCIAL Psychology. It can be found on www.sciencedirect.com - you can view the abstract but the study is $30.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Thanks for the link, Carabella. Here is the abstract, for those still interested. Unfortunately, I'll have to wait to read the whole article - perhaps after Christmas.