There is no sign of this study that I can find in any recent edition of PNAS so I assume that the report below is based on an excerpt from an August 2009 study.

The research is psychologically naive. It purports to show that blondes are more prone to anger but the measures used seem to be the ones given here. They are one-way worded so you can get a high score just by agreeing with everything put to you. So the results may well simply show that blondes tend to agree with any statement put to them — the “dumb blonde” theory. For background on the folly of using questionnaires where all the statements are worded in the same direction, see here

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.

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An emailed comment from Prof. Sell follows:

Please distinguish between the research itself and journalists’ interpretations of such research. The word “blonde” does not appear anywhere in my paper (you correctly cite my 2009 paper in PNAS) which had nothing to do with hair. The words attributed to me in the piece you are commenting on are inaccurate. I’ve never referred to blondes as “princesses” for example.

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