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Judgments Based on First Impressions

November 20, 2009

It’s really funny to see people’s reactions when you change from this:

…to this:

Oh my goodness is that a brunette?!

Reactions have ranged from the complimentary “That’s a nice change, you look better as a brunette” to “oh, that’s… different…” (said in a high-pitched tone which really means “oh my God what have you done that was a terrible idea!”). I’m getting a good laugh out of it.

Being super blonde was too high maintenance. So earlier this week I asked my hair stylist to dye my hair the same colour as my roots. Apparently, this is my natural hair colour. I had no idea. I thought I was in the blondeish-light brown category. Nope!

Although the main reason for the colour change was to go back to my “natural” colour, I’m also seeing this as a great social experiment. I’m curious as to whether I’m taken more seriously as a brunette than a blonde. We can’t help but make assumptions about people based on their looks, and I know that there have been times I wasn’t taken seriously partially because I was blonde. So this will be fun to see if there are any changes in people’s attitudes.

Why am I talking about hair colour here? Who really cares? Well, apparently a lot of people do: according to a 2006 study published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, resume applicants were “rated more capable and were assigned a higher salary when depicted with brunette hair color”. It’s easy to make assumptions based upon stereotypes, and even if we’re aware of the stereotypes and aware that there isn’t any factual evidence to support the stereotypes (for example, the “dumb blonde” stereotype), we still have difficulty in viewing blondes on the same caliber as brunettes.

Furthermore, when it comes to judgment and appearance:

- 83% of consumers believe that personal appearance is key to professional success, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery

- The Social Issues Research Centre found that 55% of people’s initial impression of you is based on your appearance and body language

- The current media height/weight ideal is achievable by less than 5% of the female population

- 81% of 10-year-old girls in America have already dieted at least once and at least 80% of women over the age of 18 are unhappy with what they see in the mirror.

This is saddening. Can we break out of this? I think we should try. The big issue is: how?

I was blonde for such a long time because I felt like a blonde. It felt right. I was comfortable with it. But just recently I decided it was time to go back to my roots (quite literally), and this too feels right. That is what we should be doing: asking ourselves what feels right and why it feels right, and then enacting that right-ness. And doing our best, as always, to be aware when we find ourselves making judgments based upon stereotypes so that we can try to adopt a more objective point of view.

What do you think?

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51 comments

  1. I think you look great as a brunette!


    • Thanks, Diana!


  2. I love it!
    I did the same social experiment accidentally once—but since I had to pretty much shave my head to remove the dredlocks and THEN dyed it blondBLOND it was a mixture of blondlooks and WHY IS THAT WOMANS HAIR SO SHORT?! :) looks…

    not a great experiment.


    • Tehe I like the sounds of that experiment! The reactions you’d get from something like that would be gold.

      That’s funny that this was an “accidental” experiment. I’d love to hear the story behind that one.


  3. you look more mature (and sexier? ) as a brunette! I hope you don’t take it as judgmental comment, it’s just first impression. I know it’s hard not to be judgmental to people that we don’t know. But as I know you (a little bit) I know your hair color won’t change your personality and ideas. However, the rest 99% people who meets you have no idea of you and will judge you by appearance. It’s unfortunate but it’s what it is. We can’t change that but act accordingly.
    I also like to idea of to do what we feels right and don’t rationalize it too much! ;)


    • “I hope you don’t take it as judgmental comment, it’s just first impression.”

      That’s precisely the point I’m making ;)

      I wonder if changing things like our appearance DOES change our personalities/ideas… I’m not sure about that one. I think that there’s the definite possibility that some people DO happen to change, which is VERY interesting as to what that says about society!


  4. Yay for brunettes! You might actually be a dark blonde after the sun lightens up your hair a little. That’s what happens with me (but I usually dye it darker).


    • Maybe so! We’ll find out :)


  5. YES!! Brunettes, unite :-D


  6. I think your hair looks great. It will be interesting to see if you get different reactions from people over time. I am sure there will be an update here, although it might be hard for you to totally separate reality from perception if the difference isn’t large.


    • Yep. I think so.

      The thing I’m most interested in is the notion of AGE. If dark hair has the effect of making a person actually look their age rather than about 5 years younger. And that would be a very welcome change.

      Actually, it just occurred to me that I wasn’t asked for ID last night at a bar. I wonder…


  7. Wow, I love the hair! I really just like change in general, so any color would have been liked by me, but your hair really does look great.

    It’s sad that our society revolves around looks, but I think it’s hard to change that. As long as we have fashion magazines, Hollywood, Fashion shows, and so many of the other “looks centered” things that go on, we will be a society obsessed with how we look. That’s the bottom line. It won’t ever change. I hate to sound like a negative Nancy, but it’s true :( We just gotta deal with it and make sure we are happy with who we are and what we are.


    • You aren’t a negative Nancy ;) I think you’re probably right that it’s nearly impossible to change- not on a societal level, anyway. Happiness is the main thing though!


  8. Gotta be true to your roots girl! I actually went from a dark brown to a light brown this year. It’s always a weird change to see oneself with a different hair color.


    • Very odd. Especially waking up in the morning and glancing in the mirror. GAH! It’s better than a jolt of caffeine to wake up, hehe.


  9. Your vibrant inner self will shine through no matter your hair color.

    IMO, when we, as consumers, stop supporting those companies that push unrealistic notions of beauty and attractiveness, we may begin to see progress.


    • You’re a sweetheart, Cammy.

      We may begin to see progress at that point, yes- but at the same time, I can’t think of HOW the general public (or even some individuals) will stop supporting the companies! Sighs. It remains that those companies are still a part of who we are, regardless of whether or not we like that.


  10. You look amazing either way! What saddens me about those statistics you put up at the end is how we are affected at a young age about what the media portrays as beauty. And the fact that so few people will ever be able to attain it!


    • I agree. It’s awful the young age at which people are affected by these things- I’m sure I’ll NEVER know how my parents hid all of that stuff from me until junior high/high school (because it’s at that age that you can’t help but notice your classmates going through those things, no matter how naive you are!).


  11. Love the new color! (Of course I am a brunette too so I may be partial…) But what is up with 83% of people thinking that looks are the key to professional success?! We live in a scary society.


    • There were a ton of other statistics that I found which were in a similar vein, too- about how “attractive” (how subjective is that term, anyways?) people are more likely to get hired and all of that. Reminds me of your story about working at the chocolate shop and how they wouldn’t hire your friend. RIDICULOUS.


  12. I love the new hair!! But maybe I am biased as a brunette ;-)


  13. Traitor!! :D
    Now I shall be forced to defend against the stereotype of “dumb blonde” single-handedly!

    Hahahahahaha

    Kidding, really!

    You look great, and I’ll be interested to find out if you think people’s perceptions of you are different with a different hair colour.


    • Ahahaha *hangs head in shame* I’m on your side in spirit ;)


  14. Well it’s true that when I wear my blond Harpo Marx wig at Halloween people take me much less seriously, Beep-Beep!! :-)

    I was a blond haired-blue eyed baby! I’ve won some photo contests with the “guess who’s baby picture this is,” because of that! I like to say, I am a blond underneath. Maybe you will feel that also :-)


    • I can’t imagine WHY they’d take you less seriously in that context… hahaha.

      Blonde at heart :)


  15. You look hot.

    I love changing my hair color, and I can’t decide if I prefer being a blond or brunette. I always had blond hair growing up, but sometimes I love that I can have a totally different look whenever I want.

    I’ve never been treated differently b/c of my hair color, but I noticed a huge difference in people’s attitude towards me after I lost weight.


    • The weight thing definitely changes people’s attitudes. There were tons of stats that I found regarding weight and first impressions… it’s not very pleasant.


  16. Sagan, this is a freaking amazing post, and I can’t wAIT for the results of your experiment!

    I’m Asian, so my hair will forever be dark, unless I highlight it blonde, which will seriously make me look ridiculous. Natural is the way to go!

    Love your new look, by the way…but you always looked hot in my opinion! ;-)


    • It shall be a fun experiment indeed!

      You’re so sweet :)


  17. I love it!


    • Thanks!

      I’m finished classes/exams on Dec. 10th, I believe, so after that I’ll be able to hang out with people and extend my social life beyond the boundaries of the school walls. So we should have our cookie baking extravaganza after that!


  18. “- 83% of consumers believe that personal appearance is key to professional success, according to the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery”

    biased internal statistics much on their part?


    • Oh I agree that it’s super biased. But do you think that the statistic is wrong? Regardless of their demographic. To be honest I’m kind of surprised they didn’t manage to find a higher number. You KNOW how much value we place on appearance!


  19. LOVE the new look :) and interesting experiment… i think that’s the big question with so many of the world’s issues… HOW


  20. I’m all for it! You look great!

    Earlier this year I decided to go back to my natural color, which used to be blond, but has turned into a sort of mousy non-color over the years. I’d been lightening it for more than a decade. I’m convinced that the large amount of greens that I consume will eventually turn my hair more blond again.


  21. The other day I showed one of the docs in our office my website, which has photos of me at various times – the one from my daughter’s wedding (13 years ago) when my hair was mid back length caught her eye – ‘OOO – you should wear your hair like THAT!’ & then some where my hair was reddish “Oh, that’s a great colour on you!” (at least 7 years ago!)
    My hair’s going gray, & about shoulder length – fairly curley (tho it used to be just a bit wavy!) . . . we’re both in our 50s, & I haven’t been blond since I was about 5, have played with henna, but not for several years – the doc’s blond :) I tried to tell her I was YOUNGER in all those photos – it wasn’t just the hair!

    I’ll be intrigued to hear the reactions!


  22. Wow – I LOVE it!! You look absolutely gorgeous!!

    I have had blonde hair (courtesy of highlights) for so long now. I’ve tried being brunette (courtesy of lowlights), but I felt it wasn’t “me.” I’m jealous of those who can pull it off because, like you said, it’s much less maintenance than blonde hair!


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  24. i really like to color my hair and i would love to try different hair colors specially auburn `,`


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