Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Sweet Color of an Implicit Request: Women's Hair Color and Spontaneous Helping Behavior

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Sweet Color of an Implicit Request: Women's Hair Color and Spontaneous Helping Behavior

Article excerpt

Previous researchers have focused on the effect of hair color on helping behavior, gaining mixed results. Juni and Roth (1985) asked male and female confederates wearing either brunette or blond wigs to encounter male and female street pedestrians and solicit money. Results showed that the hair color of male and female confederates did not affect helping behavior of either male or female participants. Price (2008) and Gueguen and Lamy (2011) found that blond women who engaged in door-to-door fundraising received more donations than did their brunette counterparts. Lynn (2009) found that higher tips were received by blond-haired waitresses. Gueguen and Lamy (2009) instructed a group of female confederates aged between 20 and 22 years to hitchhike while wearing a blond, brown, or black wig and found that blond hair, compared with brown and black hair, was associated with a small but significant increase in the number of male drivers who stopped to offer a ride. Hair color had no effect on the female drivers who stopped.

These inconsistent results may be explained by different methodological factors. In Juni and Roth's (1985) research, the sample size and attractiveness of the female confederates were not controlled, and blond and dark hair only were evaluated. In Lynn's (2009) study, data were collapsed across the male and female patrons, patron analysis was correlational, and an experimental design was not used. The physical attractiveness of the fundraisers was not controlled in Price's (2008) study and also the race of a potential donor was critical for the effect of hair color on helping. Gueguen and Lamy (2009) found that blond hair color had a positive effect on men's responses to hitchhikers whereas hair color had no effect on women.

To address the issues of methodological differences and divergent results, a more controlled experimental study with a large sample size was undertaken. In addition, the effect of hair color on spontaneous helping behavior had not been previously tested. Most researchers had used compliance of individuals to an actual request by confederates with different hair color, for example, by asking for money or for a ride.

Method

Participants

The participants (N = 600 men and 600 women) were aged between approximately 20 and 50 years and chosen at random while they were walking alone on pedestrian streets.

Procedure

Ten young women (M = 20.8 years, SD = 1.4) were selected as confederates because they were rated by 22 male students to possess an average physical attractiveness and because they all had brown hair. In the three experimental conditions, the three different wigs all had midlength hair and a current style, varying only in the hair color, that is, blond, dark, or brown. Confederates wore similar clothes, that is, neat jeans, sneakers of a light color, and a white figure-hugging shirt. The confederate chose a single participant walking in her direction, while standing in front of a store apparently looking for something in her bag. If the passerby was a child, an adolescent, or an older adult, the confederate ignored them. Once the participant was identified, the confederate began walking in the same direction about three meters ahead of the participant, holding a handbag. She then accidentally lost a glove and continued walking, apparently not aware of her loss. Two observers placed approximately 50 meters ahead noted the passerby's reaction, sex, and approximate age. Responses were recorded if the participant warned the confederate within 10 seconds of the loss of the object. If this did not happen, the confederate acted as if she were searching her handbag, looked around in a surprised manner and returned to pick up the object without looking at the participant.

Results

The dependent variable was the number of times that respondents warned confederates of their dropped items. The independent variable was 1 of the 3 wig colors. …

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