Reuters Health

Listen Up, Ladies: Long, Lush Locks Lure Lovers
Fri June 27, 2003 04:29 PM ET
By E. J. Mundell

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Halle Berry aside, most American men show an "overwhelming" preference for women sporting long, luscious hair compared to shorter cuts, researchers report.

Oh, and sorry, Madonna: men also seem to prefer brunettes over blondes, by a wide margin.

The findings are based on interviews with 50 men conducted by psychology researcher Dr. Kelley Kline, of Florida State University in Panama City, Florida. She and co-authors Dr. Colin Peeler and undergraduate student Kim Fazzone presented their findings earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society, in Atlanta.

Numerous studies have examined the sexual appeal of various female facial characteristics or body types, but Kline said no one had looked at "perceptions of attractiveness based on hair length" until now.

In their study, the Florida team had 76 women and 50 men averaging 27 years of age rate the attractiveness of women depicted in 6 different photos.

Three of the photos were actually of the same young Caucasian woman, her hair altered by computer to short, medium and long lengths.

"We had a short-hair condition where the hair was above the ears, cropped close to the head," Kline explained in an interview with Reuters Health. "We (also) had the hair in a medium style ... just a little bit below the ears, and then we had the long-hair condition where it was at least 8 inches or more past the shoulders."

Otherwise, the woman's face and expression were exactly the same in each of the three pictures.

According to Kline, both men and women "overwhelmingly find the long hair length significantly more attractive than the short and the medium hair length."

She said the biological imperative to find a healthy, fertile mate may explain the finding, at least in men. One popular psychological theory holds that while women are driven to find moneyed, 'resource-rich' men, men are primarily looking for reproductive fitness in their mates.

"Hair is going to be a signal of that, because a younger woman will usually have longer, thicker hair," Kline explained.

On the other hand, when Kline's group asked women about hair-length preferences for men, the vast majority chose short or very short cuts. Since long hair is so closely linked to femininity, Fabio-like locks might signal to women that a man is somehow less virile or capable than his buzz-cut brethren, Kline theorized.

And there was one more finding of interest.

"At least in our study, gentlemen do not prefer blondes. They prefer brunettes," Kline said. "Its kind of an interesting finding, considering that in our society we concentrate on the blonde -- it's so pervasive."

The Florida researchers hope to reproduce their findings in larger studies using photos of various women, including older women and women of different ethnicities.


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