If anyone has ever dared to tell you that you’re “just a
dumb blonde,” now you’ve got the perfect response: “Actually,” you can say, “science
has shown that hair color is completely unrelated to intelligence.” Then give
them the details of this new study from Stanford University and watch their
jaws drop. Victory!
Not only that, but fair hair is unconnected to pretty much everything else, too — eye color, skin color, hair growth, the works. It turns out that blondeness comes about as a result of switching just a single “letter” of someone’s genetic code. And here’s the really interesting thing: The switch isn’t in the hair color gene itself; it’s in the gene that controls how the hair color gene works.
Lead researcher Professor David Kingsley and his team have been studying a fish that’s been around since the end of the last Ice Age, the three-spined stickleback, and how it has adapted to different habitats around the world. They discovered in 2007 that different populations of the fish had developed different skin colors, all due to the behavior of one gene — leading them to wonder whether that was true of other species, as well.
Since mice have pretty much the same set of genes that
humans do, Kingsley and his team used them to
conduct their research. They found that whether a specific gene was switched “on” or “off”
determined whether the mice were blonde or brunette. Said Kingsley in a press
release, “This is a good example of how fine-tuned regulatory differences may
be to produce different traits. The genetic mechanism that controls blond hair
doesn’t alter the biology of any other part of the body. It’s a good example of
a trait that’s skin deep — and only skin deep.”
It’s worth noting that this particular on-off switch only applies to blondes and brunettes in northern Europe; that said, though, Kingsley thinks there could be all sorts of switches like it scattered throughout the body, leaving us loads of interesting new things to explore as research moves forward. However, it’s possible that people — particularly men — might still perceive blondes as less intelligent, even if they're just as smart as the brunette sitting next to them: A 1999 study asked a bunch of dudes to rate a model wearing wigs of different colors on how smart they thought she was. When the model was wearing the blonde wig, they perceived her as being more popular, but also significantly dumber. When she was wearing the brunette wig, she was seen as shyer, but smarter. Ouch.
The jury, however, is still out on whether blondes really do have more fun.