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by Dr. Marianne LaFrance, Lamas Beauty Magazine Contributor

First Impressions and Hair Impressions Study

In the world of beauty, hair serves much the same role as does a frame-it surrounds the picture, or face, and has the potential of illuminating desirable features, downplaying less-than-desirable ones and creating balance and symmetry. Just as a frame should be chosen to compliment the face it surrounds.

A person's face is one of the first things that a person notices about someone else. Now, there is data that indicates that they see more than the face itself. Hair not only frames the face it appears to substantially transform it.

Dr. Marianne LaFrance
Dr. Marianne LaFrance

Dr. Marianne LaFrance, director of the study, First Impressions and Hair Impressions, Professor of Psychology, Professor of Woman's and Gender Studies at Yale University, asserts that until now there has been no investigation of the unique effects hairstyle has on first impressions. "We wanted to learn whether the frame around the face-the hairstyle-can significantly alter how a person is seen," says Dr. LaFrance. "We found that different hairstyles quickly lead others to 'see' different kinds of people". Faces alone suggest what someone is like, nonetheless, different hair-styles significantly over-power whatever initial impressions were based on the face alone.

Within seconds of meeting you, people begin forming a first impression about the type of person you are and it's not your face that gives you away, it's your hairstyle! So what does your hairstyle say about you? Dr. LaFrances study confirms that no style is all good or all bad, and that we do, in fact judge a book by its cover. The following key findings demonstrate that different hairstyles are linked to perceived personality traits. Those range from positive qualities to the not so flattering:


*Can women have it all? It appears that this is not the case, as the study showed that any hairstyle (relative to base) increases a woman's perceived sexiness, but decreases a woman's perceived intelligence.

Ever wondered how stereotypes start?

*Short tresses=successes? Women wearing short, tousled hairstyles (think Halle Berry and Charlize Theron) are seen as the most confident and outgoing, an asset when meeting new people.

But don't go cutting it all off just yet.

*Does length matter? It is not surprising that woman with long, straight, brunette or blonde hairstyles, like Katherine Zeta Jones and Renee Zellwegar, are perceived as the sexiest and most affluent. By contrast, women with medium-length, casual-looking hairstyles, like Liv Tyler or Sandra Bullock, are viewed as more intelligent and good-natured.

Hair-styles significantly alter the first impressions people form about each other. At first glance it might seem that hairstyles might effect impressions that people have of women, the fact of the matter is that men's hairstyles also effect what others think of them. Long hair on a man suggested that he was probably less well-off than his counterparts, but it also suggested that he was more open-minded than them.


*Who's the sexiest of them all? Men wearing short, front-flip hairstyles (think Ben Affleck and Mathew LeBlanc) are perceived as the most confident and sexy. It is not surprising that men with this hairstyle are also perceived as the most self-centered.

*Why Wall Street men walk tall? Men with medium-length, side-parted hair are viewed as the most intelligent and affluent-great for that job interview. However, men with these styles are also seen as the most narrow-minded.

We all know how important it is to make a good first impression, whether you're looking for a new job, getting ready for a first date, or meeting the potential in-laws. Your choice of hairstyle might project an image of intelligence and self-assurance, or one of insecurity and conceit, so make your style work to help. "Flatter Your Face"

Ever walk into a hair salon armed with a magazine picture of a truly "great" haircut, only to leave an hour later looking ridiculous , even though the style was exactly what you ordered? If you've ever had that experience and many women have, you may have fallen prey to a common misconception. A haircut, is a haircut, is a haircut. When it comes to individuals, nothing could be further from the truth. Believing otherwise is like saying it is okay to put a picture of Mona Lisa in a 1960's, psychedelic frame.

Read more about hairstyle strategies (click here for haircare advice)

Read another related article: Haircut Disasters: Reasons by Karen M. Shelton

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Marianne LaFrance joined the Yale faculty in 1998. Her research focuses on how gender and power are reflected in and maintained by subtle communication processes. Nonverbal behaviors are of particular interest because they lie out-of-awareness and typically operate off-the-record. Also, nonverbal cues can simultaneously reveal information about an individual's identity and attitudes as well as shape and sustain social relationships. LaFrance's goal is to determine why facial expressions like smiling, or linguistic strategies like apologizing, reveal clear gender differences. Her conceptual model, called Expressivity Demand Theory, aims at specifying when people display such behaviors and what functions they serve in social interaction.

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