July 26, 2013

Where is blond accomplishment?

I've been puzzling over what blond hair is all about, and there's something there relating to neoteny, or kiddie-fication, withdrawn social orientation, clinging to mommy's skirt rather than fending for oneself, and so on.

The selective forces don't matter yet -- first we have to get a decent feel for how blonds differ from the ancestral dark-haired morphs. Then we can try to come up with stories about why it spread where it has.

One striking clue about blond differences is that they don't appear to appear among the most eminent people in cultural fields. At the very least, they're way under-represented, but so far I haven't found any. All sorts of things keep a person from achieving the highest levels of eminence, but a more neotenous / kiddie mindset and behavioral style would be one of those things.

First, a quick reminder of how common blond hair is around Europe:

So we shouldn't waste time looking at eminent Italians, all of whom are going to be dark-haired. What about where there's a good amount of variation in hair color, like Scandinavia?

I browsed over the Wikipedia article on Scandinavian literature and picked out the ones who even I, a non-specialist, recognize. If hair color is unrelated to accomplishment, blonds ought to make up at least 30%, and more like 50% or more. Instead they are all dark-haired: Ibsen, Strindberg, Knut Hamsun, Hans Christian Andersen, Soren Kierkegaard, Aleksis Kivi (OK, I didn't recognize him, but he's the only Finn listed, and described as one of the greatest in Finnish), and Astrid Lindgren (she looks brown or red-brown, but not blonde).

What about film? Bergman and Lars von Trier are both dark-haired, and so is Paul Verhoeven from uber-blond Holland.

Music? Grieg and Sibelius were dark-haired (even if Grieg is also part Scot), and most pop stars are dark as well.

Painting? Munch is dark-haired. In the Low Countries, so are Rembrandt and Rubens.

Acting is not as creative and does not require as much technical mastery as the other fields listed above. Blonds show up in acting, though even there it may be an under-representation.

That's 15 major figures, and not a single blond, in an area where perhaps half the population has light hair. Yeah, I know, these maps may not have the same threshold for "blond" that I'm assuming -- maybe 80% have "light" hair, but only 10% have yellowish / straw "blond" hair. Still, 0 out of 15. And anyway, just about all of these figures have dark hair, not light brown, so moving the goalposts to include light brown under "light hair" would not change the finding.

And of course, I'm only looking at the figures who are eminent enough for me to already know who they are. I didn't go through every entry on the Scandinavian lit page. But that proves my point -- if there are any blonds to be found, you have to look much farther down the totem pole.

Also, it doesn't seem to relate to "non-dark" hair, but specifically to blond hair. Red hair is also not like the ancestral dark color, but no one ever said anything about redheads being neotenous, kiddie, adorable, cute, etc. -- rather, that they were fiery, temperamental, horny, and so on. Red hair doesn't get up anywhere near 50% even where it's most common, maybe 10-15% max. Still, a quick survey would uncover Ridley Scott as a ruddy-haired, eminent film-maker. And perhaps a couple of the Scandinavians, though more in the auburn band of the spectrum.

Maybe the results would be different if I looked at science, technology, engineering, and math. That's a project for someone else to do. But a quick check doesn't look promising -- Copernicus was dark-haired, as were Niels Bohr and Niels Abel. Tycho Brahe is more of a redhead (both in appearance and behavior -- losing his nose in a duel over a math formula). Linnaeus is harder to check on, though he appears light brown.

A more systematic approach would be to go in order from 1 to however-many in Charles Murray's lists by field in Human Accomplishment, but I didn't bring that with me on my trip.

Whatever blond hair does, maybe that partly explains the relative lack of accomplishment in the Baltic Sea area.


  1. Blonde hair in women was very popular in the mid-century - "blonde bombshells", such as Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Susan Leigh, Jayne Mansfield, and lots of other examples.

    Isn't Flash Gordon from a falling-crime era(1930s)? He had platinum blonde hair in the comics. Conversely, I can't remember any blonde-haired actors in recent memory who have been popular.

    I don't think blonde hair by itself is caused by neoteny. From what I remember from when I used to browse Biodiversity forums, blonde hair is associated with the eastern European "baltid" subrace which is paedomorphic and associated with peasant farmers. But, the subrace associated with invading, pastoralist Indo-Europeans - "Nordid" - also had high frequency of blonde hair.


  2. The ancient Romans described the Alpine Celts as having blonde hair; Arrian also wrote that the Balkan Celts who met Alexander as having blonde hair. The racial anthroplogists who worked in the 1900-1930 period all belived that the invading, pastoralist Indo-Europeans had a high frequency of blonde hair. And, of course, there are popular media stereotypes of the Vikings. Given all that, I don't believe that blonde hair by itself denotes childishness.

    But what can I explain why so many girls, over the past 20 years, have dyed their hair blonde? I think a more likely explanation is that, being insecure and obsessive-compulsive, they were duped into it by commercial companies looking to sell hair care products.


  3. I'm aware of some semi-recent psychology research on how redheads differ in terms of sensitivity to pain. I don't know of anything comparable for blondes.

  4. "Instead they are all dark-haired: Ibsen, Strindberg, Knut Hamsun, Hans Christian Andersen, Soren Kierkegaard, Aleksis Kivi"

    Strindberg and Kierkegaard are distinctly fair-haired.

    "Maybe the results would be different if I looked at science, technology, engineering, and math. That's a project for someone else to do. But a quick check doesn't look promising"

    Especially when you start by skipping Isaac Newton.

  5. Strindberg is definitely not fair-haired. You have to check pictures from before their hair starts to de-pigment with age.


    No contemporary portraits of Kierkegaard show him with fair hair, let alone blond. He doesn't look coal-black, but more like medium brown.

    Newton's hair is also not obvious. One shows him with sandy hair, and another with ruddy-brown hair, both of which could have been wigs. De rigueur use of wigs is what makes it hard to check Linnaeus too.

  6. Anyway, go through Murray's list from Human Accomplishment for Physics, Chemistry, etc., and tell us what percent are blond.

    Break it apart by region to see whether they're under-represented based on how frequent it is in the population they come from. That way the deck won't be stacked against blonds when all of the Italian scientists are included.

  7. what personality traits specifically do you think blonde hair is associated with? (on the Big Five)


  8. "I don't know of anything comparable for blondes."

    In fact, one study found that blonde hair is correlated with higher levels of estrogen.

    "It seems a Dr. Peter Frost now believes blonde hair in women (gene MC1R) may be an indicator of more than just a low IQ and loose sexual morals. It may have, at one time, been an indicator of higher estrogen levels in women with blonde hair and, hence, higher fertility."



  9. The Blondest7/26/13, 5:38 PM

    Blondes are bascially less-spergy more atheletic East Asians. I say this from my experience being a blonde man. Blondes are more practical in their thinking than dark haired white people. A lot of the biggest white losers and white winners I know tend to be dark haired white people. While most of the blondes I know are successful, yet not at the top of their fields.

    Also I noticed that I and my blonde family members and friends tend to be less criminal than dark haired whtie people. I have known some whtie felons, nearly all of them tend to be dark haired.

    On the flipside of things. Most of the creative people I know tend to be dark haired white people. My mother is a pretty good artist compared to me, and she is dark haired. Most of the musicians and interesting academics I knew from college were dark haired.

    Also I noticed that me and many blonde people have an easy time with East Asians. A lot of my friends tend to be East Asian. Many blonde people I know have close East Asian friends. Most of the whtie guys that date or marry East Asian girls tend to be blonde. Also I noticed a lot of academic books written about East Asian culture tend to be from blonde people. Also most normal weeboo (white anime fans) tend to be blondes. They are not into the tenacle porn stuff like many dark haired weeboos.

    A huge number of gay guys I know are natural blondes. However, they tend to be more normal and sociable than dark haired white and East Asian gay guys.

    My blonde friends tend to have far more diverse and bigger circle of friends than most East Asians I know. Also I have noticed the most hardcore whtie spergs tend to be dark haired white people, and the most normal autistic white people tend to be blondes. They usually have good jobs and some success with women compared to the dark haired white spergs.

    Most Blondes I know tend to be atheletic and not fat. A lot of exercise science majors I know are blonde. Many blondes are health nerds. A lot of blonde people are into paleo-diet like my brother in law.

    The smartest vets and cops I know tend to be blondes too. They usually have degrees and study their fields of work. And I noticed blondes tend to be politically moderate yet oprn minded about controversial subjects like race realism. They usually do not have extreme political opinions even in a moderate sense. Ann Coulter and Wendy Davis are bottle blondes I might add.

    Lastly I have met a lot of blondes with STEM degrees, but they have little interest in theoritical stuff like string theory. They usually want to become IT professionals, engineers or geneticists.

    Blondes are usually viewed as being cute and childish, because blondes are simply more laid back about life than dark haired white people. However, this seriousness of dark haired white people is one of the reasons why they are more accomplished than blondes.

    I think if the Nordic region had been a island with considerable distance from other landmasses. I believe it would be culturally like a less perverted and more atheletic version of Japan made up of tall blonde people. I think gene flow from dark haired people have somewhat hastened this directional selection toward blondeness. In some alternative universe, the Nords would be their own distinct race of blonde giants. They would be known for their good economics yet bland pop-culture. Actually that sounds like the Nordic countries today.

    PS: Sorry for the bad spelling and grammer. I did not edit this well. Also I am not looking to have a flame war with anybody. I am serious about my observations, but they are still just my observations. I am very interested if anybody has noticed the same things I noticed about my fellow blondes. Also I am not defending blondes. We are less creative and somewhat more spergy than dark haired white people.

  10. You mention pop stars at the end of post. Blond rock stars that I can think of are:
    Kurt Cobain- self explanatory mental/social issues. Nirvana really hit their stride after Dave Grohl (dark hair) joined the group.

    James Hetfield- Painfully shy ins pite of being tall and athletic. Lars Ulrich (fairly dark hair) was the one dealing with agents, promoters, future band members etc.

    Rob Halford (looks blonde in early images. Seems a bit reserved in interviews. Guitarists Glen Tipton (dark hair) and KK Downing (blond) recruited Halford.

    Robert Plant- Not sure about personality relative to the other band members. Jimmy Page(Dark hair) formed and lead the band. Also, manager Richard Grant (Dark hair) can be credited with much of the band's success.

    Isn't Sting blond?

    The darker haired members of the band often handled the social and financial aspects of the music industry that determine whether you succeed or fail.

    Given that blondness is associated with social reserve and low risk taking, I think that is what keeps them in the shadows of achievement. I would be shocked if lighter hair color is associated with lower creativity or overall intelligence.

    Shouldn't it also be noted that there are simply many more dark haired people to begin with, even in blonder countries?

  11. Where are the blondes?7/26/13, 11:06 PM

    Werner Heisenberg, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Emmanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhaur, Max Planck, Maurice Wilkens, and Svante Arrhenius were all blonde or at least described as being blonde by people who knew them.

    Tycho Brache was actually pretty blonde, just a semi-strawberry blonde. Most of the paintings of him being more redheaded than blonde is due to fadding colors because of age. However, Brache was decribed by the people that knew him for having very blonde hair.

    Ernest Ruthfried and Issac Newton were both blonde, but their hair darkened with age. And Maurice Wilkens hair went dark before going gray.

    Part of the problem with talking about the hair color of accomplished men is that blonde hair fades with age. A lot of people do not become famous until middle age. Their hair likely darkened consiberable by then.

    Actually Satoshi Kanazawi made a point about this in his book "Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters". The sterotype about blondes being stupid and youthful is because most natural blondes tend to be truly blonde when they are young. Most natural blondes' hair fades with age. Blondes seem stupid and childish, because blondes are blonde when people are at their most stupid and childish phase of their life.

    Also Niels Abel was actually blonde too.He was described being blonde by his contemparies. However, the picture of him fadded over time which makes his hair look dark.

    Which that is another problem with looking for accomplished blondes. Yellow and gold are colors that fade pretty easily with time. You really can not trust paintings to tell you what hair color a person actually had in the past. Personal accounts from the people that knew these men are much better than paintings.

    Beyond that, it is pretty weird the lack of significant blonde people in the humanities. In college I knew many blonde STEM majors. However, I never knew another blonde liberal arts major besides myself. Also I was the least liberal liberal arts major I knew too. Actually most of the blondes I know including myself tend not be wildly imaginative but more practical people.

  12. ot to this thread but have you seen
    Peter Turchin's work? his theory of cycles seems similar to yours


  13. Might be worth looking at blond Olympians relative to population in Sweden and Denmark and maybe Russia and Poland.

    We'd expect athletes to be pretty tough and have a strong character.

    Whereas in the arts, there are associations with interesting mental illnesses, mainly schizotypy and bipolar personality disorders.

    Blondes might not be crazy enough to be good at the arts, whereas sports, would just require grit and not craziness (in fact, blandness of character might actually be favorable).

    Might also be interesting to look at mental hospitalization rates and hair color in this wise (and how this is reflected by pop culture).

    Artists probably also tend to be socially skilled, so looking at Olympians would separate drive and grit (and probably "individualism") from -version (and social skills) to a great extent.

    Curtis: Blonde hair in women was very popular in the mid-century - "blonde bombshells", such as Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Susan Leigh, Jayne Mansfield, and lots of other examples.

    I think a few years ago, agnostic described a trend in the US for tanned blondes to be more popular in the 1980s, whereas more dusky women (both in flesh and hair) seem more popular in the 90s-10s period.

    agnostic: Red hair is also not like the ancestral dark color, but no one ever said anything about redheads being neotenous, kiddie, adorable, cute, etc. -- rather, that they were fiery, temperamental, horny, and so on.

    Childish immaturity and "flightiness" (psychoticism?) usually seem like pop culture personality correlates of ginger hair.

  14. "In fact, one study found that blonde hair is correlated with higher levels of estrogen"
    Your link says no such thing, it says Frost has a hypothesis. And it's link to Frost is broken. I used archive.org to find the original, and again there is no claim of correlation with estrogen. It doesn't actually specify which paper of Frost's is being referred to, perhaps because it had not yet been published when the Times article was. I believe this is the journal article being referred to though. I don't have access to the full thing, but the abstract doesn't contain any claims about an estrogen correlation.

  15. I'm pretty sure the article I linked to said that blonde hair is associated with estrogen. That doesn't mean that that's right, but it is said.


  16. Just google "estrogen blonde hair". Its all over the fucking Internet :P

  17. "have you seen Peter Turchin's work? his theory of cycles seems similar to yours"

    I've read his books and follow his blog at the Social Evolution Forum.

    My approach is similar to his, but focusing more on the trend in personal security, violence, and crime, while he focuses more on larger-scale variables and of a more economic and material nature, or beliefs and attitudes related to economic matters.

    It's fortunate that the two cycles are not in synch, as that lets us tell which of the forces has a stronger impact on some piece of the zeitgeist. If the '20s are like the '80s, and both are unlike the '40s or the 2000s, which are similar to each other in turn, then it's part of the broader rising-crime / falling-crime story.

    If the '20s were like the '50s, and both were unlike the '80s and the 2000s, each of which were similar, then it's part of the broader economic inequality / political instability story.

  18. Icelandic girls are interesting - mostly tall blondes or redheads (Irish mtDNA), but a large minority of round-faced, shorter, dark-haired girls with an almost Inuit/Mongolian look - Bjork isn't a perfect example of this type, but she's certainly a high achiever.


    On the other and, the only Icelandic Nobel Laureate, Halldór Laxness, was fair-haired.

  19. I tried googling "blonde correlation study estrogen" and didn't come up with much. It did lead me to this Peter Frost post he referenced an (unpublished) study showing correlations with digit span, which from which he inferred higher prenatal exposure to estrogen.

  20. Only 2% of the world is naturally blonde in adulthood. Blonde hair is incredibly hair in adulthood because most blondes experience darkening hair with time so by the time they have made a name for themself they may not even be blonde anymore.


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