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Psychology of Bad Hair Days Studied

January 26, 2000 GMT

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Bad hair days affect not just what’s on your head, but what’s in it.

A Yale University study of the psychology of bad hair days found that people’s self-esteem goes awry when their hair is out of place.

They feel less smart, less capable, more embarrassed and less sociable.

And contrary to popular belief, men’s self-esteem may take a greater licking than women’s when their hair just won’t behave. Men were more likely to feel less smart and less capable when their hair stuck out, was badly cut or otherwise mussed.


``The cultural truism is men are not affected by their appearance,″ said Marianne LaFrance, the Yale professor who conducted the study. ``This is not just the domain of women.″

The study was paid for by Procter & Gamble, which makes shampoo and plans a new hair-care line called Physique to provide more control over hair.

Janet Hyde, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who studies body image and self-esteem, said personal appearance can have an enormous effect on people, especially adolescents. But Hyde said she was surprised to hear bad hair had a stronger effect on men than on women in some cases.

For the study, researchers questioned 60 men and 60 women ages 17 to 30, most of them Yale students. About half were white, 9 percent were black, 21 percent were Asian and 3 percent were Hispanic.

The people were divided into three groups. One group was questioned about times in their lives when they had bad hair. The second group was told to think about bad product packaging, like leaky containers, to get them in a negative mindset. The third group was not asked to think about anything negative.

All three groups then underwent basic psychological tests of self-esteem and self-judgment. The people who pondered their bad hair days showed lower self-esteem than those who thought about something else.