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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Think Pink--or at Least a Reddish Blue
20 August 2007 (All day)
Walk into the little girls' aisle at a toy store, and you'll be inundated with pink. We take for granted gender differences in color preference, but for more than 100 years, studies have failed to find a biological basis for the disparity. New research confirms that girls go for red whereas guys do not and links the mechanism to the biology of vision. Our color likes and dislikes may be a remnant of the different roles that men and women played in our distant hunter-gatherer past.
Studies from as long ago as 1897 have hinted at differences in color preference between genders, suggesting that more females preferred reds than did males. But the data were murky and inconsistent, according to experts.
Hoping to clear the air, neuroscientists Anya Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling of Newcastle University in the U.K. performed an experiment on 171 British Caucasians and 38 recent immigrants from China aged 20 to 26. Each subject chose his or her favorite from a series of color pairs on a computer screen. Humans judge color on two scales--one red-green and one blue-yellow. Hurlbert and Ling assigned each color values on these same two scales and compared each gender's preferences.
In the 21 August issue of Current Biology, the researchers report that, on the yellow-blue scale, males and females both went for blue--U.K. females much more strongly than their male counterparts. On the red-green scale, however, females preferred red, whereas males opted for green--a difference that held true for Caucasian and Chinese subjects, although in Chinese females the trend was much more pronounced.
The finding is powerful, says Hurlbert, because it reveals a cross-cultural trend in color preferences. That suggests a biological, rather than cultural, explanation for the phenomenon, she notes, although unanswered by the study is the question of whether these tendencies are acquired or innate. "We think that this is the first hard proof of sex difference in color preference," Hurlbert says. She and Ling speculate that the difference reflects females' gatherer pasts and their need to pick edible red fruits out of a green background of foliage, or possibly that sensitivity to red enables females to better read blush-inducing emotions in their roles as "caregivers and empathizers."
It's a "very well executed study," says Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, who has published on gender differences in color preference. However, he would like to see more work to confirm the trend's appearance across cultures, noting that, although the Chinese subjects had been in Britain for a maximum of 3 years, they may have picked up British cultural ideas on color.