|Sex Differences And Favorite Color Preference|
|SciMed - Neuroscience|
|TS-Si News Service|
|Wednesday, 22 August 2007 19:00|
Newcastle, UK. A study in Current Biology (Cell Press), reports some of the first conclusive evidence in support of the long-held — and culturally popular — notion that men and women differ when it comes to their favorite colors.
Girls in the pink (or, a redder shade of blue)
Indeed, the researchers found that women really do prefer pink—or at least a redder shade of blue—than men do.
Newcastle University, UK."Although we expected to find sex differences, we were surprised at how robust they were, given the simplicity of our test," said Anya Hurlbert, a neuroscientist at
The peer-reviewed research by Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling examined color preference and sex linkages. It is a limited investigation that requires verification by other investigators, expansion via more rigorous cross—cultural research, and direct observation of the neurobiological claims. While their research did not study the mechanisms for color choice, their findings did stimulate comment in the popular press, focused mainly on the historical and cultural aspects of symbolic color assignments.
In one of the first studies to show scientifically that there are gender-based color preferences, young adult men and women were asked to select, as rapidly as possible, their preferred color from each of a series of paired, colored rectangles.
The universal favorite color for all people appears to be blue, they found. "On top of that, females have a preference for the red end of the red-green axis, and this shifts their color preference slightly away from blue towards red, which tends to make pinks and lilacs the most preferred colors in comparison with others," she said.
Overall, the differences between men and women were clear enough that the seasoned researchers can now usually predict the sex of a participant based on their favorite-color profile.
To begin to address whether sex differences in color preference depend more on biology or culture, the researchers tested a small group of Chinese people amongst the other 171 British Caucasian study participants. The results among the Chinese were similar, Hurlbert said, strengthening the idea that the sex differences might be biological.
Hurlbert says another way to separate "nature versus nurture" when it comes to favorite colors will be to test the preferences of infants. The researchers have plans to modify the color-choice test for use in young babies and hope to have some answers on that front soon.
Hurlbert and her co-author, Yazhu Ling, speculate that the sex difference may have arisen “from sex-specific functional specialization in the evolutionary division of labor." The explanation might go back to humans' hunter-gatherer days, when women — the primary gatherers — would have benefited from an ability to key in on ripe, red fruits.
“There are biological reasons for liking reddish things” and evolution may have "driven females to prefer reddish colors — reddish fruits, healthy, reddish faces," Hurlbert said. "Culture may exploit and compound this natural female preference."
It is different for men. Hurlbert says thinking about colors is less important for them. As hunters, they look for something dark and shoot it.
About the universal preference for blue, "I can only speculate," she said. "I would favor evolutionary arguments again here. Going back to our ‘savannah’ days, we would have a natural preference for a clear blue sky, because it signaled good weather. Clear blue also signals a good water source."
CitationBiological components of sex differences in colour preference. Anya C. Hurlbert, Yazhu Ling. Current Biology, Volume 17, Issue 16, 21 August 2007, Pages R623-R625. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2007.06.022.
The long history of color preference studies has been described as “bewildering, confused and contradictory” []. Although recent studies  tend to agree on a universal preference for ‘blue’, the variety and lack of control in measurement methods have made it difficult to extract a systematic, quantitative description of preference. Furthermore, despite abundant evidence for sex differences in other visual domains, and specifically in other tasks of color perception , there is no conclusive evidence for the existence of sex differences in color preference. This fact is perhaps surprising, given the prevalence and longevity of the notion that little girls differ from boys in preferring ‘pink’ []. Here we report a robust, cross-cultural sex difference in color preference, revealed by a rapid paired-comparison task. Individual color preference patterns are summarized by weights on the two fundamental neural dimensions that underlie color coding in the human visual system. We find a consistent sex difference in these weights, which, we suggest, may be linked to the evolution of sex-specific behavioral uses of trichromacy.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 October 2008 08:32|