Questions and Chaos

Life in the 21st Century

Headlines Everywhere: Girls Love Pink

Monday, August 27, 2007

In my local paper I came across an article from Reuters London reporting a new scientific study that showed: Boys like blue, girls like pink and there isn’t much anybody can do about it, researchers said on Monday in one of the first studies to show scientifically that there are gender-based colour preferences.”

Scientific American has run the Reuters article verbatim: starting with the above quote. Newspapers everywhere are proclaiming the above line or something even more scientific sounding like that of the Toronto Star : “A new study, appearing this month in Current Biology finds for the first time that girls are hard-wired to like pink.

In this study 208 subjects age 20-26 looked at pairs of coloured rectangles and picked the one they preferred as quickly as possible. While both sexes preferred blue tones, more women picked reddish-blue tones than men. Based on the evidence, the conclusions published around the world are sheer nonsense and, sadly, people will believe those conclusions have been proven by science.

In the summary of her paper submitted to Current Biology researcher Anya Hurlbert talks about how no previous studies have found sex differences in colour preference and “This fact is perhaps surprising, given the prevalence and longevity of the notion that little girls differ from boys in preferring pink.

First off, in order for little girls to prefer pink they would need to be offered a choice. Babies and toddlers have no choice in the colours they are dressed in, girls are born surrounded by pink and boys by blue. Walk down the girls’ aisle in the toy store – what colour is everything? What would little girls play with if it wasn’t pink? How often do they have a choice between a blue, green or pink Barbie car? The choice is pink or pink or pink. Any little boy who who loves pink is quickly re-directed to the correct toys and colours. It is parents and marketers that choose pink for girls and blue for boys, not the children themselves.

It’s interesting to note the age of the subjects. Previous studies found no differences between the preferences of males and females. Subjects age 20-26 have been more heavily subjected to consumer culture, more toys and television than any other generation. Also interesting that Chinese subjects of both sexes had a greater preference for reddish tones than the British subjects. In Chinese culture red is considered a lucky colour.

Hurlbert explains these findings as having a biological basis because to her it seems logical that women would prefer reddish colours because it helped early females find fruit and be attentive to babies’ skin colour changes such as fever. However there was no evidence in her experiment that women noticed the colours faster, only that they preferred these shades.
If we’re going to look at this from an evolutionary perspective and let’s assume it’s true for a moment that women are hard-wired to prefer pink. If it were true, wouldn’t every man looking for a hot date be wearing some shade of pink?

Ben Goldacre on Bad Science points out that choosing pink for girls is only a recent cultural phenomenon. He quotes a 1918 Ladies Home Journal that says girls should wear blue and boys should wear pink because “pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

It doesn’t really matter what colour you prefer as long as the truth remains that males are strong because they are the hunters and females are dainty because they are the berry pickers.

I abhor pink consumer goods, but I’m a darn good berry picker. So perhaps I need to accept that, perhaps, biologically I’m a Neanderthal.
In the comments Nikku said: This article is misleading as female humans preferring a slightly redder shade of blue has nothing to do with liking a pink shirt. EXACTLY! That’s my point. To use this data to say that girls are hardwired to like pink is just bad, bad science. Trouble is all the media in the English world, and maybe more, said this proved that girls liking pink is a hard-wired trait. It’s now three years later and if you Google “Girls like pink” you will read the following: “A new study, appearing this month in Current Biology, finds for the first time that girls are hard-wired to like pink.” — and that is just wrong on so many levels.



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August 31, 2007 @ 10:31 am

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September 2, 2007 @ 9:05 am

[…] Helga Sombrofsky presents Headlines Everywhere: Girls Love Pink posted at Questions and Chaos. […]


Comment by bluskygirl

September 2, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

My house is “scientific” proof that there’s no such preference among boys and girls. My oldest son loves pink. It’s his most favorite color, and if he could he would paint his room that color. My youngest is beginning to agree with him… no doubt a result of his brother being his role model. I never influenced my boys as to particular colors, they decided for themselves, and evidently went more towards the path of that 1918 article you spoke of.

I on the other hand prefer green, and as a child I hated everything that was pink. I refused to wear it. I didn’t play with anything that came from a girly isle, so that may have had something to do with it!


Comment by jen

September 2, 2007 @ 11:02 pm

My son too loves pink. He liked it more until he was nearly 6. I blame the girls pink preference on the fashions. Now, just about the only colour girls clothes come in, is pink.


Comment by SingForHim @ Real Life

September 3, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

These kinds of irresponsible researchers get my blood boiling! Thank you for exposing their erroneous interpretation of the data.


Comment by Kathy Holmes

September 4, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

LOL! In reaction to all of that pink out there – including pink chick lit titles – I wrote a novel called “Real Women Wear Red.” Even as a young girl, I preferred red. 🙂

But men can wear red or they can wear pink. It looks good on them, too. And I would choose blue over pink myself.


Comment by Ann

September 7, 2007 @ 2:09 pm

I can’t imagine what evolutionary mechanism Hurlbert would propose. Why would seeing your child with a fever result in a preference for pink? One would more logically be distressed by it. And this mechanism is sex-linked because…?
And is she suggesting that our ancestors who developed this preference were fair-skinned, so that a fever would be that obvious? That certainly narrows down the evolutionary timeframe!


Comment by sarah

September 7, 2007 @ 9:19 pm

thank you for pointing out how ridiculous this study is. because they are sampling a group that has already been given time to be socialized to like one color or the other, their preference has nothing to do with a biological basis.


Comment by sybil

September 8, 2007 @ 6:50 am

what a load of old cobbler’s – it makes no difference. consider, the scarlet of hunting jackets (for fox hunting) in England is called ‘pink’ – so what does that prove? same as this study … not much! let the boffins study something worthwhile, not reinforce a stereotype.

thanks for bringing this to the notice of thinking people.


Comment by Moz

September 8, 2007 @ 11:20 am

The thing about needing to like pink to find pink berries would make more sense if girls were drawn to red or blue, I’d have thought.

And why are men supposed to like blue? Cos you see lots of sky when you’re out hunting? Sheesh. If it was fur-brown, it would almost make sense.

Easily the stupidest bit of research I’ve heard about for a while.


Comment by roro

September 10, 2007 @ 8:26 am

Personally, I think it is conditioned. I prefer blue to pink. For example, this blog, could you imagine it in shades of pink?

The berry picker and hunter thing is hormonal, and does give men more strength, but on the other hand, with all these drugs that are out, it is amazing to me that they don’t just experiment with giving female hormones to people with aggressive behavior and more testosterone to people who are depressed and can’t assert themselves….I am sure that will turn some heads LOL


Comment by Snusket

September 11, 2007 @ 7:23 am

@Roro. They in fact do just that in transgender individuals. Women who get testosterone report of interesting “side effects” when it comes to emotions. Interestingly also verbal and spatial skills are altered as a result of the treatment.


Comment by Charley

September 13, 2007 @ 4:13 pm

Once more the published crap of the machine is exposed. Thanks for being who you are and for having the courage to step up when so few do…Cudos Helga!!
PS, I like blue with pink trim,,,now what????


Comment by Rachel

September 15, 2007 @ 5:52 pm

Excellent post!
Well done for pointing out blatant stupidity 🙂
Personally, as a stroppy girl, I refused to wear pink for many, many years….
Interestingly, in other countries, like France, there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much of a girls-like/wear-pink, boys-like/wear-blue thing going on. Any ideas why? Presumably if it was evolution (and they do tend to be caucasian in France!) the colour thing would affect them too…..!

Comment by Maximus

December 20, 2007 @ 4:19 am

I would like to see a continuation of the topic

Comment by Suzann

March 1, 2008 @ 4:09 pm

I was with a group once, and someone stated that strong people preferred primary colors, and weak and meek people preferred pastels. It gets so ridiculous, how we try to categorize and judge. Thanks for the great article.

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May 11, 2008 @ 12:37 pm

[…] Even science tries to tell us that Girls Love Pink.  Not considering the fact that in the early 1900’s blue was for girls because blue was more delicate and dainty. […]

Comment by AlexM

August 18, 2008 @ 1:36 am

Your blog is interesting!

Keep up the good work!

Comment by Hannes

August 21, 2008 @ 1:07 am

Thanks for your project. I like this site. KEEP IT UP..

Comment by Keeley

November 20, 2008 @ 9:11 am

My 3 year old son loves pink, he carries a pink teddy with him that was mine. If he can choose the color of things that he wants he will choose pink over anything. I do not discourage this at all. My other 3 year old son(they are twins) loves the color purple.

Comment by Nikku

May 16, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

Ok, there are a lot of mistakes in this article, and a lot of misconceptions have led to a lot of innaccurate comments.

My university did a study on this too… and the results here just aren’t accurate to the actual findings. While it might be cool and interesting to present the information this way, it isn’t entirely true. Woman/ girls aren’t wired to perfer ‘pink’ in how we think of the colour (i.e. the culturally encouraged shade of pink that all girls toys and clothing seem to be), but the study is more accurately about females being ‘wired’ to prefer a redder shade of blue then men, who perfer a ‘bluer’ shade of blue.

It has nothing to do with anything on the red scale of colour (after all, pink is red + a white tint).
The difference between men and women is so slight it is hardly there in the grand scheme of things, so a boy or a girl being raised in our societies won’t really benefit from it. It doesn’t explain why most of the toys in the girls section are pink, for example. In fact, in England around the 1500, pink was a rare, masculine colour, and blue was a calm, cooling colour for women. Fashions changed (admittedly over five hundred years ago), but they might change again in the next five hundred.

Anyway, with the study; the difference is there scientifically, and from an evolutionary standpoint the slight colour preferences would have had an impact when comparing things as fruit or health levels in others. Don’t forget, women too are better are differentiating between shades better than men; colour recognition is carried on the X chromosome,; and for a similar reason men suffer from colourblindness more frequently.

To reiterate: This article is misleading as female humans preferring a slightly redder shade of blue has nothing to do with liking a pink shirt or wanting a pink room. Of course, men too can ‘like’ pink, just as girls can, but from a hard-wired preference (and not a nurtered one) women prefer redder shades.

Comment by Martha

September 10, 2010 @ 6:06 am

It’s clearly rubbish! In medieval times in England pink was boys colour & blue was a girls. If you go far enough back in time anyone can see that this is complete nonsense.

Comment by michelle

November 21, 2010 @ 7:38 pm

well my young daughters dont wear pale pink or blue they wear darker bright colours like red and navy, dark purple, orange or green, they dont wear skirts or dresses either, trousers are more practical, boys used to wear dresses until trousers became more practical, they are also more practical for women too, im a woman and im married i never ear pink blue or navy is more conservative for me while my husband wears, navy alot too because we dont want to stick out.

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