Quantcast

«

»

Jan 03 2012

We still haven’t explained pink

There was something else that bugged me in that odd claim from Ben Radford that girls would just naturally like pink better than boys: it was the terrible evpsych rationale for it that just made no sense.

First was the argument that blue has always been associated with boys, and pink with girls, and therefore it was only natural to sustain the distinction.

The choice of blue for infants has its roots in superstition. In ancient times the color blue (long associated with the heavens) was thought to ward off evil spirits. Even today the tradition continues; in many parts of the world people paint their doorways and window frames blue. Originally ["Originally"? Like in Homo erectus, or are we going back to australopithecines?] only boys were swaddled in blue [apparently, no one cared if girls were possessed by evil spirits. By the way, what color were they swaddled in, "originally"?], and girls were later assigned the color pink for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. But the color distinction between the two genders dates back millennia [Oops. See below].

But what about pink toys for girls? It’s an interesting question, and there are several answers. One obvious reason is that dolls are by far the most popular toys for girls [And boys like fire trucks and little red sports cars and setting things on fire, so they ought to like red]. What color are most dolls? Pink, or roughly Caucasian skin-toned [Girls should favor beige, then]. There are, of course, dolls of varying skin tones and ethnicities (the popular Bratz dolls, for example, have a range of skin tones). But since most girls play with dolls, and most dolls are pink (a green- or blue-skinned doll would look creepy [And brown would be just horrible]), it makes perfect sense that most girls’ toys are pink [So their ovens and cooking utensils and cleaning tools and cosmetics all match their dolls' complexions? That doesn't make sense, that's just weird].

Eh, what? The color distinction goes back millennia? Since when was 70 years equal to millennia?

The march toward gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out.

For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that 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.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago.

Today’s color dictate wasn’t established until the 1940s, as a result of Americans’ preferences as interpreted by manufacturers and retailers. “It could have gone the other way,” Paoletti says.

Pink for girls is a convention of the baby boomer generation. We’ve only had a couple of generations since, and I don’t think there has been much selection pressure to generate a sex difference.

But let’s be charitable here. Maybe there actually is a sex difference in how men and women perceive the colors blue and pink; that we dress baby girls in pink isn’t causal, but a consequence of a bias in how men and women see the world. Maybe, just maybe, these color preferences are a byproduct of a more significant evolutionary bias. At least, if you’re an evpsych proponent you’d like to imagine so. Which leads us to Radford’s citation of an amazing evolutionary hypothesis from Time magazine.

According to a new study in the Aug. 21 [2007] issue of Current Biology, women may be biologically programmed to prefer the color pink—or, at least, redder shades of blue—more than men…. [Researchers] speculate that the color preference and women’s ability to better discriminate red from green could have evolved due to sex-specific divisions of labor: while men hunted, women gathered, and they had to be able to spot ripe berries and fruits. Another theory suggests that women, as caregivers who need to be particularly sensitive to, say, a child flushed with fever, have developed a sensitivity to reddish changes in skin color, a skill that enhances their abilities as the “emphathizer.”

Really? I read that and thought it had to be some invention of the journalist at Time, so I had to go find the original article, and no, that was taken straight from the paper itself. What disappointing tripe.

It is therefore plausible that, in specializing for gathering, the female brain honed the trichromatic adaptations,
and these underpin the female preference for objects ‘redder’ than the background. As a gatherer, the female would also need to be more aware of color information than the hunter. This requirement would emerge as greater certainty and more stability in female color preference, which we find. An alternative explanation for the evolution of trichromacy is the need to discriminate subtle changes in skin color due to emotional states and social-sexual signals; again, females may have honed these adaptations for their roles as care-givers and ‘empathizers’.

I weep for all the African children who died or failed to reproduce because the enhanced red sensitivity of their mothers’ brains was insufficient to compensate for the reduced contrast caused by the color of their skin; I pity the poor African adults who bumble about romantically, unable to read potential partners’ social-sexual signals as well as their European peers. It’s also sad that even European males are less able, and have less need, to read their fellow human beings’ emotional states.

The utility of being able to evaluate when fruit is ripe isn’t in question, and I can see where that is a likely factor in the evolution of our color vision. But both males and females have that ability; there’s no reason to think that females have been selected for a slightly stronger preference for red, and that there’s some deep biological cause for this preference that is found in women, but not their sons.

But hey, I’ve got the paper from Hurlbert and Ling, so let’s look at the data.

They do find a robust difference between the sexes in their study. It’s a simple experiment in which subjects are shown pairs of colored rectangles on a computer screen, and they are asked to select which of the two colors they like best. Do this many times, and you get a profile of favored colors. And what do you find? Most people like blue shades, but women tend to like a little more red in their colored rectangles.

Now hang on, you might say — those data are all from British subjects, and there’s no way to sort out the accumulated cultural biases from the biology. Maybe those British women had been brought up by baby boomers who told them from babyhood on that pink was the color for girls, and so all we’re seeing here is a reflection of that bias. To correct for that, the researchers sought out native Han Chinese who were recent immigrants to the UK, and tested them separately. And look! They also show a consistent difference, with Chinese women showing more preference for reds than Chinese men!

From this, they somehow conclude that the differences are biological. If that’s true, though, they missed another major conclusion: compare the color preferences of Chinese men, in the bottom graph, to UK women, in the top graph.

One obviously must conclude that Chinese men have experienced a long history of selection for the ability to make finely tuned distinctions in the ripeness of fruit, to detect delicate blushes in the cheeks of their lovers, and to diagnose childhood diseases at the first flush. I’m impressed.

Oh, wait — there’s another possibility. Could it be that color preferences are actually affected by one’s culture? The researchers even admit this!

Yet while these differences may be innate, they may also be modulated by cultural context or individual experience. In China, red is the color of ‘good luck’, and our Chinese subpopulation gives stronger weighting for reddish colors than the British.

I see absolutely no evidence in the paper that the differences are innate, but lots of evidence that color preferences are plastic and responsive to environmental influences. Even the title of the paper looks wrong: it claims to find “biological components”, but nothing in the methodology or the results exhibits any way to separate biological components from environmental responsiveness.

It’s a fine collection of data, filtered by an unjustifiable evolutionary interpretation, processed yet again by a credulous journalist in a mass market magazine, and then regurgitated without question by Ben Radford. Sorry, guy, it’s bad science, and all you saw was the implausible unacceptable bit.


Hurlbert AC, Ling Y (2007) Biological components of sex differences in color preference. Curr Biol. 17(16):R623-5.

(Also on FtB)


Wouldn’t you know Ben Goldacre already addressed this paper back in 2007?


Radford doubles down. Ugh.

187 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    PZ Myers

    Also, the data doesn’t say “pink”: it says women ought to prefer a nice maroon. So why aren’t girls toys all purplish?

  2. 2
    Heinrich

    As I always point out when this topic comes up, little babies ALL like pink (Eurasion babies, that is). Then, a potential preference for pink is driven out of boys, by the parents, kindergarten, ads, and hammered into girls.

    I just hate it when I go into a Toys*Us and see it is all pink/blue!

    Idiotically, even companies that didn’t go for this were forced to conform. When I was little there was no special “girl LEGO”. But when it was introduced, sales boomed.

  3. 3
    jamessweet

    Wha??? I’m baffled by the claim that there is a biological origin the assignment of pink to girls. And I’m sympathetic to speculation that many other gender stereotypes may have at least some biological origin (which is not an excuse to perpetuate them, by the way; I won’t pimp my blog today, but I’ve written on this before, and my basic point is that even if there are biological factors behind some gender stereotypes, we can do better than biology and provide a welcoming environment for people to explore all sorts of roles and preferences — even if it winds up that a lot of people end up mostly preferring the stereotypical ones anyway due to their biology.) Anyway, my point to the preceding parenthetical digression being that I am not immediately dismissive when somebody suggests a biological component to gender stereotypes. For some stereotypes, it’s at least plausible, and while there’s no firm data supporting that hypothesis, there’s no firm data rejecting it either (hard to measure that sort of thing when society is constantly reinforcing the stereotypes, eh?)

    But the pink thing… I thought everybody knew that has not been constant throughout history, like at all? That it pretty obviously is just a random cultural fluctuation?

    I mean… there’s historical data that pretty much flatly refutes that. How can someone still be trying to rationalize it? that’s crazy!

  4. 4
    Yoritomo

    I don’t think you can blame the journalist for correctly reproducing the gist of bad peer-reviewed research. You might argue he should not have reported the study at all, but he does not misrepresent it, does he?

  5. 5
    lb

    This is just anecdotal but I hated the color pink when I was growing up. Preferred green, black or blue. These studies are total BS and a waste of money.

  6. 6
    unbound

    Actually, my daughter’s favorite color is purple… :-)

    Overall, another statistical analysis of data that points to correlation, but no further study to demonstrate causation. As the Chinese data shows, the statistical variance is pretty small (probably just making it to statistical significance) which further points to any likely causation in this set of observations.

    Perhaps we need to have separate journals. One for statistical analysis which is properly relegated to curious correlations. Another for actual detailed studies into causation where statistical analysis, if used at all, rises to very strong statistical significance of direct analysis.

  7. 7
    PZ Myers

    The journalist doesn’t misrepresent it. The journalist also did not understand it.

  8. 8
    John Wilson

    Not only does Radford have the problem that the “Pink for girls” is a relatively recent phenomenon, there’s also the issue of SO. MUCH. PINK. Not having children, it’s not something I really noticed until I read Delusions of Gender: the “girl’s” aisles in Toys R Us are disgustingly pink: almost utterly uniformly one or two shades of a particular pink. And everything – as you say – from ovens to pushchairs to bouncy balls are PINK. In capitals.It’s almost as if someone has set out to create a store with absolutely no contrast.

    The “boys” aisles, by contrast are every colour of the rainbow *except* pink. There is absolutely no pink packaging in those aisles intended for “boys”. This over-prevelance of pink in the “girls” aisles and distinct lack of pink in the “boys” aisles clearly has nothing whatsoever to do with “slight preference for reddish-hues” but PINK or NOT PINK.

  9. 9
    Jonas

    Its horseshit like this that leaves me with virtually no confidence in evopsych as a discipline.

  10. 10
    writerwriter

    This is so interesting!

    Y’know what bugs me though? How much money I spent on college when I could have just been reading you all these years. I’ll tell you, I’ve learned more in six months reading your blog than I have in years at university….

    Thanks. Wonderful stuff.

    Re the references to journalists (this is my career field) In years past – and I mean many years at this point – research and fact-checking was a rigorous process. It seems this is no longer the case. Despite the masses of information and the ease of access to it, and to endless means of corroboration, it seems journalists are less and less interested in verification. I have worked with some good writers but am often bemused by how uninformed they are in general, how little they read, whether for pleasure or for information, and (and this is probably a key detail) how inundated they are by the noise that passes for journalism these days.

  11. 11
    cervantes

    Like chimpanzees, men ought to be attracted to pink because it’s the color of, err, you know.

  12. 12
    elaineballou

    This has me thinking about an episode of The Amazing Race in which the contestants were in India and had to paint life-size statues of the Hindu god Ganesh. Even though their written instructions said “god” and not “goddess,” and the figure had an obviously male body, because they were painting the statue pink, every single contestant referred to the figure as “she” and a few even referenced the very male pot belly and made comments about the figure being pregnant. The connotation of the color was so strong that they were able to imagine a male body as female when the color pink was applied. But obviously, pink was not considered a female color to anyone but the American contestants. They just couldn’t get it through their heads that pink might mean something else in a different culture.

  13. 13
    Usernames are smart

    Ha – our son’s favorite colors are Pink and Purple. Gasp!

    I don’t know much about biology (’cause I’m a physics-type with numbers and formulae and models), yet his sample size of Chinese is troubling. 18 or 19 as representative of a non-homogenous country of (at the time) ~500 million people?!

    WTF?!

    What if I stood on the corner of Broadway and 8th (NYC) and polled 30 people to see if they liked olive and garlic hummus? (mmm… hummus) I’m sure my answer would be representative of all of North America. I need to publish immediately!!!

  14. 14
    hkdharmon

    Pink for girls is a convention of the baby boomer generation.

    Talking directly from my anus here, but perhaps the “pink is for girls” thing is a rejection of the “pink is for boys” found earlier, and it just went wayyyy too far.

  15. 15
    willreader

    God is this sh1t still doing the rounds?

    Ben Goldacre discussed the same paper several years ago.

    http://goo.gl/6CCEi

  16. 16
    raven

    Evo-psych = sockpuppet science.

    It finds what you want it to find and agrees that what you believe is true.

    A better word might be pseudoscience.

  17. 17
    denisepatterson-monroe

    I remember reading in some book about Victorian fashions that, in Victoria’s time, pink was for boys as it was a toned-down, or juvenile, version of what fashion would later call the ‘power color’, red. Blue was for girls because of the strong association of blue with the Virgin Mary. In other words, pink was seen as representing boys’ future power, and blue was to represent a young girl’s ‘purity’ and devoutness.

    My son’s favorite color is pink. I’ve had a few people comment on this, I always just explain the Victorian color code and explain that my son is just a classicist in his fashion choices :-)

  18. 18
    ambassadorfromverdammt

    It’s all so obvious:
    Men foraged for blue berries, women foraged for red berries.
    Men hunted blue animals, women hunted red animals.

  19. 19
    Rowan vet-tech

    -_-

    My favorite colors as a child were yellow and blue. As I grew up, they combined so that my favorite color is green. I hate pink. I despise pink. I have always detested pink, since my earliest rememberings. “Can the toy be yellow, mommy?” And to make matters worse, with my skin tone and hair color… pink looks really good on me. I still refuse to wear it.

  20. 20
    kome

    I remember an episode of QI (for those who don’t know, it’s a British comedy trivia show, this particular episode comes from series G – the “Girls and Boys” episode) where Stephen Fry shared with the panel that pink was used for boys up until the 1920s, since red was a “masculine” color and pink is just a light red, and blue was used for baby girls. I’m not entirely sure where he got that information, but that episode was magnificent (later in the episode Stephen explained that all babies were once called girls until the 15th century, boys were “knave girls” and girls were “gay girls”). I cannot vouch for the validity of what information the QI elves decided to give to Stephen to share, but I highly recommend looking that episode up on youtube and watching it.

  21. 21
    raven

    Cue the True evo-psych believers apologists in 10 9 8….

    “No True Evo-psych scientist would do shoddy gender and culture biased research.”

    “Not all evo-psycho research is garbage.”

    The latter is probably true. But if a field has low standards, comes up with a lot of trash, and isn’t all that useful anyway, why should anyone waste their time paying attention to it?

    We’ve seen this before. EP seems to be sociobiology renamed. Sociobiology never really went anywhere for the same reasons evo-psych is going nowhere.

    The claim of sociobiology is that we are prewired by evolution and this puts tendencies and limits on our behavior, culture, and thinking. Well, sure but they never got much past that point.

  22. 22
    willreader

    As someone who believes there can be a productive relationship between evolutionary theory and psychology this stuff makes makes me weep.

    The evolutionary explanation they provide is the traditional “off the top of the head” just-so story that Stephen Jay Gould warned us about so many years ago.

    It should be said that they are both neuroscientists and are therefore unlikely to understand evolution to any level of sophistication.

    Women like strawberries, men like blueberres and no one likes bananas.

  23. 23
    pentatomid

    Ah, the old fruit picking argument. Whenever I hear that one coming up, I always bring up blueberries, blackberries, damson, common elder and sloe. All very nice black and blue colored berries.

  24. 24
    podgemurphy

    Wow, what an broad collection of persuasive evidence. Nice one PZ.

    I wonder if this is enough to sway someone who has a stake in the argument, though? The historical data alone should be enough to give anyone pause, but the graph clearly demonstrates a cultural bias. Even if there is a hard wired preference, it’s clear that cultural factors would be far more influential on any given individual. And that’s before one even considers personal circumstances!

  25. 25
    Gwynnyd

    Love the analysis of the female other and the use of pink in media found here: http://blip.tv/nostalgia-chick/nostalgia-chick-the-smurfette-principle-3141764

    The Smurfette Principle, as she calls it, rings very true to me.

  26. 26
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Is Radford actively trolling at this point? It seems like the point of all this for him is to put women in their place, not shed light on anything meaningful.

  27. 27
    Crow

    Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and grant that the EvoPsych story for blue/pink gender stereotyping has some basis in truth, I would still argue that there is no way that modern toymakers are producing toys that fit these color schemes because of the EvoPsych reasons. Make 95% of the girls’ toy aisle pink, 90% of the girls’ toys purchased will be pink. Simple as that.

    In other words, factual reasons for color stereotyping is a stretch at best and correlating these reasons to explain the production/consumption of toys that are predominately pink/blue is an even farther stretch.

    Occam’s Razor leaves us with the nice and simple “It’s a cultural convention, nothing more.”

  28. 28
    Gwynnyd

    I didn’t realize I was posting as a mess. Sorry. The Nostalgia Chick link was from me.

  29. 29
    mikeg

    I’d really rather not be Radford right now. Slaughter. I am eager to see if/ how he responds.

  30. 30
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    Also, the data doesn’t say “pink”: it says women ought to prefer a nice maroon.

    I’ve always felt that way.

  31. 31
    holytape

    Instead of focusing on the controversies as to whether one gender prefers their elector-magnetic radiation at wavelengths of 650 nm or if another is predisposed to liking waves of 400 nm, let us come together in this winter season and celebrate the similarities. After hundreds of hours and many babies later, my studies have found that neither boys nor girls like their radiation at 50 picometers.

    (P.s. Unfortunately my nuclear reactor lego play set needs some revamping.)

  32. 32
    anniewood

    Well gosh, I’m a girl, and I admit I do like pink (although my favorite color is aqua).

    But what this blog entry reminded me of was something rather different. There I was back in the 50s, a little Southern Caucasian girl in the toy department of a department store, and my mother was letting me pick out a doll. And the one I most wanted had brown skin.

  33. 33
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    One obvious reason is that dolls are by far the most popular toys for girls…

    Which, even if this argument weren’t stupid, would just push the question back a step further.

  34. 34
    a3kr0n

    I don’t know how to read scientific papers. Is Ling’s paper basically saying “we don’t know”?

  35. 35
    richardelguru

    “Since when was 70 years equal to millennia?”
    to be fair it is millennia in bacterium years.
    Lots of ‘em.

  36. 36
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    The march toward gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out.

    For example, a June 1918 article from the trade publication Earnshaw’s Infants’ Department said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that 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.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

    And one more thing for Radford’s information: before the mid-19th Century and the invention of modern detergents, babies and young children of both sexes in Europe would often have been wearing white, because you can boil it. Just look at the iconography: from Medieval miniatures and frescoes to Modern Era paintings, from the baby Jesus to little princes and princesses, from family scenes to the sad memento mori of dead babies.

    There was no colour more favoured than an another, apart from that. Oh, and a funny thing: up to the 1920s, both girls and boys commonly wore dresses till the age of 5 or thereabout!

  37. 37
    carlie

    Pink for girls is a convention of the baby boomer generation.

    I was thinking about this yesterday, in conjunction with something else I read about how baby boomers have been the dominant (in numbers) generation for their entire lives. It’s as if the fact that they’ve been so overwhelming in shaping culture that nothing that came before them even happened at all in the minds of people “thinking” about history. Nuclear families? Always been that way! Moms don’t work? Always been that way! Pink for girls? Always been that way! Except that the 1950s was a very odd time in our history, when everything changed after the war. It’s just that the loudest, most numerous voices in culture are those for whom it has “always” been that way. (see Stephanie Coontz, The Way We Never Were)

  38. 38
    screechymonkey

    Radford should stick to the chupacabra.

    Seriously, it’s depressing how incompetent many “professional skeptics” are once they leave the easy turf of cryptozoology and psychics.

  39. 39
    Louis

    Stand back, I’m going to do SCIENCE:

    I’ve seen homosexual men wearing pink. Therefore it cannot be true that only women like pink. I demand an explanation!

    Clearly Back In The Day (TM) men suffering from Teh Ghey would have have the decency to not offend the Baby Jesus and stay closeted. This would mean they were hunting with the Real Men (TM, Patent Pending). They were probably a bit crap at hunting, due to their preference for pink and what not, because they would have been distracted by conveniently located berries on nearby bushes* or the shade of nail varnish the mammoth was wearing.

    This means therefore that women should Get Back In The Kitchen (Capitalised for extra truthiness) because I saw a pink oven once, and men afflicted with Teh Ghey should Get Back In The Closet and Stop Being So Naughty, and definitely stop liking pink, it’s silly. That way we can all get back to the 1950s, or at least the pastiche of them I wish to believe in, which would be only Right and Proper.

    If you don’t believe this definitive truth then how do you explain PYGMIES and DWARVES?

    Quod Erat Doofusstratum.**

    Louis

    *It’s a well known fact that elephants/mammoths paint their toenails pink/red and hide in trees pretending to be cherries. This is how they have survived until the modern day whilst at the same time being very tasty in a sandwich. It must be true. A bloke down the pub said so.

    **Don’t tell me this isn’t consistent, consistency is the troglodyte of inferior brains or something.

  40. 40
    Cuttlefish

    I see that I shall never think
    In lovely shades of girlish pink…

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2012/01/03/pinks/

  41. 41
    pedron

    What about Goths, Mr Radford?

    Boys: Black
    Girls: Black

    Explain that, I double-dare you!

  42. 42
    DonDueed

    Pink tinkertoys:
    http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3107663

    Over the holidays I visited my niece’s home. Her 3-year-old daughter has a set of these. (We immediately started calling them “pinkertoys”, but Katy wasn’t too keen on that name.)

    Whatever the reason, it doesn’t look like the “pink = girls” meme is going away anytime soon.

  43. 43
    generallerong

    My pet theory is the prevalence in US and UK culture of the pair of paintings The Blue Boy and Pinkie, reproduced in just about every type of print and needlepoint and embroidery and decorative plates etc. imaginable.

    Wikipedia even says,
    “Pinkie and The Blue Boy are used as set decorations for many episodes of the American television show, Leave It to Beaver. The two paintings are located on the wall immediately to the left and right side of the front door of the family home.”

    Wadda we widdout Aht, eh?

  44. 44
    thematrix

    For the stuff used in QI to explain it in the G Series “Boys & Girls”:

    http://www.comedy.co.uk/guide/tv/qi/episodes/7/7/

    The homophobic “pink is for girls or fags” thing is just the same as all other religion based prejudice, steeped in ignorance about history (and oh so many other things).

    All trough history (from Greek to modern day) its been a magical opera of clothing styles, makeup, wigs and tights most men wouldn’t be caught dead in the modern day.

  45. 45
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    @ PZ, I’m also surprised that the Hurlbert and Ling paper compares the colour preferences in Britons and recent Chinese immigrants without mentioning that different languages can chart colours in different ways, which probably influences the way native speakers understand the world. There’s been research comparing Chinese and English, for instance: where “pink” and “red” are two different colours in English (and little girls are not expected to like red, but pink), the Chinese language only express a difference between two different shades of red, a little like in English there is light blue and dark blue.

    Here’s the Boing Boing article referencing cognitive research papers about languages and world perception:
    http://boingboing.net/2010/06/27/seeing-languages-dif.html

  46. 46
    ChristineRose

    Hm, the first thing I thought of when I read this was color blindness, which is more predominant in males. I don’t know if the 8% of males who have some sort of anomaly in their color perception either explains or correlates to these results, but I’d go there far sooner than I would say that women gain more advantages than men from rosy cheek perception.

  47. 47
    ChasCPeterson

    This is beating a dead horse; the article was widely discussed and dismissed four years ago. And oh its such an egregious example of what everyone will agree is the ridiculous pseudoscience of ‘evopsyche’ etc.

    Here‘s the full text of the article. The question asked was simply whether measurable sex differences in color preferences exist. Apparently nobody had actually tried any measurements before. So they did. And they found robust sex differences among white UKers (college students, no doubt). So then as a test of the cultural-socialization explanation, they also looked at a group of Chinese immigrants who could reasonably be supposed to have been exposed to different cultural socialization pressures. And they found similar differences: an overall preference for bluishness for everybody, with a consistent preference shift toward the red end of the spectrum for females (as a group) relative to males. That’s the meat of the article, the part that would be the Results and first couple paragraphs of the Discussion in a longer presentation.
    So now–this is the conventional way science is communicated–they have the obligation of offering one or more explanations for the data presented. If there is evidence available to support their proferred explanation, they should cite it, and if not they should label it clearly as speculation. These authors did the latter (my emphasis):

    We speculate that this sex difference arose from sex-specific functional specializations in the evolutionary division of labour. The hunter-gatherer theory proposes that female brains should be specialized for gathering-related tasks…It is therefore plausible… that,

    Then they mention the alternative cultural-socialization hypothesis:

    Yet while these differences may be innate, they may also be modulated by cultural context or individual experience.

    So yeah, they lean a little harder than I would on the evolutionary just-so story, but a) it is clearly labeled as speculation, b) the evidence suggested for innateness was not just the parallel results in two cultural groups but also the correspondence of the preference results with patterns of neurophysiological color perception (though I don’t fully understand this part), and c) they are neuroscientists trying to publish in Current Biology (which, btw, has an impact factor >10). If they had been the types to send it instead to Current Social Science or whatever they doubtless would have favored the cultural explanations.

    OK? The reviled evopsych story was tacked on at the end as a speculative explanation for empirical patterns in the data. Not a Conclusion of the study, let alone a goal in the first place, as has been implied by evopsych haters. If you think the explanation is kind of stupid (as I do, although not nearly as stupid as the caricatures that people argue with–the authors never mention berries, for example, saying only that gathering requires more use of color information than hunting) that doesn’t change the data, which still require explanation.

    Now color preference is a behavior, but there is good reason to suspect that physiological color perception might differ between sexes. The L and M cone photopigments that receive the red/green end of the visible spectrum are proteins whose genes are located on the X sex chromosome, and there are multiple alleles of both in the population. Ability to distinguish among sgades of red and green apparently depends in part on the alleles expressed (people also vary in the number of copies of each gene). Being homozygous for the X (and despite X-inactivation), women ought to express more L and M alleles than males, and therefore might to be able to make finer distinctions among reddish hues. This is purely physiological, follows directly from genetics, and needs no evolutionary explanation, and of course it doesn’t say anything about preference.

    different languages can chart colours in different ways, which probably influences the way native speakers understand the world

    They were not asked about their preferences. They were pointing at colored rectangles. Language did not enter into it.

  48. 48
    keithroragen

    It occurs to me that I became an atheist after I moved into a pink house. So perhaps there is something to the idea of the color pink not keeping the evil spirits away. Either way, I think I’ll keep it.

  49. 49
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    ChasPeterson:

    OK? The reviled evopsych story was tacked on at the end as a speculative explanation for empirical patterns in the data. Not a Conclusion of the study, let alone a goal in the first place, as has been implied by evopsych haters.

    Surely, you see why tacking on badly flawed speculations at the end of a study is exactly the kind of thing that discredit evopsych research… And why we criticise Ben Radford for using this study as evidence that some sort of evolutionary pressure made women prefer pink! I hope you emailed him the above information too ;-)

    They were not asked about their preferences. They were pointing at colored rectangles. Language did not enter into it.

    Fine. I should have directed my question at the unwitting male sceptic who cited the story to bolster his claims.

  50. 50
    Jadehawk

    They were not asked about their preferences. They were pointing at colored rectangles. Language did not enter into it.

    not really relevant, since the point was that language affects the way we see colors (specifically, the way we distinguish between them; see stupid “it’s all more or less white” jokes about home renovation)

  51. 51
    remusshepherd

    Pardon my Neanderthal-like sensibilities, but I always thought the color division came from physiology. The veins in an erect penis are blue; the color of an aroused vagina is pink.

    Colorblindness is a better explanation, though. I’m red/green colorblind myself, and blue is my favorite color because it’s the one I can identify best.

  52. 52
    PZ Myers

    Tacked on? It’s in the title! “Biological components of sex differences in color preference.”

    The study does not in any way by any stretch of the imagination extract any biological components contributing to sex differences.

  53. 53
    daenyx

    You know, I heard the phrase ‘evo-psych fanfic’ elsewhere recently, and that really seems appropriate here. It’s embarrassing that this crap got published somewhere people will actually see it.

  54. 54
    mikeg

    Now color preference is a behavior, but there is good reason to suspect that physiological color perception might differ between sexes. The L and M cone photopigments that receive the red/green end of the visible spectrum are proteins whose genes are located on the X sex chromosome, and there are multiple alleles of both in the population. Ability to distinguish among sgades of red and green apparently depends in part on the alleles expressed (people also vary in the number of copies of each gene). Being homozygous for the X (and despite X-inactivation), women ought to express more L and M alleles than males, and therefore might to be able to make finer distinctions among reddish hues. This is purely physiological, follows directly from genetics, and needs no evolutionary explanation, and of course it doesn’t say anything about preference.

    This. Now class, any questions?

  55. 55
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    @ anniemoore:

    Ouch. That must have sucked.

    @ daenyx:

    I haven’t read the phrase “evo-psych fanfic”, but it’s perfect :-)

  56. 56
    Grimalkin

    What bothers me about this is how easily it could be turned around if the color stereotypes were opposite.

    “Men gained a preference towards reddish hues to aide in detecting blood on prey/themselves/the ground/whatever while hunting, whereas women gained a preference towards blue to detect the blue hues of certain berries.”

    Which sounds like bullshit, putting it about on the same level as the argument used here.

    It’s a shame really. I like psychology, and I think it’s interesting to think how evolution could have aided psychological development, but damn does the field seem to be full of “I think this thing that is bullshit is true, so I’m going to think of a reason that uses evolution to prove it”.

  57. 57
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    It’s not just the pink either. The “girls’” aisle is so flowery and princessy and juvenile-looking. It’s like they want girls to be three years old forever. When I was 7 (late ’70s) I wanted to be a doctor and my favourite “toys” were a) a microscope–which was black, btw and b) a set of large cards (maybe 7″ X 9″) that named and described the bones in the human body. I also had green slime, and Lego, a Big Wheel (red & blue & yellow), and Star Wars action figures, and Hot Wheels cars, and silly putty. I played “spy” and “superhero” more often than I played “house”. I also jumped rope and wore dresses half the time (my favourite was midnight blue) and loved horses. And my girl friends were about the same–what would today be considered “tomboyish” was just normal. Now, if you want a microscope or Lego or a bike that isn’t pinkified and made to look like something for a toddler, you have to shop in the “boys” aisle. It’s disgusting.

    And the idea that girls are biologically predisposed to love pink so this ghettoisation is a-ok, is just ridiculous. Anyone who’s read any history of fashion or art history (or even watched any movies set in previous eras or in other cultures) would know better. Let’s see….who’s in blue and who’s in pink?

    Oh and this a boy too, got up in pink AND lace. I won’t even mention the ringlets.

  58. 58
    littlejohn

    Consider the color of the genitals of sexually aroused men and women, especially those with light skin color. Could it be that simple?

  59. 59
    jopaoletti

    Oh how I lovve actual research, as opposed to whatever that Ben Radford does. I tried to break the whole pink timeline down in detail, for the curious-minded, on my Pink and Blue blog.

  60. 60
    jasonmartin99

    Actually, does anyone remember back in the late 80s when Don Johnson’s character on Miami Vice helped kicked off a fashion trend where it was cool for men to wear pink? I was a teenager in the late 80s and there was a time when we were all doing our Miami Vice thing and wearing pink, but maybe that was not a more general trend, I’m not sure. Maybe some of you will remember.

  61. 61
    Wishful Thinking Rules All

    PZ, we’ve explained Pink. It goes like this. Dolls have pink skin. Girls play with dolls. Therefore girls like pink, and everything is dressed in pink. Action figures have pink skin. Boys play with action figures. Therefore boys like …. non-pink and everything is dressed in… non-pink. Makes perfect sense somehow! Ben Radford is my hero!

    /sarcasm

    Seriously, now, I cannot let Ben live down that bone headed remark. The whole fucking aisle of girls toys seems to be pink, with dolls dressed in pink from head to toe, yet he TWICE makes the argument that it has to do with skin color of the dolls, even though boy action figures have the same skin color, yet don’t wear pink clothes!?

    After Rebecca and that other lady made fun of him for this stupid argument, he just made it again. Ridiculous.

  62. 62
    Emrysmyrddin

    More ‘just-so’ wankery. Berries? BERRIES?! Please. He doesn’t only taint psychology with this bullcrap, but history too. ‘For millenia’? Fucking [citation needed], Mister Radford.

  63. 63
    yoav

    Since their claim is that women are actually better at distinguishing reds not just prefer them why do a preference test, which is open to cultural biases and not test whether women can actually distinguish between closer hues of red then men. Maybe it’s the cynic in me but I wouldn’t be shocked to find out they actually did such an experiment but just ignored it when it didn’t support their preexisting conclusion.

  64. 64
    Amphiox

    Ok, if the selection pressure for red-hued preference were actually sensitivity for the flush of fever/illness in infants, wouldn’t that suggest that woman-the-baby-maker-caregiver should be biologically inclined to HATE pink? (And be extremely sensitive to it, such that the color pink would have to completely expunged, utterly, from all objects marketed to girls and their mothers, lest it trigger the “oh no my baby is sick and dying” instinct, and drive them away in droves?)

    And wouldn’t you think that man-the-manly-meat-eating-killing-machine should also evolve a sensitivity to red, seeing that red coloration on a prey animal could be an indication of a bleeding wound, and therefore an easy target?

    An alternate water-cooler hypothesis I heard years back was that men are actually biologically inclined to love pink. But, due to relatively recent cultural trends strongly discouraging them from embracing their pinkiphelia, they instinctively satisfy this biological urge by buying pink gifts for their daughters, teaching their daughters to like pink, and projecting the pink-preference onto them.

  65. 65
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    It’s the evopsych bullshit gender trifecta: berries, fake cavemen and rationalization of current culture trends using magic history. Seriously, this shit comes up almost every fucking time one of those guys wants to talk about gender.

    I’d feel sorry for them, but as a woman, I’m too busy gathering berries to be able to be rational. Or something.

  66. 66
    Rey Fox

    Is Ling’s paper basically saying “we don’t know”?

    Every scientific paper basically says “we don’t know”.

    Could it be that simple?

    No.

  67. 67
    NitricAcid

    If I tried to get my wife to pick the berries at our house, I’d never get any wine made.

    Oh hey- how about, “Women have always done the cooking, so they need to be able to identify the exact shade of pink that tells you when the steak is just right, and thus their eyes are evolutionarily made to do so”? And men like to spend the day fishing, so they have to figure out the conditions of the sea and weather by judging the exact shade of blue!

    Do I get a Masters in Evo-Psych for that?

  68. 68
    Emrysmyrddin

    Do I get a Masters in Evo-Psych for that?

    Unfortunately, the answer seems to be ‘Yes’.

  69. 69
    Aquaria

    As someone born so far at the tail end of the boomers, that I don’t think of myself as one of those losers, it’s been long enough that I can’t remember all my toys. However, I do remember that my mother and grandmother were big on giving me “girl” toys–tea sets, dolls, bake sets and so on. I especially got a lot of Barbie, since I liked to dress up my dolls, and she had the most clothes to choose from back then.

    So I know loser boomer girl toys, and I don’t recall there being much pink at all. There were tea sets in primary reds and blues and greens and white. The dollhouses were a lot of earth tones if the girls were older, primary sets if they were younger, and swinging 60s oranges, yellows and green the rest of the time, with maybe an occasional pastel set. The boxes that dolls came in were an astounding array of colors.

    Here’s a glimpse at the color schemes of the Barbies I do remember:

    My Miss America Barbie (ca 1971) was dressed in white with a red robe (and a gold crown). My Malibu Barbie came in a pink and white box and wore baby blue. My Growing Hair Barbie had a pink dress, but came in a blue box. I had another one, and she was wearing fire-engine red and came in the same blue box. I had a hippie Barbie who was wearing this wild print of red, maroon, pink and white, and there’s no way the outfit she was wearing would pass muster now.

    Even the accessories and add-ons weren’t all pink. A typical Barbie setup in my youth would–gasp–have no pink at all!

    The pink thing seemed to take over sometime in the mid- to late-80s or maybe early 90s. I know girl toys weren’t swimming in pink in the early 80s, because I bought the Barbie camping van for a niece’s birthday. It was not pink. There was more of it than I remembered from being a kid then, but not the saturation of the stuff that we have today.

    I was shocked when I went down a toy aisle in the early 90s to buy presents for one of my sons’ female playmates, and nearly puked my guts up at so much pink.

    So this isn’t a boomer thing. This is a Gen X thing.

  70. 70
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    @ Emrysmyrddin:

    You gotta love those stereotypes about hunting-gathering. Of course, it’s berries, and red berries, at that! There’s no yellow or blue edible wild fruit… And you can’t find any other kind of plant-derived food in nature, either: no roots, rhizomes, seeds, sugary stems and bark, etc. Oh, and hunting-gathering women never catch small animals, insects or shellfish while foraging. Well-known truth. As is the absence of biological influence on modern humans of thousands of years of agricultural societies in several parts of the globe!

    *shakes head in disgust*

  71. 71
    hypatiasdaughter

    Umm, but little girls DON’T choose and pay for pink toys (not having credit cards & such). Grown-ups do. Often the gifts are for kids you don’t know too well (your niece, your child’s schoolmate’s birthday party, etc). You stand in the toy aisles thinking “Hmm, what are kids their age interested in? Is it a BOY or a GIRL?” If a girl, you run to the Pink Aisle and pick anything out – because the toy makers and retailers are assuring you, this is just what little girls LOVE!
    Adults frequently have their prejudices firmly entrenched (girls like pink) and, if you are trying to solve an immediate problem (“Need a gift for tomorrow. Need a gift for tomorrow.”), you’re not going to do a deep philosophical analysis about its color.
    I suspect, for example, that pink lego & pinkertoys are intended to appeal more to adult buyers, who were avoiding them as gifts for girls, because they are “boy toys”.

    I dressed my babies (girl & 2 boys) in green & yellow. Drove most people nuts because they couldn’t get an instant read on their sex. That says a lot about cultural conditioning.
    #12 elaineballou
    Remember, all cats are “she” and all dogs are “he”. Which must be where “Dogs will marry cats” originated.

  72. 72
    Emrysmyrddin

    You’re right, Irene – it’s as if they’re holding up the nice and neat conclusion they’ve drawn with some sort of internal, moth-eaten school textbook from the turn of the 1850s. It’s disturbing to me on another level because of this – the idealisation of ancient cavemen as they imagine him and his lifestyle to have been as some sort of manual for (naturalistic fallacy peeping) the right way to live, a more ‘primitive’ but ‘better suited’, natural society. Women in furkinis gathering naught but berries and blooms, while him and the rest of the lads go out hunting wildebeest with Very Big Clubs, oh yes.

  73. 73
    Susannah

    My favourite colours have always been red, green and purple, in that order. Deep, strong shades of all three. I have never liked pastels, except in sunsets.

    I’m getting on; I was a child in the 1940s. I don’t remember any girls wearing pink. Not even my dolls. I certainly never wore anything pink until I was nearly 20, and then only a couple of times.

    My mom did up my room for me when I was 13, with curtains and vanity skirt in a frilly, flowery, feminine deep blue.

    These days, with pink being used as a “comfort colour” for breast cancer victims, and a “woman’s place is in the kitchen” colour for appliances, I refuse to buy anything pink, or packaged in pink. I don’t like being condescended to: “Yes, we know this is difficult/unpleasant, but take heart! Here it is in PINK! Pink will cheer you up!” Yeccch!

  74. 74
    pinkboi

    Maybe he is misinterpreting something Desmond Morris said:

    “Blue for a boy and pink for a girl” is not a biological saying, it is a religious one, dating from the time when boys were thought to be heavenly (the blue of the heavenly skies) and girls were thought to be earthy (the pink of earthly flesh).

    I do recall that he mentioned in some other cultures earthtones are more associated with women (rather than shocking pink) on The Human Animal. He certainly has spent much of his early career spreading many of the hunter-gatherer stereotypes we’re stuck with (partly recanting later on, being married to a feminist) but it’s really in the hands of nit-wits who misinterpret the original ideas that they become damaging.

    (It should go without saying that “pinkboi” doesn’t agree with “blue for boys, pink for girls”)

  75. 75
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Pink for girls is a convention of the baby boomer generation.

    To my knowledge, it’s the other way around.
    We’ve already covered that it used to be the other way round: Red = blood, bravery = men, pink, the little red = boys, the little men.
    Blue = Virgin Mary = women, light blue = girls*
    Blue came into fashion for boys when the colour blue became associated with men, through blue-collar jobs. And pink was more or less the complimentary stuff that was left for girls.

    Remembering my childhood in the 80′s, we were all dressed more or less alike in screaming colour-combinations (later the neon-colours came into fashion, they still make me quiver). My kindergarten pics seem to confirm this. We were also just dressed in normal clothes the day the photographer came.
    On my daughter’s pics you always have several girls wearing bridal-style dresses and tiaras.
    This has happened during the last 15 years or so. A friend of mine has three children, the oldest being 13 and a girl, with the later 2 being boys, the youngest being 9, so they followed one another quickly.
    She tells that when her second child was born, she could still buy “unisex” clothes, that neither said explicitly “boy”, nor “girl”. Those items became less and less and less, so when her youngest started kindergarten, she couldn’t buy stuff anymore that she could hand down from #1 to #2.

    *Please remember that fabric and dye, especially bright colours, were expensive luxery goods, so the kids would often have their clothing made from the fabric their parents’ clothing used to be made out of, after it had been worn down.

  76. 76
    feralboy12

    I was a teenager in the late 80s and there was a time when we were all doing our Miami Vice thing and wearing pink, but maybe that was not a more general trend, I’m not sure. Maybe some of you will remember.

    I remember. I also remember that I had beaten him to the punch, wearing pink in the early 1980′s. I was a young musician, though, and ignoring conventions was to be expected. Also, I was performing a lot of 1950′s music, including some Elvis–who not only wore some pink, he had that legendary pink Cadillac. To me, pink is a rock ‘n roll color–looks good with black.

  77. 77
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I always found “Barbie pink” very annoying. All my Barbies’ outfit were chosen in the variety of colors that were not the characteristic Barbie pink. I think the pinkification started for real when I was already a bit older(I was born in 86), and it made me despise the color. I have only started wearing an occasional pink nail polish a few years ago. Even now, the only pink part of my wardrobe is a scarf, and even that one was a gift.

  78. 78
    carlie

    These days, with pink being used as a “comfort colour” for breast cancer victims, and a “woman’s place is in the kitchen” colour for appliances, I refuse to buy anything pink, or packaged in pink. I don’t like being condescended to: “Yes, we know this is difficult/unpleasant, but take heart! Here it is in PINK! Pink will cheer you up!” Yeccch!

    pink power tools

    pink handguns

    Ugh.

  79. 79
  80. 80
    Dabu

    It might be the 21st century, but whenever I suggest that a baby could be dressed in the “wrong” color, the reactions suggest that asking someone to chew on a live scorpion would be far more reasonable.

    Besides, since pink is a fake color, I’m not sure we should be dressing anyone in it at all. People are far more likely to be taken seriously when dressed in a shade that maps onto the light spectrum. (Well, that’s my theory and I’ll believe it till the evidence comes in)

  81. 81
    Shplane, Spess Alium

    Even if there was an innate preference for one color or another, what would that have to do with baby toys/clothes? Kids that young rarely get to pick what their parents by for them. Gender-based color preferences would play no part.

  82. 82
    Frank Asshole

    First of all, I am weeping upon lack of understanding evolution with psychologists. I am mere ethologist with speciality in homo sapiens and near species (yes i am fukin psychologist with strong biological background in education). Evolutionary approach to understand human behaviour is based on comparative studies between closely related species like rhesus maccaca to give an example. I can in a hurry provide two studies (http://www.x-gender.net/biogender/alexander-etal-02.pdf and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2583786/) with some evidence directing to hormone related toy preferences slightly biased toward colours.
    I want to share my observation on evolution in psychology. Usually is heavily underestimated or ridicously overestimated. You have to compare the behaviour to eradicate socialization, complex cognition etc. Evolutionary studies of human are worthless without our primate cousins. Evolutionary psychology is a very tough terrain. It requires broad knowledge of physiology, genetics. I have seen so much errors in just processing of informations about other species’ behaviour. It’s hard to understand that only “super male” (SRY + high level of testosterone or dihydrotestosterone in prenatal period which is more reliable predictor of secondary sex qualities than actual level of sex hormones in adult’s body) are uber agressive, prefer stereotypical boy toys and colder colours. “super female” (XX and very little of testosterone) show more of caring behaviour and warmer colors etc. But being super male, super female or close, is not required nowadays to survive and reproduce to spread genes. So there is much more variations. Imagine, contemporary, very caring, tender and totally nonaggresive male 250,000 years ago in fight for a female.
    [another hormone related study; girls with hyperplasia (http://www.psych.umn.edu/courses/spring06/mcguem/psy5137/readings/servin%202003.pdf)] To sum up, if you want to wrestle with evolution do your science properly. I personally think that EvoPsych is a brilliant metatheory for a general psychology, but researchers need to be intelectually honest and with broad knowledge. Sorry for a long-ish lament but that topic is close for me :)

  83. 83
    Susannah

    carlie #78;
    My power drill is black. The skill saw is red. Screwdrivers have yellow handles; so does one of the hammers. Pliers have red or black handles. Not a hint of pink in the lot. Good thing, or I’d have to work inside only, or else the neighbours would point and laugh.

  84. 84
    Frank Asshole

    Also, to be not off topic. Color preferences are slight biases. Socialization do the huge work. Toy producers have to sell, so they exagerrated those biases. My younger sis was growing up on my “sexless” Lego blocks, and she turned out rather good (no delays in social or intellectual development :D). Stick in ass to junk-pop-science. So popular in psychology. You can do great science in this field if you dare to overcome human cognitive biases.

  85. 85
    kristinc, now with added ventilation

    Given that ripe fruits come in approximately a bizillion different colors, wouldn’t … uh … SMELL be a better way for us to have evolved telling what’s ripe? (I butchered that phrasing, I know, but I give not a single fuck.)

    Does anyone contend that women are more likely to get all waterymouthed at the scent of ripe fruit? Oh! I know! Obviously that’s why we like perfume, and men like being rank and sweaty! *eyeroll*

  86. 86
    ll11

    Glad to see this, PZ. I’ve considered this paper in particular to be the archetype of credulous evopsych woo since it came out, and I’m glad to see it addressed.

  87. 87
    NitricAcid

    #85- That would explain why men can never smell when it’s time to take the garbage out.

  88. 88
    kristinc, now with added ventilation

    NitricAcid: IT ALL MAKES SENSE, SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGH!!!!eleventy!

  89. 89
    Jadehawk

    oh fuck. vervets. why won’t that piece of shit die!?

  90. 90
    kristinc, now with added ventilation

    An alternate water-cooler hypothesis I heard years back was that men are actually biologically inclined to love pink. But, due to relatively recent cultural trends strongly discouraging them from embracing their pinkiphelia, they instinctively satisfy this biological urge by buying pink gifts for their daughters, teaching their daughters to like pink, and projecting the pink-preference onto them.

    I’ve seen a plausible argument made along these lines for the phenomenon of women supposedly loving diamonds. Guys aren’t allowed to wear sparkly things or get excited about them, but pretty much everyone appreciates a good sparkle, so that enthusiasm gets channeled into buying sparkly things for women.

    I was a small child in the 80s and I don’t remember everything being pink like this, nor do I remember such high expectations that most little girls would be interested in fashion and expected to look pretty. Even “girly” toys like play kitchens and doll beds came in a variety of colors, as far as I recall, and the fairy/mermaid/princess dolls I was crazy about always came in a rainbow of shades (think about the original line of My Little Pony toys: at least as many brown, blue, green, gray and yellow ponies as pink and purple ones).

    When my nephew was born in 1989, it was easy for my mom and me to find gender-neutral baby clothing at any store — whole sections of green and yellow and purple stuff.

    I do believe we’re in an antifeminist backlash right now. I’m raising my own little girl and it worried the crap out of me.

  91. 91
    NitricAcid

    And why we constantly leave the toilet lid up! The smell doesn’t bother us!

  92. 92
    freemage

    Can we schedule an extra trip behind the woodshed for the article author for this quote:

    Another theory suggests that women, as caregivers who need to be particularly sensitive to, say, a child flushed with fever, have developed a sensitivity to reddish changes in skin color, a skill that enhances their abilities as the “emphathizer.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure this sort of thing barely qualifies as a hypothesis, let alone an actual ‘theory’ in the sense one should be required to use the word when discussing science. And the ongoing debasement of the word just feeds, ultimately, into the ‘It’s just a theory’ crapola we’re all too familiar with.

  93. 93
    carlie

    My power drill is black. The skill saw is red. Screwdrivers have yellow handles; so does one of the hammers. Pliers have red or black handles. Not a hint of pink in the lot.

    If someone were giving me a gift of a power tool, I would much prefer it to be in Makita blue. :)

  94. 94
    alexhays

    I dare… I double-dog dare anyone to tell these Palermo ultras that pink is a girl’s color. Yea, that’s right. Palermo. Sicily.

  95. 95
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    If someone were giving me a gift of a power tool, I would much prefer it to be in Makita blue. :)

    I’d prefer it to be working ;)
    No, seriously, when I go shopping for tools I look for stuff like their power, applicances, do I really need the extra powefull version, what steel are the bits made of and all such nonsense.
    Yes, the toolbox is mummy’s toybox.

  96. 96
    kristinc, now with added ventilation

    If only stanky toilets smelled more like mammoth, then you would be exquisitely sensitive to them. Granted, you’d probably be trying to chase them.

  97. 97
    feralboy12

    Is it just me, or is anyone else seeing pink in damn near every ad on this site today?
    Not that I’m complaining.
    Odd factoid from my life: in 1966 my family moved into an old house with a bedroom that the previous tenants (pre-teen girls, I think) had painted pink, right over the old wallpaper. I shared that bedroom with an older brother until moving out in 1977; we never got around to repainting. I just never worried about it, at least not the color. I must say, though, that painted wallpaper looks kind of crappy.

  98. 98
    carlie

    FUCK NOT THE VERVETS.

    Dude, go to the scienceblogs version of Pharyngula and search for vervets and color. Then go vicariously have the arguments there in the old threads so we don’t have to do it again, please? I’m pretty sure anything you’d like to say about it was said in one of them or another at some point.

  99. 99
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I can in a hurry provide two studies (http://www.x-gender.net/biogender/alexander-etal-02.pdf and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2583786/) with some evidence directing to hormone related toy preferences slightly biased toward colours.

    HAHAHA!

    ***

    oh fuck. vervets. why won’t that piece of shit die!?

    I’m partially at fault, according to Chas, for making so much fun of it, thus pushing it up on Google. Seriously.

  100. 100
    Susannah

    If someone were giving me a gift of a power tool, I would much prefer it to be in Makita blue. :)

    Nice! Next on my list; a good cordless screwdriver. I think they come in Makita red, though.

  101. 101
    dianne

    If someone were giving me a gift of a power tool, I would much prefer it to be in Makita blue. :)

    I prefer mine to come with a competent artisen who knows how to use said tool. I’m just not a “handy” person myself. OTOH, anyone who gives me expensive electronics can be sure that they will be used and I will not complain about the color selection.

  102. 102
    C.C.Fuss, backup angry dude in a skirt

    So, hunters would need the ability to detect prey lurking in bushes or long grass. But evidently, this wouldn’t require the ability to discriminate reddish colours from greenish ones.

    And yeah, most animals aren’t pink. But they’re just about as close to pink as babies’ skin tones (especially non-caucasian babies), or most berries and fruits.

    I tell you, if I were to see a baby whose skin shade was girl-toy pink, I would freak the fuck out.

  103. 103
    strange gods before me ॐ

    I’m partially at fault, according to Chas, for making so much fun of it, thus pushing it up on Google. Seriously.

    Bwahaha! Not at ScienceBlogs though. They use nofollow.

    It’s possible (predictable, really) that links from your blog would have this effect. You can go back to those posts and add rel=”nofollow” to your <a href> tags, like so:

    <a href="http://www.example.com/&quot; rel="nofollow">

  104. 104
    myeck waters

    carlie #98

    FUCK NOT THE VERVETS.

    I remember that one. Not as strong as TOUCH NOT THE CAT but a worthy sequel.

  105. 105
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Aw fuck. But you get the idea.

  106. 106
    feralboy12

    I tell you, if I were to see a baby whose skin shade was girl-toy pink, I would freak the fuck out.

    My first thought would be carbon monoxide poisoning.

  107. 107
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    So, hunters would need the ability to detect prey lurking in bushes or long grass. But evidently, this wouldn’t require the ability to discriminate reddish colours from greenish ones.

    Yes, that’s something I ask myself every time somebody makes the similar stupid argument at why apparently some men are so terrible at finding the butter in the fridge.
    You know the womyn-folks stayed at home and tiedied up the cave while the menz-folks went to hunt.
    Therefore us womyns are good for spotting wher Ugh put the spearhead again, while the menz couldn’t be bothered with details. I was always wondering how they were able to find traces, footprints, spills of blood if they were evolutionarily selected against finding the fucking butter in the fridge.

  108. 108
    Emrysmyrddin

    FUCK NOT THE VERVETS

    TOUCH NOT THE CAT

    Fuck, this is why I read this blog.

  109. 109
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    To sum up, if you want to wrestle with evolution do your science properly.

    Indeed.

    Sorry for a long-ish lament but that topic is close for me :)

    Given that the studies you cite have been dismantled here, at my blog, and at length in Delusions of Gender and you’re unaware of it, I’m guessing that what you’re close to are silly biases.

    ***

    Dude, go to the scienceblogs version of Pharyngula and search for vervets and color.

    The vervet piece of trash wasn’t even about color. They just threw that guess in at the end, presumably after realizing that they had to come up with some rationale for the female “preference” for the, ahem, cooking pan which happened to be reddish.

  110. 110
    SallyStrange

    Still giggling like a fool over

    FUCK NOT THE VERVETS

    TOUCH NOT THE CAT

    Hoo boy. Yeah, moments like that are what sets Pharyngula apart from the rest.

  111. 111
    Evader, the parasite-infested branch on the evolutionary tree

    Excellent work Professor.

    I have nothing to add to this discussion, just wanted to thank you for reminding me why I fell in love with your blog.

    You should know how to serve someone with evidence and intelligence. A deadly combination.

  112. 112
    Walton

    Pop Evolutionary Psychology™ in three easy steps!

    (1) Identify an apparent difference between men’s and women’s behaviour, attitudes or preferences. If you can’t find any evidence of such a difference, just make one up, and support it with a single anecdote about something your ex-girlfriend once said in 1982.

    (2) Assert that this difference has existed since the dawn of human history and is biologically innate. Don’t worry about any evidence from history, sociology or anthropology which suggests otherwise: after all, those are “soft” sciences, so you don’t have to engage with them.

    (3) Make up a convenient just-so story about the “evolutionary” reasons for the existence of this difference. Again, ignore any possible evidence that the difference might be derived from social conditioning and cultural sexism.

  113. 113
    Evader, the parasite-infested branch on the evolutionary tree

    Bah! The above of mine was meant to say, you SURE* KNOW HOW TO SERVE SOMEONE. Not you should know… Because you DO know (:

    Caffeine is only working intermittently for me today it seems.

  114. 114
    ChasCPeterson

    I’m partially at fault, according to Chas, for making so much fun of it, thus pushing it up on Google. Seriously.

    I never said that.
    Quote me if you can.
    You can’t.

  115. 115
    hillaryrettig

    I look forward to the evopsych explanation of why only women wear those sweatpants that say “Pink” on the ass.

  116. 116
    Alareth

    Pink does not exist.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9dqJRyk0YM

    You can’t argue with physics.

  117. 117
    Koshka

    In Russia, pink is the colour for boys and light blue for girls. The word for light blue is also used as slang for gay, in a mirror of my experiences as a youth that if a boy wore pink he was a “poofta”.

    Rather a large population that is conveniently ignored.

  118. 118
    Moggie

    FUCK NOT THE VERVETS

    TOUCH NOT THE CAT

    ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE

  119. 119
    Rey Fox

    pink power tools

    pink handguns

    Pink bullets.

  120. 120
    Rey Fox

    FUCK NOT THE VERVETS

    TOUCH NOT THE CAT
    ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE

    THE DETAILS ARE UNIMPORTANT

  121. 121
    jimmy60

    You can’t stereotype one gender without stereotyping the other.

    A little boy is allowed to play with dolls as long as his dolls dress in green and carry firearms.

    As a parent to one of each, I started to suspect a conspiracy to discourage girls from being mechanically inclined. Their toys, any which required assembly, were frequently of shoddy quality. Manuals were difficult to read and parts often didn’t fit well. While a similar boy’s toy was typically much easier to assemble. While I did all the assembling, (I live to assemble shit) I always thought that this must be discouraging to the little girl who tried to put her own Barbie car together. She might even think she was incapable somehow.

  122. 122
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I never said that.
    Quote me if you can.
    You can’t.

    You lose!:

    I will admit my surprise to have seen that link posted. That said, I’d wager that you are in fact partially responsible for any googlerank it’s got.

  123. 123
    NitricAcid

    #117- I am reliably informed that in Ukraine in the Soviet era, to call someone a yellow-light blue was to call them a radical separatist (a reference to the Ukrainian flag).

    It is interesting that anglophones seem to think of pink as being a separate colour from red, while other languages (Ukrainian for sure, I think also Russian and Italian) split the light blue and dark blue areas of the spectrum into two colours (and nobody buys Newton’s “blue and indigo” nonsense, since anything dyed with indigo is called “blue” by everyone. Blue jeans, for example, are never referred to as “indigo jeans”).

  124. 124
    Frank Asshole

    Given that the studies you cite have been dismantled here, at my blog, and at length in Delusions of Gender and you’re unaware of it, I’m guessing that what you’re close to are silly biases.
    Those studies were poorly conducted? What’s your argument against. i don’t get it. I am fully aware of overwhelming input from social environment, multidimensional aspect of gender, discarding strict male/female distinction. i can assure you that i’m not basing my whole knowledge on these studies alone. It’s just a “part” of it. i found this studies when i was looking on non socially-aquired sex differences in behaviour. it was an argument that hormones matter (like the study on girls with hyperplasia). in “fuckin vervets” articles i remembered there was some kind of information about colors so i posted it. thanks for extra awareness.

  125. 125
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Those studies were poorly conducted?

    The vervet study is ridiculous.

    What’s your argument against.

    You can do a search on ‘vervets toys pharyngula’, go to my post, or read Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender. In fact, just read the damn book (at least part 2), and don’t make any more assertions or link to any more studies on the subject until you have.

    i don’t get it.

    That’s plain.

  126. 126
    NitricAcid

    If people split the blues up at all, it’s never “blue and indigo” (unless the person was forced to memorize RoyGBiv in elementary school), but “cyan and blue”, and “pink” is a much more common term in English than “cyan”.

  127. 127
  128. 128
    SallyStrange

    SMELL NOT THE MAMMOTHS

  129. 129
    NitricAcid

    NEVER SNIFF A GIFT FISH

  130. 130
    michellezapf-belanger

    I highly doubt boys were “always” swaddled in blue. Blue was a pretty expensive dye for most of history. Why waste it on swaddling blankets?

    No, babies through the ages have been swaddled in beige, white, brown, and grey, the colours you get from making undyed fabric from wool, cotton, etc.

  131. 131
    SallyStrange

    No, babies through the ages have been swaddled in beige, white, brown, and grey, the colours you get from making undyed fabric from wool, cotton, etc.

    RACISM: EXPLAINED

    /evo-psych

  132. 132
    'Tis Himself

    Aquaria #69

    As someone born so far at the tail end of the boomers, that I don’t think of myself as one of those losers

    Bless your pointy little head.

  133. 133
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Aquaria:

    The pink thing seemed to take over sometime in the mid- to late-80s or maybe early 90s.

    There was some pink creep in the late 80′s/early 90′s (anecdote! My little sister’s toys (she was born in ’88) had more pink than mine did (’81)), but my guess is that things didn’t go WHOA PINK! until the past 10 years or so.

    But, anyway, yeah it’s a Gen X (and Millennial) problem, not a Baby Boomer problem.

    walton:

    Identify an apparent difference between men’s and women’s behaviour, attitudes or preferences. If you can’t find any evidence of such a difference, just make one up, and support it with a single anecdote about something your ex-girlfriend once said in 1982.

    Damn, I fuckin’ love you, man. :D

  134. 134
    pHred

    @129 Great, now I have DON’T SNIFF A GIFT FISH IN THE MOUTH
    stuck in my head. Ick, ick, ick !

  135. 135
    WordsOfAWizard

    I don’t like solid colors, but I love repeating geometric patterns. All of my sweaters are argyle. I must have descended from a tribe of people who used cave wallpaper to judge the value of a mate.

    GOGO POWER EVO-PSYCH

  136. 136
    NitricAcid

    Sorry, pHred- I didn’t realize there was a song with that name. I was thinking of the book by Patrick McManus.

  137. 137
    evilDoug

    “pink” is a much more common term in English than “cyan”.

    Before color printers hit the desktop, I suspect most people didn’t even know that cyan is a color.
    Many people think pink is pale red, when in reality it is (not necessarily very) pale magenta. I have some brilliant hot-pink socks that I dyed using a good primary magenta dye. (You need quite a lot of cyan with magenta to make red.)

    As for tools –
    I would buy pink tools, though certainly not an entire kit of them. Right now, I think the only pink tool I own is a pair of pliers (and I own a lot of tools).
    When I worked at the university, the tech services machine shop in the faculty of science had one machine that was painted pink. I can’t remember what it was, but I think it was a metal lathe.

    I haz pink ethernet cables.

  138. 138
    NitricAcid

    Before color printers hit the desktop, I suspect most people didn’t even know that cyan is a color.

    I learned about it from the Commodore Vic-20, long before I had a printer of any sort to go with it.

  139. 139
    C.C.Fuss, backup angry dude in a skirt
    I tell you, if I were to see a baby whose skin shade was girl-toy pink, I would freak the fuck out.

    My first thought would be carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Ah, yes. I couldn’t think of anything that would turn someone’s skin lurid pink. CO poisoning would be the closest.

    So, apparently it was adaptive for women to really love baby-just-suffocated-to-death pink. Plausible.

  140. 140
    C.C.Fuss, backup angry dude in a skirt

    Yes, that’s something I ask myself every time somebody makes the similar stupid argument at why apparently some men are so terrible at finding the butter in the fridge.

    I know right?

    Really, the thing that bugs me second-most about Evolutionary Psychology is that it seems to have mistaken confirmation bias for a valid methodology.

    The hypothesis is always that Observed Behaviour X is an adaptive trait. The method is always to come up with some supporting explanation, no matter how strained or bizarre. They don’t even try to think of what other evidence might be relevant to investigating the truth of their hypothesis. Women do Task Y, which (supposedly) requires Behaviour X, and men do not do Task Y. There! All done! Because it did not occur to us to think about it, there is no Task done by men which might require Behaviour X!

  141. 141
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    Giliell:

    She tells that when her second child was born, she could still buy “unisex” clothes, that neither said explicitly “boy”, nor “girl”. Those items became less and less and less, so when her youngest started kindergarten, she couldn’t buy stuff anymore that she could hand down from #1 to #2.

    Darn. I’m starting to suspect good ol’ commercial motives to this whole color scheme. The more your marketing segment the market, the more stuff you buy. And raising a baby is expensive, baby clothes, shoes and accessories are only used for a short time before becoming too small, and parents have an incentive for handing them down to the next little one, or to pool resources between friends… But manufacturers have an incentive to prevent them from doing so. Making girl-only and boy-only stuff is a nifty way of limiting the recycling.

  142. 142
    'Tis Himself

    Before color printers hit the desktop, I suspect most people didn’t even know that cyan is a color.

    The powerguns in David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series shot cyan bolts. The first book was published in 1979.

  143. 143
    claudiasawyer

    Several years ago I was looking to buy one of those cool digital watches with all sorts of functions.
    I’m a short small-boned female and the watches were all too big.
    I finally found a watch sized for a small person and it only came in PINK!
    Did not buy.

  144. 144
    David Marjanović

    The utility of being able to evaluate when fruit is ripe isn’t in question, and I can see where that is a likely factor in the evolution of our color vision.

    Importantly, however, trichromatic vision isn’t unique to humans. All Old World monkeys have it.

    The situation is very interesting in New World monkeys, where the males are usually red/green-blind, IIRC.

    From this, they somehow conclude that the differences are biological. If that’s true, though, they missed another major conclusion: compare the color preferences of Chinese men, in the bottom graph, to UK women, in the top graph.

    LOL! Pure pwnage. =8-)

    boys were “knave girls”

    Makes sense insofar as, in German, Knabe is the literary word for “boy” even today.

    Also, in northern Germany, there’s an apparently gender-neutral word for “annoying brat” that varies between Gör (grammatically neuter) and Göre (grammatically feminine).

    (P.s. Unfortunately my nuclear reactor lego play set needs some revamping.)

    Nookular! The word is nookular!
    – Homer Simpson

    All trough history (from Greek to modern day) its been a magical opera of clothing styles, makeup, wigs and tights most men wouldn’t be caught dead in the modern day.

    “Finally! Let’s get out of these women’s clothes and into our tights!”
    – Robin Hood: Men in Tights

    a little like in English there is light blue and dark blue

    (…for which there are completely different words in Russian, while we are at it.)

    Then they mention the alternative cultural-socialization hypothesis:

    Yet while these differences may be innate, they may also be modulated by cultural context or individual experience.

    Um, no, they don’t consider it an alternative. They think culture or “individual experience” may add to the innate differences; they don’t seem to consider, at least not explicitly, the possibility that the differences may not be innate in the first place.

    see stupid “it’s all more or less white” jokes about home renovation

    Where can I find some?

    The veins in an erect penis are blue

    …which isn’t very well visible amid all the red.

    It’s the evopsych bullshit gender trifecta: berries, fake cavemen and rationalization of current culture trends using magic history.

    *snortle* FTW!

    Remember, all cats are “she” and all dogs are “he”.

    *blink* What, in English, too? In German it at least makes grammatical sense. Wouldn’t have expected that kind of thing to be retained in modern English.

    Women in furkinis gathering naught but berries and blooms, while him and the rest of the lads go out hunting wildebeest with Very Big Clubs, oh yes.

    ROTFL! Furkini is the word the world has been waiting for!

    To me, pink is a rock ‘n roll color–looks good with black.

    *puke* *puke* *puke*

    Sorry. I feel better now. Where were we?

    I am mere ethologist with speciality in homo sapiens

    You can’t spell it, though.

    It’s Homo sapiens. Article 5, repeated by Art. 28: capital letter on the genus name. General Recommendation 6: italics.

    FUCK NOT THE VERVETS

    TOUCH NOT THE CAT

    ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE

    THE DETAILS ARE UNIMPORTANT

    YOU HAVE NO CHANCE TO SURVIVE MAKE YOUR TIME.

    Period.

  145. 145
    David Marjanović

    HA HA HA HA . . . .

    Before color printers hit the desktop, I suspect most people didn’t even know that cyan is a color.

    Most English monoglots, you mean. When I first came across the term cyan, I wondered why there was a name for that specific shade of turquoise.

    Darn. I’m starting to suspect good ol’ commercial motives to this whole color scheme.

    Welcome to the free market!
    – Slogan of MediaMarkt® for a long time starting in 1995. Always delivered, in TV ads, in an evil laugh.

  146. 146
    John Kent

    My mother is red-green color blind. She still played with pink dolls as a child and managed to successfully procreate as an adult.

  147. 147
    canadianchick

    so if this pink toys for girls thing is so friggin’ perennial, why was the Easy Bake oven I inherited from my cousins in the 70s TURQUOISE? Sure, today they’re all pink and purple, but somehow I managed to play with a toy that wasn’t pink back then.

    Also – my Barbie Vette – yellow. Barbie’s camper (a friend had it) – also mostly yellow. Barbie’s townhouse – white with a yellow elevator and different coloured rooms. BARBIE STUFF wasn’t all pink in the 70s for crying out loud. (by the 80s the elevator in the barbie townhouse was pink)

    So if “girls have played with pink forever” is the statement, that’s really only true if forever = since the 80s.

  148. 148
    garydargan

    He is wrong about painting window frames blue. The practice he refers to is to paint the houses blue and the window frames black. It has nothing to do with the blue of “heaven”. It derives from an old superstition that black wards off the “evil eye”.

  149. 149
    A. Noyd

    Clearly the proponents of the berry-picking hypothesis haven’t done much berry picking because color is a fucking terrible way of deciding on the ripeness of a berry unless you want to distinguish between “totally inedible” and the range that covers “so sour your eyeballs will explode” through “will get you drunk if you eat too many.”

    Growing up, I liked to graze on the berries in and around Seattle and, whether it was Himalayan blackberries or salmonberries or native red huckleberries, the primary two characteristics I used to determine ripeness were tenderness and ease of picking. My picking technique involved a combination fondle-and-pull method that tested both at once. This also had the added benefit of working in late evening or when the berries were sheltered in the middle of the shrub and shaded by the trees of the forest.

  150. 150
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    It is interesting that anglophones seem to think of pink as being a separate colour from red, while other languages (Ukrainian for sure, I think also Russian and Italian) split the light blue and dark blue areas of the spectrum into two colours

    FWIW, Spanish also distinguishes between red (rojo, or, in many dialects, colorado) and pink (rosa). I think French does the same.

    In any case, while the color terms of the language(s) you speak probably affect how you categorize colors, they probably don’t affect your ability to distinguish between different colors, and it’s especially unlikely that they would affect performance on a task like the one described in this article (i.e., deciding which of two colors you prefer). That’s much more likely to be affected by cultural associations, and it’s not surprising that men in the UK are less likely than women to prefer a pinkish color–in fact, it looks like the British men are the outliers in this study; it wouldn’t surprise me that that reflects an acquired bias against pink among UK (and, if you repeated the study in the US, US) men.

  151. 151
    Jadehawk

    they probably don’t affect your ability to distinguish between different colors,

    incorrect. the experiment mentioned earlier showed color-cards to people from different language groups; those who, for example, lacked separate words for “red” and “orange”and were shown one orange and one red card couldn’t tell the two cards apart unless the cards were presented right next to each other at the same time.

  152. 152
    pHred

    I am also at a total loss with this whole red berries thing too – most of the berries we pick would fall somewhere between the inedible and “so sour your eyeballs would explode” ranges mentioned previously when they are pink. Have you tried pink strawberries ? Ick! My daughter is a wild blackberry fanatic – no icky underripe berrries for her. If this arguement made the slightest bit of sense (and you ignore all non-pink to red berries) it should mean women would not like pink at all.

  153. 153
    PS Laplace

    Figured I’d mention here as well, because this came up in a current discussion with Radford, it seems there’s a 2010 study that refutes the study Radford cited.

    Relevant sections:

    Four pairs of stimuli were used to evaluate infants’ preferences for colors on their own. These stimulus pairs examined the hypotheses that boys prefer blue and girls prefer pink, as well as that infants show these sex-typed color preferences when brightness is controlled. Two pairs of stimuli compared pink (hue=234, saturation=235, luminance=191) and blue (hue=146,saturation=240, luminance=115). To ensure that the color of the stimuli matched the shades of pink and blue of existing toys, two toys (a doll’s dress and a building block) were scanned
    directly into the computer and their shades of pink and blue were
    recorded. Because pink and blue are made up of different brightness (luminance) levels, with pink being brighter than blue, and because differences in the brightness levels of colors have been shown to modify infants’ color preferences (Cohen et al., 1979), two additional stimulus pairs were used to controlfor brightness. The pink was matched for brightness with the blue to produce red (hue=234, saturation=235, luminance=115), and the blue was matched for brightness with the pink to produce pale blue (hue = 146, saturation = 240, luminance = 191). Thus, there
    were four pairings: pink/blue; red/pale blue; pink/pale blue; and
    red/blue.

    [note: the authors claim this is the first study to control for brightness]

    We did not see sex differences in preferences for pink or
    reddish colors over blue, nor did we see sex differences in preferences for angular versus rounded shapes. Therefore, our findings did not support Alexander’s (2003) suggestion that differences in color or shape preferences explain sex differences
    in toy preferences, at least at this early stage of development.
    Indeed, the causal relationships may be the opposite. Sex differences in toy preferences may contribute to sex differences in
    preferences for colors or shapes. For example, girls may learn to
    like pink because many of the toys they play with are pink. Alternatively, or additionally, they may learn this color preference
    through social or cognitive mechanisms. For example, girls may
    learn to prefer pink through modeling older girls who like pink,
    or through cultural labeling of pink as for girls. Similar mechanisms could explain sex differences in shape preferences. In addition to suggesting that the different colors of sex-typed toys could
    drive boys and girls differential interest in them, Alexander
    (2003) has suggested that females and males may have evolved
    to prefer pink and blue, respectively, a suggestion that has been
    reiterated by others (e.g., Hurlbert & Ling, 2007). Our findings
    argue against these suggestions as well.

  154. 154
    hypatiasdaughter

    #144 David Marjanović

    “Remember, all cats are “she” and all dogs are “he”.”
    *blink* What, in English, too? In German it at least makes grammatical sense. Wouldn’t have expected that kind of thing to be retained in modern English.

    In English, nouns aren’t gendered. Both “cat” and “boy” are preceded by the gender neutral “the”. Unlike many European languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Latin and, I think, German & Russian), in which every noun is either masculine or feminine. In French, cat is a feminine noun, preceded by “la”; dog is a masculine noun, preceded by “le” – no matter what the actual sex of the animal.
    However, many people will say “She’s a pretty cat.” or “Nice looking dog. How old is he?” as though all cats are female and all dogs male.
    I suspect it is because many people think of cats as being feminine – soft, cuddly and pretty; whereas as dogs are manly – rough,tough and skilled at many jobs.
    I know, I know. It’s complete B.S. But it is an example of how deeply ingrained our prejudices about gender identity are in our society.

  155. 155
    lochaber

    uh…

    who the hell eats pink berries?
    I grew up in a rural area, and spent a lot of time eating stuff I would pull off of plants. various nuts, berries, roots, fruits, leaves, etc. (mostly berries)

    blackberries (black). blue/huckleberries (both blue). mulberries (blackish?). raspberries (black/red). some other berries I don’t know the name of (possibly barberry,wineberry,or something else) but were either blue or black. choke cherries (black(maybe really dark red?)(and not very good/mostly stone)). wild grapes (blueish? (and rather sour)). strawberries (red). rosehips (red).
    I ate all kindsa stuff I would find in the woods (not necessarily advisable, but I did exercise a sorta juvenile form of caution- taste it, if it’s at all palatable, eat a few and see if you die in a couple hours. if not, eat more the next time.) but I have a hard time remembering any of it being pink.

    also, from what I remember, most survival guides/books/courses have a really course metric of determining the edibility of berries by colour.
    I can’t remember the percents, but it’s something along the lines of:

    black: probably cool
    blue: probably won’t kill you
    red: don’t fuck around (some good, some bad, don’t eat unless you know)
    white: will probably kill you

    I don’t recall pink ever being mentioned.
    and the only instance of pink berries I can recall right now are mulberries twixt the white (nowhere near ripe) and red(still not ripe) stages.

    srsly, if there was some sort of hunter-gatherer influence for color selection based on berry color, wouldn’t we be dressing our womenfolk in blue/black?

  156. 156
    Jadehawk

    and not very good

    pfffft

  157. 157
    lochaber

    (apologies, I’m not good with the html)

    “pfffft”

    eh, I was a kid and looking for stuff to eat while wandering the wilds of rural pennsylvania. those things are like 90% stone, 9% skin, and 1% stuffthatholdsthestonetotheskin.

    not horrible, but far from great (or, even worthwhile…)

    tried them more then a few times partially cause they had ‘cherry’ in the name (how can anything*cherry*anything be bad? even sour chrerries are decent…), and a few more times just to make sure I wasn’t wrong. (I learn from my errors, but it may take a while).

    came to the conclusion that they seemed to be edible (or at least non-toxic)
    but I’d have to be pretty hard up to try and seek nourishment from them.

    granted, I’d be more then happy to try not-not-very-good specimen if I ever visit the east coast again…

  158. 158
    Jadehawk

    chokecherries are awesome (though yeah, not exactly “nourishment”). I actually once ate enough of them to find out why they’re called chokecherries :-p

  159. 159
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    hypatiasdaughter:

    In French, cat is a feminine noun, preceded by “la”; dog is a masculine noun, preceded by “le” – no matter what the actual sex of the animal.

    No, no, NO! I’m a native French speaker, and I can tell you, that’s dead wrong. “Cat” in French is a masculine noun, as is “dog”.

    We say “le chat” (the cat) and “le chien” (the dog).

    If we want to talk about a female animal, it’s a different word: “la chatte” (for a she-cat) or “la chienne” (for a bitch).

    At least check a dictionary before making assertions!

  160. 160
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    What a maroon:

    FWIW, Spanish also distinguishes between red (rojo, or, in many dialects, colorado) and pink (rosa). I think French does the same.

    Yes. It’s “rouge” for red, “rose” for pink.

  161. 161
    ChristineRose

    Cyan was well known to people who’s interest in color photography went beyond dropping the film cans off at the drugstore, as well as people who worked in the printing industry or who made TV tubes. I suspect that the average person had about as much knowledge of color theory then as now. Of course it’s all irrelevant to evolution since Wikipedia puts the first cite of cyan in 1879.

    Juneberries (at least the subspecies that I’ve munched on) are pink, and quite delicious if somewhat too seedy to really be a good source of nourishment. They aren’t quite that Pepto Bismol pink that people inflict on little girls though.

  162. 162
    lochaber

    “chokecherries are awesome (though yeah, not exactly “nourishment”). I actually once ate enough of them to find out why they’re called chokecherries :-p”

    I guess I never bothered much, since there was usually a local abundance of black/bar/rasp/wine/whatever berries that were abundant, accessible, and tasty (as well as clothes/hands-staining, but, whatever…)
    in addition to walnuts (talk about staining…) and hickory nuts (I got sent to the principal’s office as a kid for stomping on (to break the shell) these and eating them during recess-taught me the virtues of inconspicuousness…

  163. 163
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    @ christinelaing:

    Cyan must also have been known to painters, even at the amateur level. Isn’t cyan one of the colours included in children’s paint boxes?

  164. 164
    lochaber

    christinelaing: so, I’m not familiar with these Juneberries (despite wikipedia claiming they are common in the northeast(but they also list the name “serviceberry” which sounds vaguely familiar.

    anyone else familiar with pink berries?
    especially to the exclusion of other colors?

    or did most berries change color from pink to black/blue when humans transitioned to agriculture…

    or something?…

  165. 165
    AJS

    This is just pure neurosexism.

    Bring up a child in an environment where their mother, older sister, aunt, grandmother and all the women they know drink coffee; and their father, brother, grandad, uncle and so on all drink only tea. Then introduce that child to a man drinking coffee.

    I would be very surprised if their next words were anything other than “Why are you drinking a girl’s drink?”

  166. 166
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ David M.

    snortle

    Er, … that is snorFle… (People have been sent to the spanking couch for less.)

    ……..

    [Colours (note spelling)]

    {puts on Southern Drawl}: Ok ‘Merkins. I want yo’ aahl to listen up. In politics the socialist/democratic parties are RED (the colour of blood and brotherly/sisterly love) and the conservative/hater parties are BLUE (“blue bloods” and all that.) Now, puleeez get that right before the next elections start. It is very confusing how you aahl always get that the wrong way around.

  167. 167
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @theophontes, Hexanitroisowurtzitanverwendendes_Bärtierchen :

    Keeping the red flag flying there?

    ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lyg0viIUaFM&feature=related )

    There is one situation in which at least clearly knowing what your favourite colour is :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpx6XnankZ8

    Although I suspect this isn’t something encountered often in our evolutionary developnment!

    Colours can be symbolic and have associations but these are clearly pretty much culturally-driven.

  168. 168
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Generally colour symbolism (associations /connotations of various colours) varies greatly among cultures and over time adn is multi-faceted and complex.

    Purple was once the colour of empire (Roman / Byzantine?) because, I gather, the dye necessary to create it was exceedingly rare and costly. But today purple is associated with the feminist movement. (Or at least some stages /parts of it if I recall right?)

    Painters think of blue as a “cold” colour and “red” as a hot one – yet astronomers know that the hottest stars (types O & B)are blue and the coolest red whilst our Sun is actually white not yellow! (Especially as seen from space without the rayleigh scattering that makes our diurnal sky appear blue.)

    In ancient China – so I vaguely read / heard somewhere – only the Emperor could wear clothes of a certian colour – I forget exactly which.

    In the novel / film called Turtle Beach* an example of cultural confusion was shown where a woman wore her culture’s (Malaysian / Indonesian?) traditional white rather than our traditional black clothes to a funeral.

    The Green movement is synonymous with the environment and Irishmen and money.

    Black with Darth Vader (imagine how different he’d look in pink!) – black and white are traditionally seen as representing evil and good respectively – but in the original Star Wars movie that was subverted somewhat with the stormtroopers were dressed in white and the good guys wore at least some black. (Han Solo & Luke in ROtJ Ep. VI.)

    Tl, dr :

    Cultures vary and how they view different colours, what associations they have & its all far more complicated than the simplistic & rather silly explanation Radford suggests.

    —————–

    * I think it was called anyhow – read /saw it many years ago now – written by Blanche D’Alpuget I think but spelling may well be wrong – now married to Australia’s former PM Bob Hawke I think.

  169. 169
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    incorrect. the experiment mentioned earlier showed color-cards to people from different language groups; those who, for example, lacked separate words for “red” and “orange”and were shown one orange and one red card couldn’t tell the two cards apart unless the cards were presented right next to each other at the same time.

    This is what I get for thinking more than I write. Of course you’re right (and as a decidedly non-generativist linguist I’m aware of the complex and fascinating interplay between language and cognition). What I was thinking was that in the context of the study that Radford cited, where the colors were presented together on the screen, the ability to distinguish between them wouldn’t depend on the distinctions made in the subject’s language.

    In any case, just looking at the graphs that PZ reproduced here, it seems that the interesting finding is that UK men are the real outliers.

  170. 170
    Maureen Brian

    What a Maroon,

    May I recommend a short trip to Google Scholar where a search on “colour perception language” brings up 307,000 papers.

    Even if only half are relevant, that’s a lot more facts than Radord can handle.

  171. 171
    puppygod

    I’m dead tired so I might be missing something, but I took a look at methodology of that hue study and something doesn’t seem right. If I understand correctly, they did measure color preference (chose one from the pair of colors) of eight different colors all against all others. Then they calculated how often each of eight colors is chosen over others. And then they run statistics on hue value of said chosen eight colors (one of CIELUV values) against their measured preference value. The thing I’m missing is: did they established there’s linear relationship between color preference and it’s hue value, or just assumed it’s linear? Because if not, then run completly incorrect tests and all their p values are… uh, questionable.

    Could somebody with grasp of statistics and working brain take a look at their methodology to check if I’m wrong here?

  172. 172
    PS Laplace

    Are you referring to the study I posted? If so….um….I admit I’m not sure. To be honest, I grabbed that from a citation quickly to show him that there is research actively refuting his argument (since PZ ripping apart the study he used wasn’t enough). I’ll have to read through it more carefully….that said, it does reference four other studies that reproduced similar results but followed different methodology [(Adams, 1987; Bornstein, 1975;
    Franklin et al., 2006; Zentner, 2001; Chiu et al.,
    2006; Picariello et al., 1990]

  173. 173
    NitricAcid

    “Serviceberries” or “Juneberries” are another name for saskatoons, which are not pink when they are ripe, but dark purple. The ones that grow in British Columbia are rarely edible, but the ones on the prairies are delicious.

    Chokecherries, in my opinion, are awful, but they make a decent wine.

  174. 174
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    In ancient China – so I vaguely read / heard somewhere – only the Emperor could wear clothes of a certian colour – I forget exactly which.

    Yellow (or at least, a certain tone of bright golden yellow).

  175. 175
    David Marjanović

    Is everyone talking about chokecherries or chokeberries? They’re often confused according to the Pffft! of All Knowledge.

    FWIW, Spanish also distinguishes between red (rojo, or, in many dialects, colorado) and pink (rosa). I think French does the same.

    So does German nowadays. It’s a Standard Average European feature by now.

    black: probably cool

    Not so easy in Europe, where the two deadliest ones are black: death cherries and herb paris. Both can kill you.

    Speaking of black berries… blackberries are black when they’re ripe; before that, they’re red like raspberries.

    Er, … that is snorFle…

    I’ve seen both.

    Now, would you please restore the -hexaza- part of your name? pelamun simply overlooked it, so he failed to put it in the translation.

    and the conservative/hater parties are BLUE

    They’re black, heretic. Blue is for: 1) liberal parties (that means “libertarian light”, not necessarily “left”!); 2) xenophobic parties that can’t use brown (because that would be too obvious) and had a short liberal phase in their history.

    Purple was once the colour of empire (Roman / Byzantine?) because, I gather, the dye necessary to create it was exceedingly rare and costly.

    The process involves gathering thousands of snails from the sea and letting them rot in the sun.

    The Green movement is synonymous with the environment and Irishmen and money.

    Not “money”, but specifically U. S. dollars!

  176. 176
    BinJabreel

    Eh, I always figured that any potential difference in color vision between the sexes was probably just the coincidental byproduct of the fact that some of our opsin coding genes ended up on the X chromosome.

    @168
    Pretty much every culture had it’s shades of color that only the ruler was allowed to wear- usually it was whatever was the most expensive and hard to manufacture. It’s why you see the Roman and Greek emperors (and European kings, for awhile) in purple, because purple dye was stunningly hard to find.

  177. 177
    BinJabreel

    Dammit, tl:dr. Only saw the question halfway through, not the original citation.

  178. 178
    davewyman

    Each day of the Giro de Italia, the second most prominent bike race in the world, the leader wears a pink jersey. I doubt anyone of the millions who follow the race think pink is a feminine color, given that the event is composed soley of males.

    In fact, the sponsoring organization, a sporting newspaper, prints it’s stories on pink paper. The color doesn’t seem to have kept readers away.

  179. 179
    ChasCPeterson

    SC @#122:

    You lose!:

    Yeah, it seems so. Well, you win some, you lose some.
    (Of course, you left out the “partially”, which makes it a lot less ridiculous.)

  180. 180
    Jadehawk

    Is everyone talking about chokecherries or chokeberries? They’re often confused according to the Pffft! of All Knowledge.

    I’m definitely talking about chokecherries

  181. 181
    NitricAcid

    I’m also talking about chokecherries. Had never heard of chokeberries until now.

  182. 182
    pHred

    I imagine it is too late for anyone to read this, but my daughter, who is also four, when asked what color she is, answers that she is “yellow.”. Her friends are “yellow,” and “brown.”. She has never used the word pink to describe any person or any doll.

  183. 183
    David Marjanović

    I imagine it is too late for anyone to read this, but my daughter, who is also four, when asked what color she is, answers that she is “yellow.”.

    And she doesn’t watch the Simpsons?

    How old is your TV? American TV sets sometimes make real people look about as yellow as the Simpsons.

  184. 184
    pHred

    Oh man, we stopped watching the Simpsons ages ago, before she was born. And since our televison viewing mostly consists of things that include puppets, looney toons and way too much Darkwing Duck (who is “white”) I don’t think that has too much to do with her color perception of skintone.

  185. 185
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    pHred
    Just thinking: how big is her colour vocabulary?
    Because skin tones of us pigmentationally challenged folks is much closer to yellow than pink.
    So, if she doesn’t know words like “beige”, “tan”, “taupe” and has to rely on the ones she knows, “yellow” doesn’t seem a bad choice.

    Out of interest, I just asked my 2 yo, she said “orange”, even though she’s German where you usually distinguish between “rosa” (light, desaturated red) and “pink” (for the shocking raspberry type) and she knows both words.

    The 4 yo said “grey”

  186. 186
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Yeah, it seems so. Well, you win some, you lose some.
    (Of course, you left out the “partially”,

    Did something fall on your head? These were my exact words @ #99, which you quoted:

    I’m partially at fault, according to Chas, for making so much fun of it, thus pushing it up on Google. Seriously.

    Obviously, my remark back in April wasn’t entirely serious, but it arose – I’m almost positive, and as it points to – in response to an earlier comment of yours suggesting my role in its rankings as a significant reason it keeps rearing its head, which was funny. Still is.

    which makes it a lot less ridiculous.)

    For some understandings of “a lot.” It’s true only in the most trivial sense, and beyond that pretty dumb on its face, since it’s just one of about ten articles that are repeatedly raised in these discussions and all covered in Fine’s book – the ones taken seriously by those, both on the internet and off, more committed to sexist beliefs than to truth. It’s just the most amusing to me (although the one where they show 9-month-olds pictures of ovens is a fairly close second).

  187. 187
    pHred

    Giliell, the woman who said Good-bye to Kitty

    She knows the primary and secondary colors, and can generally remember how to mix them, she also does know pink, gray, brown, gold, silver, white and black but not colors like tan, beige or mavue or those sorts of colors. I think given her color vocabulary, yellow is the closest choice she has. The point for me is that she does know both pink and yellow and is making a deliberate choice between them.

    BTW – I just showed her some pictures of Homer Simpson, and her first reaction was orange, but then she decided “not yellow” but “yellow” (she is saying with a different emphasis). I haven’t quite sorted it out, but she clearly does see a difference but does not have the vocabulary to express it.

Comments have been disabled.