[image yoinked from jZepp]
Apparently by including Chinese volunteers as well as Brits in the colour-preference study, the researchers believe they have eliminated socialisation and cultural bias as factors. The subjects were aged 20-26, mostly white Brits, and a few mainland Han Chinese who had immigrated to the UK in the past 0.5-3 years. There is no further information on the background or upbringing of either group; it seems not to have occurred to the researchers that Chinese people who move to the UK have had perhaps a smidgen of Western influence in their childhood or young adult years.
A graph from the paper:
cheerfullyforcefully attribute the Chinese preference for red shades to red being considered “good luck” in Chinese culture. But they’re steadfastedly determined to attribute at least some female pink preference to women’s DNA-given roles as sex and food providers. The Beeb quotes Dr Hurlbert:
“Evolution may have driven females to prefer reddish colours – reddish fruits, healthy, reddish faces.
Hurlbert, who clearly hoed into the NumptyBix the morning she wrote her precious paper, scurries off into this flight of fancy:
The hunter- gatherer theory proposes that female brains should be specialized for gathering-related tasks and is supported by studies of visual spatial abilities. Trichromacy and the L”“M opponent channel are “modern’ adaptations in primate evolution thought to have evolved to facilitate the identification of ripe, yellow fruit or edible red leaves embedded in green foliage. 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’.
As further support for the “female brain’ hypotheses, we find that observers’ femininity scores on the Bem Sex Role inventory correlate significantly with LM cone-contrast component weights for all subjects (rho = 0.333; p 0.002), but not with S cone-contrast weights, for the tested subgroup of 90 subjects.
Do I want to know what the “Bern Sex Role Inventory” is? Hit one gets me an okCupid test, on which I “scored 83 masculinity and 40 femininity!” Another googlehit gets me this page: according to the BSRI, “feminine” women rate themselves as high on characteristics like yielding, cheerful, shy, affectionate, sympathetic, secretive, inefficient, and unsystematic; and low on characteristics like self-reliant, defends own beliefs, forceful, athletic, assertive, strong personality, and analytical.
Has it occurred to anyone, for a second, that when women who rate themselves as scoring highly on traditional feminine characteristics express a preference for pink, that this might not be biologically programmed?
And if I’m programmed to squeee at the sight of pink because of my fruit-gathering function, why are pomegranates and dragonfruits the only pink fruits I can think of?
Edited to add (23 Aug 07): Looking further at the assertion of the longevity of pinkgirliness, a snippet from the paper:
Furthermore, despite abundant evidence for sex differences in other visual domains, and specifically in other tasks of color perception [4,5], there is no conclusive evidence for the existence of sex differences in color preference. This fact is perhaps surprising, given the prevalence and longevity of the notion that little girls differ from boys in preferring ‘pink’ .
, the footnote, refers to this paper: “An Evolutionary Perspective of Sex-Typed Toy Preferences: Pink, Blue, and the Brain”. So I went to the “source”. It has no primary research at all on a pink colour preference. Instead, it contains two more free-floating assertions which the Hurlbert paper has accepted wholesale and evidence-free:
Compared to boys, girls are also more likely to use a greater number of colors and to prefer warmer colors (i.e., pink and red) to cooler colors (i.e., blue and green; Minamoto, 1985).
Whereas discrimination of red wavelengths appears to facilitate identification of plant food, a preference for red or pink appears to have an advantage for successful female reproduction. In research on nonhuman primates (Higley, Hopkins, Hirsch, Marra, & Suomi, 1987), a fe- male preference for “reddish-pink” compared to yellow or green is thought to exist because infant faces compared to adult faces are reddish-pink, and red or pink may signal approach behaviors that enhance infant survival. In addition, women and men appear able to use the spectral properties of the human face for gender discrimination (males being more red; females being more green; Tarr, Kersten, Cheng, & Rossion, 2001), suggesting that a female preference for red may also have promoted recognition and approach to males. Thus, the social role of early females (i.e., foraging for plant food and caretaking of infants) may have evolved in girls compared to boys a greater specialization for color processing and a greater preference for objects with a pink or reddish color.
So I did a bit more source-hunting.
– The Higley paper was purely on rhesus monkeys.
– The Minamoto paper referenced as proving that girls have always preferred pink doesn’t seem to exist on Medline or the Web. There is a different paper on which Minamoto was a third author:“Sex differences in children’s free drawings: a study on girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia.” This is not a historical study, it’s a study finding that girls with an intersex condition had more “masculine” drawings than non-intersex girls.
– And here’s the Tarr paper: “It’s Pat! Sexing faces using only red and green”. Apparently women’s faces are greener than men’s.
….. absolutely none of which shows “the prevalence and longevity of the notion that little girls differ from boys in preferring ‘pink'”, despite being used as a source for this statement by Hurlbert.
Bad scientist, bad.