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Why Women Prefer Pink

December 2020 - Is there a true gender difference behind colour preferences?

Sociologists Olga Savinskaya and Anastasia Cheredeeva from the Russian National Research University Higher School of Economics concluded that colour preferences are just one feature of learned genderisation. In their 2018 paper "How kindergartens serve as 'gendergartens'! in the The Journal of Social Policy Studies.

They argue that 'gender socialization' begins in early childhood, in line with established social norms. Children's sexual identification is closely identified with external factors such as clothing and 'normal' ways of behaving. In clothing, particular colours are ascribed to boys vs. girls according to cultural norms. In other words, notions about "appropriate" colours are transmitted to children.

Savinskaya and Anastasia Cheredeeva consider that even newborns are "ascribed gender-oriented attributes," citing the forms used to discharge baby girls from maternity hospitals being placed in pink envelopes. Preschool girls are 'taught to wear pink things because society dictates that this color is associated with the female image.' A mother quoted in the study confirmed that: "Pink is my daughter's favourite color."

An alternative perspective

A study by Newcastle University researchers Anya C. Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling published in Current Biology in 2007 supported the popular notion that men and women differ when it comes to colour preference. Researchers found that women prefer pink "or at least a redder shade of blue" than men do.

Anya Hurlbert said:

"Although we expected to find sex differences, we were surprised at how robust they were, given the simplicity of our test".

Young men and women (171 British Caucasians) were asked to select, as rapidly as possible, their preferred colour from a series of paired rectangles. Overall, the differences were sufficiently clear to predict the sex of a participant. To investigate whether biology or culture was more influential, researchers also tested a small group of Chinese people. Results were similar, supporting the hypothesis that sex differences might have a biological component. Results indicated that the universal favourite colour was blue.

Anya Hurlbert speculated:

"Going back to our 'savannah' days, we would have a natural preference for a clear blue sky, because it signalled good weather. Clear blue also signals a good water source."

"On top of that, females have a preference for the red end of the red-green axis, and this shifts their colour preference slightly away from blue towards red, which tends to make pinks and lilacs the most preferred colours in comparison with others" she added.

Researchers suggest the explanation might go back to hunter-gatherer societies, when women as primary gatherers would have benefited from an ability to identify ripe, red fruits.

Anya Hurlbert commented:

"Evolution may have driven females to prefer reddish colours - reddish fruits, healthy, reddish faces. Culture may exploit and compound this natural female preference."

Researchers plan to modify the test for use in young babies to further investigate the respective roles of "nature versus nurture" in colour preference.

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