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Parents commonly dress their baby girls in pink and their baby boys in blue. Although there is research showing that children prefer the colour blue to other colours (regardless of gender), there is no evidence that girls actually have a special preference for the colour pink. This is the focus of the current investigation. In a large cross-sectional study, children aged 7 months to 5 years were offered eight pairs of objects and asked to choose one. In every pair, one of the objects was always pink. By the age of 2, girls chose pink objects more often than boys did, and by the age of 2.5, they had a significant preference for the colour pink over other colours. At the same time, boys showed an increasing avoidance of pink. These results thus reveal that sex differences in young children's preference for the colour pink involves both an increasing attraction to pink by young girls and a growing avoidance of pink by boys.
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British Journal of Developmental Psychology (2011), 29, 656–667
C2011 The British Psychological Society
Brief report
Pretty in pink: The early development
of gender-stereotyped colour preferences
Vanessa LoBue1and Judy S. DeLoache2
1Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey, USA
2University of Virginia, USA
Parents commonly dress their baby girls in pink and their baby boys in blue. Although
there is research showing that children prefer the colour blue to other colours
(regardless of gender), there is no evidence that girls actually have a special preference
for the colour pink. This is the focus of the current investigation. In a large cross-
sectional study, children aged 7 months to 5 years were offered eight pairs of objects
and asked to choose one. In every pair, one of the objects was always pink. By the age
of 2, girls chose pink objects more often than boys did, and by the age of 2.5, they had
a significant preference for the colour pink over other colours. At the same time, boys
showed an increasing avoidance of pink. These results thus reveal that sex differences in
young children’s preference for the colour pink involves both an increasing attraction to
pink by young girls and a growing avoidance of pink by boys.
‘Dear Abby:
My daughter recently had a baby boy. Mother and baby are doing fine, but the problem is
the sonogram during the pregnancy showed a baby girl .. . So now our grandson has a slew
of pink blankets, jimmies and clothes given by friends before little Jack was born. I say, no
big deal. My wife says it is a big deal. No way a boy should be dressed in pink ...’
—Jack’s Grandpa, April 2, 20071
Girls like pink, boys like blue
Imagine walking into any newborn infant’s room: you could almost certainly guess the
gender of the baby just from the colour of his or her clothes, blankets, and toys. Any
infant surrounded by pink items is virtually certain to be a girl, whereas a child immersed
in blue is very likely to be a boy. This colour differentiation is not limited to newborns.
Advertisements in catalogs and newspapers feature little girls dressed in pink clothes,
playing with pink toys, carrying pink lunchboxes, typing on pink computers, and so on.
In contrast, little boys are typically portrayed with clothing and toys that are blue.
Correspondence should be addressed to Vanessa LoBue, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, 101 Warren Street,
Newark, NJ 07102, USA (e-mail:
1Van Buren, A. (2007, April 2).
Children’s colour preferences 657
The social convention of dressing young children in gender-specific colours was first
documented in the United States in the early 1920s (Chiu et al., 2006). More recently,
observations of parents and their infants at suburban shopping malls revealed that 75% of
infant girls were wearing pink, whereas 79% of infant boys were in blue (Shakin, Shakin,
& Sternglanz, 1985). Children are aware of this differential dressing pattern quite early
on: by the time they enter preschool, they make decisions about gender identity based
on colour. For example, Picariello, Greenberg, and Pillemer (1990) presented preschool
children with toy animals that were identical except for colour and asked them to
identify the gender of the toys. The children identified the animals in accordance with
gender-based stereotypes, labelling pink and purple animals as ‘girls’ and blue or brown
ones as ‘boys’.
It is thus clear, both from everyday observation and from research results, that both
adults and young children are aware that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. However,
do little girls actually prefer pink? Do young boys actually like blue? Studies of young
children’s colour preferences date back to the early 1900s, but none report gender
differences (Garth, 1924; Garth & Collado, 1929; Gesche, 1927; Hurlock, 1927; Katz
& Breed, 1922; Krishna, 1972; McManus, Jones, & Cottrell, 1981; Saito, 1996). In fact,
most studies with preschool children in the United States have reported a preference for
primary colours on the part of both boys and girls. Several studies have demonstrated
that both infants and preschool children prefer primary colours (such as red and blue) to
secondary colours (such as pink and orange) (Franklin et al., 2008; Pitchford & Mullen,
2005; Zentner, 2001). Others have shown that preschool-aged boys and girls prefer
red to all other colours (Zentner, 2001). Similar preferences for red have also been
reported for infants (Franklin, Bevis, Ling, & Hurlbert, 2010; Franklin et al., 2008; Jadva,
Hines, & Golombok, 2010). Conversely, other studies have shown that newborn infants,
rhesus monkeys, and even pigeons prefer blue to any other colour (Bornstein, 1975;
Humphrey, 1972; Sahgal & Iverson, 1975; Sahgal, Pratt, & Iverson, 1975; Teller, Civan,
& Bronson-Castain, 2004; Zemach, Chang, & Teller, 2007).
There is one recent study that suggests that children do prefer gender-stereotyped
colours. Chiu et al. (2006) compared colour preferences in 3- to 12-year-old children with
and without gender identity disorder (GID). They asked both groups of children to iden-
tify three of their favourite colours by naming or pointing to them on a chart. Within the
control group, girls chose pink/purple significantly more often than boys did. However,
boys and girls with GID did the opposite: boys with GID chose pink/purple significantly
more often than girls with GID. This research suggests that children choose colours
based on which colour is associated with the gender with which they most identify.
Gender-stereotyped preferences
For decades, researchers have been studying how children develop gender-stereotyped
behaviour, such as preferences for pink or blue. Some have suggested, for example,
that since gender-stereotyped colour dressing is so common in infancy, infants develop
a preference for these familiar colours as they grow older (Chiu et al., 2006; Cohen,
2004). Researchers have shown that male and female infants as young as 5 months of
age become familiar with vastly different surroundings: while female infants were often
dressed in pink, had pink pacifiers, and yellow bedding, boys were more likely to have
blue bedding and curtains in their rooms (Pomerleau, Bolduc, Malcuit, & Cossette, 1990).
Since parents surround girls with objects that are pink and boys with objects that are
blue, infants may develop a preference for these colours based on familiarity.
658 Vanessa LoBue and Judy S. DeLoache
Another possibility is that once children identify with a certain gender, they seek out
gender-related information and choose toys and colours that are commonly associated
with that gender. This idea is not new. Kohlberg’s (1966) early work on gender
development suggests that children seek out gender-related information and look for
ways to conform to these gender norms. More recent cognitive theories of gender
development are in line with Kohlberg’s original view. Gender schema theory, for
example, suggests that over the course of development, children form gender schemas –
or representations of information about gender and themselves – by acquiring knowledge
from the environment and incorporating that knowledge into their schemas (Martin,
Ruble, & Szkrybalo, 2002). This view and several cognitive and constructivist views
of gender development suggest that once children recognize their own gender, they
actively seek out gender-related information and integrate that information into their
developing concept of gender. Ruble and colleagues similarly propose that children are
‘gender detectives’ and create their own concepts of what gender means to them by ac-
tively seeking out gender-related information (Martin & Ruble, 2004; Ruble et al., 2007).
However, it is still unclear from the literature whether children’s personal preferences
beginning in infancy shape the development of gender stereotypes, or whether children’s
growing knowledge about gender leads to gender-stereotyped preferences (Liben &
Bigler, 2002). These issues will be one of the main focuses of the current investigation.
The current research
The goal of the current research was to investigate young children’s colour preferences
in the first years of life. Based on previous findings, it seems that both boys and girls are
attracted to primary colours such as blue. However, there is little research examining
children’s responses to pink. Pink is an ideal colour to for this line of research, since it is
strongly associated with girls and almost taboo for boys. Conversely, while blue is often
associated with boys, it is completely acceptable for girls as well. Thus, here we ask: is
there an early preference for pink? If so, to what extent do young boys and girls differ
in this respect, and how does any such preference change with age?
There are three possible outcomes. The first is that children do not actually have
gender-stereotyped colour preferences. In other words, we might find that girls do not
prefer pink at any age. A second possibility is that infants develop a preference for
pink early in development, which leads to the gender-stereotyped colour preferences
that we observe (Chiu et al., 2006; Cohen, 2004). If this is true, then distinct colour
preferences should be observed in infancy. A third and final possibility is that children
do not develop gender-stereotyped colour preferences until they begin to learn about
their own gender. Recent research suggests that children begin to understand and talk
about gender between the ages of 2 and 3 (Zosuls et al., 2009). Thus, if colour preferences
emerge as a result of children’s attempt to identify with their gender, it is likely that these
preferences will not be visible until the second or third year.
In the first experiment reported here, we examined children’s colour preferences over
a large cross-sectional sample of children from 7 months to 5 years of age. Each child
was offered pairs of objects, one of which was always pink. The children were then
offered the two objects. The question of primary interest is whether colour preferences
are evident in young children’s choices, and at what age (if any) do girls choose pink
more frequently than boys do?
Children’s colour preferences 659
The participants were 192 normally developing children, with 32 children in each of
6 age groups: 7- to 11-month-olds (m=9.3 mos., range =7.3–11.7 mos.), 1-year-olds
(m=19.0 mos., range =12.4–23.0 mos.), 2-year-olds (m=29.8 mos., range =24.0–
35.4 mos.), 3-year-olds (m=41.8 mos., range =36.0–63.6 mos.), 4-year-olds (m=
50.0 mos., range =37.0–59.0 mos.), and 5-year-olds (m=65.0 mos., range =60.0–71.6
mos.). In each age group, half of the children were male, and half were female. The
participants were recruited from records of birth announcements and preschools in the
local community and were predominantly Caucasian and middle class. Each child was
randomly assigned to one of two stimulus orders.
The materials consisted of eight pairs of small objects: plastic clips, plastic pill boxes,
koosh balls, measuring cups, bracelets, picture frames, coasters, and bath poofs. The
objects in each pair were identical except for colour – one of the items was always pink,
and the other was a non-pink colour (green, blue, yellow, or orange).
The child and experimenter sat facing one another on the floor of a laboratory room. On
each of eight trials, the experimenter offered the child a pair of objects, asking, ‘Which
one do you like better?’ The pink items were presented equally often on the right and
left sides, with side counterbalanced over trials. If a child reached for both objects, the
experimenter removed them, and after a few seconds, presented them again until the
child chose one (or failed to choose either). Preverbal infants were tested in the same
way as the older children – they were simply offered the two items. While a simpler
looking time paradigm could have been used for the younger infants, we thought it
important to keep the procedure the same across participants. Previous research has
shown that infants are able to make preference choices by reaching to their preferred
stimulus when offered two objects (i.e., DeLoache, Pierroutsakos, Uttal, Rosengren, &
Gottlieb, 1998). Furthermore, previous research has also shown that infants’ preferences
in looking time tasks match their preferences when reaching for objects (Hamlin, Wynn,
& Bloom, 2007).
Two random orders were used for the presentation of the pairs of objects, one
being the reverse of the other. Presentation order was counterbalanced across age and
Figure 1 shows the results Experiment 1. As is clear from the data shown, there was no
evidence of any preference for pink in infancy. However, beginning around the age of
2, boys and girls diverged in their responses to this particular colour. Girls’ liking for
pink increased between 2 and 3 years of age and remained high through 4 years. In
contrast, boy’ response to pink showed a dramatic decline between 3 and 4 years of
660 Vanessa LoBue and Judy S. DeLoache
Proportion of Choices of Pink Object
> 1 year 1-year-olds 2-year-olds 3-year-olds 4-year-olds 5-year-olds
Figure 1. Percentage of trials in which children chose pink in Experiment 1. Error bars denote plus
and minus one standard error. There was no significant difference in the frequency with which boys and
girls chose pink in the two younger age groups (7- to 11-month-olds and 1-year-olds), but girls chose
pink significantly more often than did boys in the older age groups (2-, 4-, and 5-year-olds).
The questions of primary interest were whether girls would choose pink significantly
more often than boys would, and, if so, at what age would such a preference be
manifested. To address the first question, a 2 (gender) ×6 (age group) ×2 (side:
left vs. right) logistic regression was performed on the number of times the children
chose the pink object. There was a significant main effect of age, 2=21.94, p<.001.
The main effect of gender was not significant.
The most important result was a gender by age interaction, 2=41.05, p<.001.
There was no significant gender difference in the frequency of choosing pink in the
youngest two age groups (infants under the age of 2). However, in the 2-, 3-, 4-, and
5-year-old age groups, the girls chose pink significantly more often than the boys did
(2-year-olds: 2=6.11, p<.05; 3-year-olds: 2=10.62, p<.01; 4-year-olds: 2=58.98,
p<.001; 5-year-olds: 2=33.67, p<.001). There was also a significant main effect
of side, 2=4.33, p<.05; the children chose objects presented on the right more
often than objects presented on the left (a common bias in infant research, for example,
MacKain, Studdert-Kennedy, Spieker, & Stern, 1983; Patterson & Werker, 1999; Walker,
1982). Thus, boys and girls younger than 2 did not differ in the frequency with which
they chose pink objects, but from 2 years of age on, girls opted for pink significantly
more often than boys did.
Having established that the girls chose pink items more often than the boys did, we
addressed our second question, and examined whether girls had an actual preference for
pink by comparing how often pink was selected at different ages. Three- and 4-year-old
girls chose pink significantly above chance (3-year-olds: t=5.72, p<.001; 4-year-olds:
t=7.07, p<.001). Furthermore, 2-, 4-, and 5-year-old boys chose pink significantly
below chance (2-year-olds: t=−2.42, p<.05; 4-year-olds: t=−6.38, p<.001;
5-year-olds: t=−8.38, p<.001) (see Figure 2). These results thus demonstrate that
girls indeed have a significant preference for the colour pink, and that this preference is
first visible at ages 3 and 4. Furthermore, these results also demonstrate that while girls
are developing a significant preference for pink around the age of 3, boys are developing a
Children’s colour preferences 661
Proportion of Choices of Pink Object
Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls Boys Girls
> 1 year 1-year-olds 2-year-olds 3-year-olds 4-year-olds 5-year-olds
Figure 2. Percentage of trials in which children chose pink in Experiment 1 compared to chance. Error
bars denote plus and minus one standard error. Three- and 4-year-olds girls chose pink significantly
more often than chance, demonstrating a significant preference for pink. Two-, 4-, and 5-year-old boys
chose pink significantly less often than chance, revealing a significant avoidance of pink.
significant avoidance of pink at the same time. This avoidance was significant at ages 2, 4,
and 5.2
One explanation for the boys’ findings is that instead of avoiding the colour pink
as boys grow older, it is possible that they habituated to pink over the eight test trials,
resulting in a decrease in pink choices. In other words, since pink was offered as a choice
in every trial, the decrease in pink choices that we found in boys could have been due
to boys’ habituation to pink over trials. If this is the case, boys (particularly the oldest
boys) should demonstrate a decrease in pink choices from trial 1 to trial 8. To address
this possibility, we conducted an additional six (age group) ×eight (trial: 1–8) logistic
regression on the boys’ colour choices. There was again a significant effect of age (with
boys choosing pink more often at younger ages than at older ages), but there was no
significant effect of trial (2=0.49, ns) and no significant interaction. Thus, boys did
not change their choices over trials in any of the age groups. We also conducted two
separate logistic regressions on just the 4-year-old and 5-year-old boys to confirm this
finding. As expected, 4-year-olds did not differ in their choices over trials (2=0.52,
ns), and neither did 5-year-olds (2=1.92, ns). This suggests that older boys did indeed
avoid pink and did so consistently across the eight test trials.
These data thus suggest that children’s colour preferences appear around the ages of
2 (boys) and 3 (girls) – around the same time that children begin to understand and talk
about gender (Zosuls et al., 2009).
2Because boys show a significant avoidance for pink at ages 2, 4, and 5, we can rule out that girls’ increasing preference
for pink was merely an artifact of girls’ increasing compliance with an experimenter who repeatedly shows them the same
colour. While girls are generally more compliant than boys, there is no reason to expect that boys would become increasingly
non-compliant to an experimenter’s requests, and begin avoiding pink.
662 Vanessa LoBue and Judy S. DeLoache
The results of Experiment 1 reveal that by the age of 2, girls choose pink objects more
frequently than boys do, and that by the age of 3, girls have a significant preference for
pink over other colours. Furthermore, between the ages of 3 and 4, boys show a dramatic
avoidance of pink, choosing pink significantly less often than other colours. Given that
there were no gender differences in the colour preferences of children under the age of
2, the data indicate that girls shift to choosing pink over other colours sometime during
the second year.
To examine this transition further, Experiment 2 focused on children’s colour
preferences within the second year. The same procedure as in Experiment 1 was
used to examine the colour preferences of 24- to 29-month-olds and 30- to 35-month-
The participants were 64 2-year-olds, including the 32 2-year-olds tested in Experiment 1,
plus an additional 32 normally developing 2-year-olds (m=30.3 mos., range =25.0–
35.6 mos.), half boys, and half girls. The 64 children were divided into two equal groups
of 32 each: 2-year-olds, (m=27.2 mos., range =24.0–29.9 mos.) and 2.5-year-olds
(m=32.5 mos., range =30.0–35.6 mos.). Each child was randomly assigned to one of
the two stimulus presentation orders.
All participants were tested using the same procedure as in Experiment 1.
The question of primary interest in Experiment 2 was whether there would be a
difference in the frequency of choosing pink objects from the first half of the second year
to the second half. In a 2 (gender) ×2 (side: left vs. right), two (age group: 2-year-olds
vs. 2.5-year-olds) logistic regression on children’s colour choice (pink or non-pink), there
was a significant main effect of gender, 2=6.41, p<.05. The girls chose pink objects
significantly more often than the boys did in both age groups (66% overall for girls and
40% for boys).
There was also a gender by age group interaction 2=3.90, p<.05. The 2- and
2.5-year-old boys did not differ in how often they chose pink, but there was a significant
increase in how frequently the girls chose pink between the ages of 2 and 3 (2=
4.0, p<.05). Thus, the onset of the girls’ preference for pink occurred in the second
To determine whether there was a difference in children’s preference for pink
between the first and second half of the second year, we compared the frequency
of their choice of pink to chance. The 2-year-old girls displayed a marginal preference
for pink (t=1.98, p<.06, and the 2.5-year-old girls chose pink significantly more
often than chance (t=5.30, p<.01). Conversely, the 2.5-year-old boys chose pink at
significantly below chance levels (t=−2.84, p<.01). The 2-year-old boys did not differ
from chance (t=−1.77, ns)(seeFigure3).
Children’s colour preferences 663
Proportion of Choices of Pink Object
2-year-olds 2.5-year-olds
Girls Boys Girls
Figure 3. Percentage of trials in which children chose pink in Experiment 2 above and below chance.
Error bars denote plus and minus one standard error. The 2.5-year-old girls chose pink significantly
more often than chance, while 2.5-year-old boys chose pink significantly less than chance. There were
no significant effects in the youngest age group.
The research reported here establishes a divergence in the first few years of life with
respect to girls’ and boys’ reaction to the colour pink. As Experiment 1 showed, by the
age of 2.5, girls have developed a significant preference for pink over other colours.
Furthermore, at the same time that young girls display an increasing preference for
pink, boys show an increasing avoidance of pink. At the age of 2, boys choose pink
significantly less often than girls do. Experiment 2 builds on this finding and shows
that by 2.5, boys display a strong avoidance of pink, choosing it at a rate significantly
below chance. This result was especially pronounced at ages 4 and 5. Thus, the familiar
attraction that girls have shown to pink begins in the second year and is paralleled by a
tendency for boys to avoid pink.
The current research has important implications for how gender-stereotyped pref-
erences emerge. As mentioned previously, between the ages of 2 and 3, children
begin to seek out gender-related information (Zosuls et al., 2009). Several researchers
have suggested that this effort to explore gender helps children form their own
gender concepts and eventually, their own gender identity (Martin & Ruble, 2004;
Ruble et al., 2007). Consistent with this view, our data provide evidence that around
the same time that children begin to talk about gender and seek gender-related
information, they also begin to demonstrate gender-based colour preferences: girls first
demonstrated a preference for pink at the age of 2.5. Thus, if the colour pink is part
of what identifies ‘girliness’, then it is not surprising that girls at this age are attracted
to it.
In the same way, if pink is what helps define a girl, it is not surprising that boys
would have the opposite reaction. In fact, several researchers have suggested that the
process of gender segregation involves a developing preference for same-sex behaviours
664 Vanessa LoBue and Judy S. DeLoache
as well as an avoidance of opposite-sex behaviours (Golombok et al., 2008; Ruble et al.,
2007). Consistent with this idea, Jadva et al. (2010) reported that male infants as young
as 12 months of age prefer to look at images of dolls over cars, and avoidance of dolls
is acquired later in development. This idea is consistent with the current findings: while
girls demonstrated a developing preference for pink, boys showed a somewhat equal
developing avoidance of pink.
The current findings are inconsistent with recent work that suggests that gender-
based colour preferences may have a biological basis. Some researchers have proposed
that there may have been an evolutionary advantage for women who were attracted to
the bright colours of fruits and leaves, and thus, women may have developed an inborn
preference for colours such as pink (Alexander, 2003; Hurlbert & Ling, 2007). The
current results do not support this possibility. If females have a biological predisposition
to favour colours such as pink, this preference should be evident regardless of experience
or the acquisition of gender concepts, and in the current research, a preference for pink
did not emerge in girls until the age of 2.5.
While the current experiments lend important information about the development
of children’s gender-based colour preferences, they do have some limitations. Primarily,
these experiments only examine children’s colour preferences in the first 5 years of
life. What remains unclear is what patterns would emerge in children’s preferences
in middle to late childhood and even later into adolescence. Would girls maintain a
preference for pink, or would this preference disappear with age? The current results
suggest that girls’ preference may wane as they get older: while girls showed a significant
preference for pink at 2.5, 3, and 4, there was no longer a significant preference
for pink at age 5. It is unclear from the current data whether such a preference
would resurface in later childhood, or whether it only exists between the ages of 2
and 4.
There is some research that suggests that perhaps girls’ preference for pink would
in fact decrease with age. In a large longitudinal study, Trautner et al. (2005) found
that children are very rigid in their beliefs about gender-stereotyped behaviour in their
preschool years. In other words, 3- and 4-year-olds believe that certain behaviours are
meant solely for girls, while others are only meant for boys. However, by the ages of
5 and 6, children are more flexible about these gender rules, admitting that both boys
and girls can both do most things. Thus, it is possible that by the age of 5, girls are no
longer as rigid in their ideas about gender norms and begin choosing colours other than
pink. In the same way, boys’ rigidity in avoiding pink might also wane with age. It is not
uncommon to see adult business men dressed in pink dress shirts or neckties. It could
be that by later in childhood or adolescence, boys become less likely to avoid pink.
Future research examining children’s colour preferences into later childhood and
adolescence would provide a broader understanding of how gender-based colour
preferences change in later development.
Another limitation of the current work is that it does not directly address the
mechanism by which girls begin to show a preference for the colour pink. We were not
able to collect data on our participants’ gender knowledge, so we cannot confirm that
girls’ growing preference for pink develops concurrently with their developing ideas
about gender identity. However, our results do show that between the ages of 2 and
3, the same age that previous research has shown that children begin to understand
and talk about gender (Zosuls et al., 2009), girls begin to show a growing preference
for the colour pink, while boys begin to show a growing avoidance of it. Thus, this
suggests that instead of a genuine aesthetic change in children’s preferences (e.g., for
Children’s colour preferences 665
girls, an increasing genuine attraction to pink in relation to other colours, and for boys,
an increasing genuine dislike for pink), girls’ increasing preference for pink may be an
effort to adopt behaviours that help them relate to their own gender. This is consistent
with several views of gender development: as children development their own concepts
of gender, they actively seek out gender-related information and assimilate it into their
own gender schemas (Martin & Ruble, 2004; Ruble et al., 2007; Zosuls et al., 2009).
Boys’ behaviour in the current work is also consistent with this idea: as boys learn what
it means to be a girl, they begin to avoid anything that can possibly define ‘girliness’.
Future research that involves collecting longitudinal data on children’s developing colour
preferences and on their emerging gender identity would provide a stronger test of our
In conclusion, the current findings demonstrate that young girls do indeed have a
special affinity for the colour pink that appears sometime in the second half of the
second year. Furthermore, while girls are developing a preference for pink with age,
boys are developing an avoidance of pink at the same time. This research lends important
information to when children develop gender-stereotyped colour preferences and has
important implications for how they develop as well. Knowing exactly when children
begin to demonstrate these tendencies can help lead to fuller understanding of the
development of gender-stereotyped behaviour more generally and can be an important
marker for future research in this domain.
We thank Catherine Thrasher, Kai Van Eron, Catherine Thrasher, Lindsay Doswell, Megan
Bloom, Cynthia Chiong, Mieke Vanderborght, Ashley Pinkham, Lili Ma, Erin Hallissy, Autumn
Fuller, Priscilla Khuanghlawn, and Nadia Islam for valuable assistance conducting this
research, and the many families whose participation made it possible to collect these data.
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Received 27 October 2010; revised version received 20 December 2010
... For example, colors can perpetuate stereotypes such as "pink for girls and blue for boys" [30,Chapter 4], influence decisionmaking processes [48], and have strong emotional associations [27] (for example, "red" is associated with anger for English speakers [36]). Moreover, research has provided extensive evidence that color per-ception [78], association [46], and preference [35,46,51] are socially constructed and transform what could otherwise be an individual choice into standardized behavior. These stereotypes can appear very young and significantly impact children's development [47]. ...
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We present an analysis of the representation of gender as a data dimension in data visualizations and propose a set of considerations around visual variables and annotations for gender-related data. Gender is a common demographic dimension of data collected from study or survey participants, passengers, or customers, as well as across academic studies, especially in certain disciplines like sociology. Our work contributes to multiple ongoing discussions on the ethical implications of data visualizations. By choosing specific data, visual variables, and text labels, visualization designers may, inadvertently or not, perpetuate stereotypes and biases. Here, our goal is to start an evolving discussion on how to represent data on gender in data visualizations and raise awareness of the subtleties of choosing visual variables and words in gender visualizations. In order to ground this discussion, we collected and coded gender visualizations and their captions from five different scientific communities (Biology, Politics, Social Studies, Visualisation, and Human-Computer Interaction), in addition to images from Tableau Public and the Information Is Beautiful awards showcase. Overall we found that representation types are community-specific, color hue is the dominant visual channel for gender data, and nonconforming gender is under-represented. We end our paper with a discussion of considerations for gender visualization derived from our coding and the literature and recommendations for large data collection bodies. A free copy of this paper and all supplemental materials are available at
... Based on research conducted on infants older than 24 months, which were predominantly Caucasian, two-year-old girls (more often than boys) chose pink instead of other colors. However, girls at the age of 4 no longer preferred pink to other colors, and boys avoided pink (LoBue & DeLoache, 2011). In another study conducted on Caucasian children aged 3, 4 and 5 years, purple was preferred by girls (Read & Upington, 2009). ...
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Colors in the learning environment are likely to affect students’ memory. In addition, each individual’s interest and attitude towards colors change over time under the influence of different factors. Thus, this very question arises “what is the relationship between color preferences and effects of colors on memory on students’ learning in learning environment?” This study focuses on the simultaneous evaluation of color preferences and the effect of colors on memory with the aim of improving the quality of learning of grade1 primary school students who are at the beginning of the learning path. A total of 180 students of both genders (male and female) from the grade-1 primary school were evaluated. In the first test, 8 copies were prepared from the modeled image of the interior of a classroom. The students were then asked to recall images of 9 objects placed on colored backgrounds after observing each copy. In the second test, they were asked which colors they would prefer to paint the classroom interior using the same copies but this time without images of objects and in the form of a qualitative questionnaire. The results were evaluated by SPSS, Friedman ranking test and Pearson’s correlation test. It was observed that there is a significant relationship between color preferences and color effects only in some colors. Moreover, the results indicated that, for achieving the desired results in terms of color selection of learning environments, the component of color preferences and color effects are required to be evaluated simultaneously and along with one another.
... Specifically, at 12 to 24 months of age, girls have been found to look at (i.e., "prefer") dolls more than boys do, while boys look at cars more than girls do (Jadva et al., 2010). Color preferences appear later, around 2.5 years of age, at approximately the time children begin to process and understand gender (LoBue and DeLoache, 2011;Wong and Hines, 2015b). By approximately 2.5 years, girls prefer pink to other colors, and boys begin to avoid pink (LoBue and DeLoache, 2011). ...
Human males and females show average gender/sex differences for certain psychological phenomena. Multiple factors may contribute to these differences, including sex chromosomes, exposure to gonadal hormones, and socialization or learning. This study investigated potential hormonal and socialization/learning influences on gender/sex differences in childhood preferences for color, specifically pink and red vs. blues, and for toys. Children (aged 4 to 11 years) with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH, n = 43 girls and 37 boys), marked by elevated prenatal adrenal androgen exposure, and without CAH (n = 41 girls and 31 boys) were studied. Prior research indicates girls with CAH are masculinized for certain behaviors, such as toy choices, while boys with CAH generally do not differ from boys without CAH. In the current study, children indicated preferences for stereotyped hues of pink vs. blue as well as two control color pairs. They also indicated their preference between gender/sex-typed toys (doll vs. car) presented in black and white, in gender/sex-congruent colors (pink doll vs. blue car) and in gender/sex-incongruent colors (pink car vs. blue doll). Color findings: Control girls preferred stereotyped pink over blue more than boys or girls with CAH did; the latter two groups did not differ in their color preferences. No preference differences occurred for other color pairs. Toy findings: In black/white or gender/sex-congruent colors, boys preferred the car more than control girls or girls with CAH did, while girls with CAH preferred the car more than control girls did. In gender/sex-incongruent colors (pink car vs. blue doll), boys still preferred the car, while girls with CAH showed reduced and control girls showed increased preferences for the pink car compared to the car preferences in black/white. Results support learning theories of color preferences, perhaps also influenced by pre-existing toy preferences which may occur for other reasons, including early androgen exposure. Specifically, girls with CAH may have learned they do not enjoy stereotypical toys for girls, often colored pink, and pink coloring may subsequently diminish their preference for a car. Our results highlight the importance of gonadal hormones and learning in the development of childhood toy and color preferences.
... In addition to cultural differences, the study also found differences in colour preference between genders. A series of studies have shown that men prefer soft colours such as yellow and green, while women prefer colours such as pink and purple [28][29][30]. On the other hand, according to the theory of social structure, the difference in colour preference may reflect efforts to improve gender role equality in society [31]. ...
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Understanding the colour preference in microgravity environments will enable better design of future spacecraft and extra-terrestrial environments. In this study, a space station’s crew cabin was simulated and evaluated in 33 different colours by 55 participants using a standard body position change methodology in controlled conditions. Three body positions were tested, and included normal sitting position (SP), to reflect terrestrial conditions; − 15◦ head-down (HD) bed rest, to simulate a microgravity state; and 9.6◦ head-up tilt (HU) bed rest, to simulate a lunar gravity state. VR devices were worn by participants to ensure an immersive environment in which to evaluate the different coloured environments across the three different body positions. The results show that in all colour environments, there was no significant difference in the colour preference between SP and HU, but there was a significant change in the colour preference in HD compared to SP and HU. In the three positions, the participants appeared to prefer lighter colours rather than darker ones, warmer colours in ST and HU, and cool colours in HD. In this short-term simulation study, no evidence of gender differences in colour preference by body position was found, but in each body position, men and women had different preference levels for basic hue and chroma brightness.
We perceive color everywhere and on everything that we encounter in daily life. Color science has progressed to the point where a great deal is known about the mechanics, evolution, and development of color vision, but less is known about the relation between color vision and psychology. However, color psychology is now a burgeoning, exciting area and this Handbook provides comprehensive coverage of emerging theory and research. Top scholars in the field provide rigorous overviews of work on color categorization, color symbolism and association, color preference, reciprocal relations between color perception and psychological functioning, and variations and deficiencies in color perception. The Handbook of Color Psychology seeks to facilitate cross-fertilization among researchers, both within and across disciplines and areas of research, and is an essential resource for anyone interested in color psychology in both theoretical and applied areas of study.
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The main goal of this article is to summarize and present the most important facts concerning the use of the pink color in the built environment of the 20th and 21st centuries, considering its symbolic, functional, and decorative aspects, with particular emphasis on Western cultures. This monograph of color is aimed to contribute to a better understanding of the place and meaning of pink in the contemporary architectural space and to allow architects to use this color with greater awareness of its characteristic features. The results of the analysis of over 100 pink buildings and spaces, collected by the authors since 2016, are grouped into seven main thematic sections, which express different ways of applying pink in the built environment: as a traditional color, a stereotypic feminine and girlish color, a contrast color in public spaces, an extravagant color, a symbol of peace, hope, tolerance, and solidarity, a trendy color, and finally an “Instagramable” and fictional color. The main conclusion is that the pink color usage in contemporary architecture is very diverse and reflects the various associations and symbolisms of the color itself, which can only be understood in its socio-cultural contexts. Currently, two opposing styles are especially compelling—the first related to the kitschy and plastic aesthetic of “Barbie pink”, and the second associated with more neutral and universal “Millennial pink”.
Colors have been reported to be associated with genders (e.g., reddish color-females). Here, we investigated color-gender associations (red-female/green-male) among Japanese participants using two Stroop-word categorization tasks. Ten Japanese gendered words were chosen as visual stimuli. In Experiment 1 (N = 23), participants were instructed to indicate whether a target word presented in either red, green, or gray font color was a masculine or feminine word. Results showed a congruency effect of red-female association that red font color facilitated the categorization of feminine words and inhibited the categorization of masculine words compared to other colors. No significant effect of green-male association was observed. Experiment 2 (N = 23 newly recruited participants) examined whether the congruency effect of color-gender associations could bias perceptual font color categorization. Participants were asked to discriminate whether the font color, with low saturation, was red or green while ignoring the word's meaning. Results showed that participants responded faster and made fewer errors when categorizing red font colors for feminine words than masculine words. Additionally, a congruent effect of green-male association on performance accuracy was observed, although it did not affect response times. These results indicate the existence of an automatically activated red-female association, which can influence both conceptual gender categorization and perceptual color processing.
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The article analyzes the theoretical aspects of the formation of ideas about colors in children from 1 to 7 years old. It was found that color is an important means of expressiveness in artistic activity, a way of organizing the aesthetics of life, self-expression. The issue of children's attitude to colors and their use in their own artistic and productive activities is highlighted. The study carried out a definitional analysis of the main concepts of the study: "color", "artistic and productive activity". The works of Ukrainian and foreign scientists dealing with the investigated problem are considered. The peculiarities of the use of color by children of older preschool age in artistic and productive activities were clarified, the influence of gender stereotypes on the perception and use of colors by children was confirmed. The influence of various motives on the artistic and productive activity of children and their relationship with the use of colors in creative activity are considered. It was found that children choose the color of materials for making products according to their own preferences, but the purpose of the product is a significant factor influencing their choice. Experimental research proves: children are ready to give in to their own desires and tastes are not based on their own preferences, but on the tastes of the recipient of the gift, so it allows us to note the influence of moral motives. The structure of artistic and productive activity of children of older preschool age is singled out. The conclusions of scientists regarding the perception of colors by older preschool children in modern practice have been confirmed.
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Color carries gender information (e.g., red-female). This study explored whether background color could influence the gender categorization of human faces. Visual stimuli were generated from faces whose sexually dimorphic content was morphed monotonically from female to male perception. The face stimulus was presented upright (Experiment 1) and inverted (Experiment 2) with three background colors (i.e., red, green, and gray). Participants were instructed to categorize the gender of the face stimulus as male or female by pressing one of two labelled keys. Results showed that a red background could bias the gender of an ambiguous upright face toward a female compared with green and gray background colors (Experiment 1). However, this red effect was diminished when the face stimulus was inverted (Experiment 2). These results suggest that red background color interacting with facial configuration features biases gender perception toward a female face, possibly through top-down processing of learned associations between the color red and femininity.
Previous research has shown that, by the age of 3 to 4 years, children rely not only on perceptual similarity but also on shared category or other underlying structures to draw analogies. The present study extends this work by showing that children as young as 3 years old detect consistent relationships between colours and facial expressions of emotions - two phenomena that share no physical characteristics, violate conventional categories and have no obvious environmental contiguity. Two explanatory hypotheses are put forward: (a) learning by convention, which is explored against the standard of adults' and older children's matching patterns, and (b) reliance upon a common underlying but perceptually unavailable dimension - operationalized in terms of emotion and colour preferences in the context of the present study. Both explanatory approaches are discussed and avenues for future work are suggested.
Previous research has shown that, by the age of 3 to 4 years, children rely not only on perceptual similarity but also on shared category or other underlying structures to draw analogies. The present study extends this work by showing that children as young as 3 years old detect consistent relationships between colours and facial expressions of emotions – two phenomena that share no physical characteristics, violate conventional categories and have no obvious environmental contiguity. Two explanatory hypotheses are put forward: (a) learning by convention, which is explored against the standard of adults’ and older children’s matching patterns, and (b) reliance upon a common underlying but perceptually unavailable dimension – operationalized in terms of emotion and colour preferences in the context of the present study. Both explanatory approaches are discussed and avenues for future work are suggested.
Young children search for cues about gender—who should or should not do a particular activity, who can play with whom, and why girls and boys are different. From a vast array of gendered cues in their social worlds, children quickly form an impressive constellation of gender cognitions, including gender self-conceptions (gender identity) and gender stereotypes. Cognitive perspectives on gender development (i.e., cognitive developmental theory and gender-schema theory) assume that children actively search for ways to make sense of the social world that surrounds them. Gender identity develops as children realize that they belong to one gender group, and the consequences include increased motivation to be similar to other members of their group, preferences for members of their own group, selective attention to and memory for information relevant to their own sex, and increased interest in activities relevant to their own sex. Cognitive perspectives have been influential in increasing understanding of how children develop and apply gender stereotypes, and in their focus on children's active role in gender socialization.
Four-month-old infants attended differentially to eight equally bright, monochromatic spectral lights; that is, they discriminated colors. Moreover, infants showed the same pattern of differential attention regardless of experimental group (different groups of infants saw different subsets of all possible pairings of colors) or experimental method (paired comparisons or single stimulus). In general, the differential attention of infants to colors parallels the ratings of the pleasantness of those same colors by adults. Finally, infants looked significantly longer at color category centers than at color category boundaries. These results suggest that looking at this early stage of infancy can better be understood in terms of preference rather than in terms of stimulus categorization. The results also provide further evidence for a neural excitation model of early visual attention.
On the basis of tests in color preference performed on one thousand white subjects the writer presents the following order of color preferences: Blue, green, red, violet, orange, yellow, white. The measures of overlapping indicate that the differences are significant except in the cases of red and green, and violet and orange. In terms of "pull" as derived from a scale which calls the "pulling power" of Yellow unity, the following values are yielded: Yellow, 1; orange and violet, 1.5; red and green, 1.8; blue, 3. On such a scale the values for all the colors are higher for males with the exception of yellow and blue. By fractionating the data according to educational groups it turns out that blue is the only color which increases in value over extended periods of time. All other colors, and especially red, tend to fall off in value in proportion as education progresses. From Psych Bulletin 22:05:00408. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The materials were seven color discs of the Milton Bradley standard colored papers, red, orange, yellow, green, violet, blue, and white. The children were handed the discs and requested to select the one they liked best, the one they liked next best, and so forth until the color which they liked least had been selected. 1004 Filipino children, differentiated as to tribe, sex, and grade, were the subjects. They ranged from the first grade to the first year in high school. The results show that red was the most preferred color. The other preferences were respectively green, blue, violet, orange, white and yellow. "The Filipinos have a very short color preference scale, which fact indicates some inability to discriminate feelings of difference for many of the colors when compared. That is, their preferences are rather confused." Both sexes placed red first, but the girls valued green more highly than the boys. The effect of education, it seems from the results, is to lower the preference for yellow and to raise that for white, and to lower violet and raise blue. Red always came first, regardless of education. If red is disregarded, there is a decided change in preference with education. The authors conclude that "Filipinos are similar to the American Indian in their preferences for red regardless of education. The young Filipinos are rather similar to the young whites as well as to the young of other races with respect especially to red and white." (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The object of the investigation was to determine (1) whether certain colors are per se and generally pleasing, (2) whether color preference varies with increase in age and intellectual development, (3) whether the colors preferred during the adolescent period differ from those preferred during the pre-adolescent period, (4) whether social status is a determining factor in the preference for colors, (5) whether the two sexes show any difference in their esthetic evaluation of color.Six spectral colors were used and 2,500 subjects were tested. The colors were arranged on a chart and the subjects given the following instructions: "Here are six different colors. Each color has a number. White on your paper the number of the color you like best." The subjects tested were from seven elementary schools, high school and college classes. Among the conclusions drawn from the data are the following: (1) at every age from five to fifteen blue was most frequently preferred. (2) There was a distinct rise in the preference values of colors of short wave length and a corresponding decline in the values of colors of long wave length, as the children advanced in age and grade. (3) No striking differences between the color preferences of the sexes was observed. From Psych Bulletin 20:11:01019. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Asking 194 white children, mean age 12.83 years, and 206 negro children, mean age 13.53 years, in Public School No. 5, Manhattan, New York City, to indicate a color preference by underscoring the name of the color placed in a list of thirteen on a slip of paper, the investigator found that blue and pink are the most preferred by both races; black, brown, and grey are least preferred. Negro boys chose blue more often than did the whites. The girls of the two races did not differ in their first choice. Pink was second for both groups of girls, while for the boys violet was second and purple third. The older children are less variable as regards their preference for blue. 21% more of the superior negro children chose blue than was true of a similar group of whites. Very little, if any, difference exists between the two races. Two references. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
The color preference sequence for Mexican school children in San Antonio, Texas, is red, green, blue, violet, orange, white, and yellow. No sex differences, except possibly keener discrimination in males, are shown in these Mexican children. Education reduces the preferability of red, green, and yellow and raises that of blue. Mexicans and whites differ somewhat in their preferences for blue and white, the former resembling somewhat the full-blood Indians in the matter of choice. Fifteen tables, three figures of scales of color-values, and five references. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)