Monday, September 23, 2013

Do women and men prefer different colors?


According to a British study, there are distinct differences in color preferences between the sexes. The peer-reviewed research concluded that women distinctly prefer cool reds and pinks compared to men. While most people prefer blue overall, women prefer a redder hue of blue, the authors claim.

Color wheel by J. A. Hatt, from The Colorist, 1908
Are these preferences biological or cultural? Neuroscientist Anya Hurlbert tried to isolate cultural factors by comparing the results of the mostly British caucasian participants to Chinese subjects, and they found similar results.

According to TS-SI News Service, prehistoric women might have preferred colorful objects and especially reddish objects so that they could "key in on ripe, red fruits... It is different for men. Hurlbert says thinking about colors is less important for them. As hunters, they look for something dark and shoot it."

11 comments:

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thanks James - very interesting

You can download the original (complete) article from here http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(07)01559-X

Steve Hall said...

Hatt's scheme was doomed from the outset--no "ultramarine"!

P.T. Waugh said...

Ripe, red fruit maybe. But I think the preference might come from a desire for warmth and red meat. Feel free to disagree though.

D said...

From the Wikipedia article on pink: "The association of pink with girls dates to the modern era, probably developing at different times in different countries." They go on to give several historical examples of a change to pink for girls.
Chinese toy stores sell much the same toys as U.S. stores, including the pink girls' aisle. These facts make me dubious that they were able to successfully control for cultural factors.

D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Gurney said...

D: I agree with your skepticism. Something else I read said that pink was considered a male color in the USA a hundred or more years ago as it was seen as a derivative of red, rather than the "girl juice" that it is now. I'm also skeptical of their assumptions at the end about evolutionary roots of color preferences. "Primitive" cultures generally don't have a word for blue, can't synthesize the pigment, and may not have recognized it as a distinct color. Anyone who says people like blue because they like water and water is blue obviously hasn't painted water.

Simone said...

Begs the question, where does the expression, "I'm in the pink" come from?

As an aside, since more women purchase paintings than men, I am just going to start loading every canvas with pink! Uh, maybe not.

Unknown said...

I'm a woman and I prefer orange-er reds and both purpley AND greenish blues, and I hate pink because people told me I had to like it because I'm a girl. I was also given dolls (I tried to figure out how to pull their heads off) and a dollhouse (never used it) and forced/constantly encouraged to wear uncomfortable dresses that did not allow me to sit the way I preferred for fear of accidentally flashing someone, and of course most of these things were colored pink or purple (with pink). My favorite toy in my youth was a big figurine of Talon from Primal Rage.

I don't really give much stock to studies that speculate on 'primitive' evolutionary reasons for various traits. First of all, we have no idea what people back then really preferred. Second of all, the 'throwback to cavemen' line of reasoning is often used to justify current gendered traits that are pure social fabrications of mainstream culture. I see a lot of these junk science articles out there...

By the way, in some cultures blue and green go under the same label. EX: Turquoise like the sky, versus turquoise like grass.

Nadina Cardillo said...

Very interesting talk. I have some experience in recreating historical garments (especially the late middle ages) and I have never heard of female preference towards red or pink, at least in fashion and accessories.

I honestly wonder where this modern pink/blue segregation came from and how it managed to spread worldwide.

Since I have yet to see some proof of it existing before modern times, I'm guessing the preference shown in the study is due to cultural conditioning and not due to a biological reason. If someone has data of any time period or culture that does have a "girl" and "boy" color, please share!

For the record: I'm a woman and my favourite color is royal blue.

Vinod Rams said...

pretty humorous take on this type of evo psych type "science".
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9SvQ29-gk8

Roberto said...

I do a lot of work for schools, mascot/totems etc., and I’m starting to see a new preference for pink as a wardrobe accent by the boys. Are they playing to the female preference… or rebelling against social gender stereotypes? Whatever the evolutionary pressure, it’s nice to see a creative use of color in the student-body after years of black, gray, and white. -RQ