Thursday, February 12, 2009

Study Shows a Marked Difference Between Genders in Color Preference

However open minded Sarah Lawrence students may be, we've all heard it before. Pink is for girls, and blue is for boys. While some have staunchly opposed this concept as an externally induced societal norm, there may actually be some biological validity to the statement.

The Test
In 2007, Newcastle University collected a sample of 208 participants for their study on color preference. The main population were British Caucasian, with a sub-population of mainland Han Chinese participants who had come to the UK within the past year. This was to test whether culture or biology played a larger role. Participants were asked to select their preferred color, as rapidly as possible, from each of a series of pairs of small colored rectangles on an otherwise neutral screen. The shades of the rectangles were specifically chosen to highlight differences in hue, saturation (intensity), and lightness. The participants were each tested three different times, some spanning as much as a two week interval.

While saturation and lightness showed little effect on color preference, the preference in hue differed significantly between males and females. 

The graph shows how often each shade on the red-green spectrum was chosen as a favorite. "The average female preference rises steeply to a sustained peak in the reddish-purple region, and falls rapidly in the greenish-yellow region, whereas the male preference is shifted towards blue-green and less pronounced. The variance in preference over all hues is significantly greater for females versus males, and individual female preference curves are also more stable over time."

What does that mean?
It means that women have more of a variety when it comes to color preference, but when they find something they like, they stick with it. Men have more of a tendency to choose a different rectangle when shown the same pair a second time.

The Good Stuff
While both sexes showed an intense affinity for blue, females are significantly more likely to choose a reddish shade. "Girls' preference for pink may have evolved on top of a natural, universal preference for blue." The difference is so apparent that one can actually predict a person's gender based on their favorite color profile.

But Why?
The currently proposed explanation is that the difference comes out of evolutionary necessity. Based on the hunter-gatherer theory, females would need to be able to identify ripened fruit more than males would need such color specificity for hunting. This theory also accounts for why women responded with a more sustained certainty and stability in their choices. Another theory recognizes females as historically playing the role of care-givers and empathizers. This would require them to hone their recognition of subtle changes in skin color due to emotional states. Examining the data in this way may also explain why blue is favored by both sexes. Blue means good weather and a clean water source.

But... isn't it still possible that this is all society's doing?
Absolutely. Chinese culture promotes red as the color of good luck, and the Chinese participants were also slightly more likely to choose reddish hues than the ones born and raised in the UK, but not nearly to the same degree as females overall.

Cell Press (2007, August 22). Girls Prefer Pink, Or At Least A Redder Shade Of Blue. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from /releases/2007
Anya C. Hurlbert, Yazhu Ling, Biological components of sex differences in color preference, Current Biology, Volume 17, Issue 16, 21 August 2007, Pages R623-R625, ISSN 0960-9822, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2007.06.022.

No comments:

Post a Comment