Scientists: Chicks like pink

Study reveals that women prefer pinkish hues.

Published August 20, 2007 7:35PM (EDT)

This just in: Women prefer pink. In a study to be published this month in the journal Current Biology, researchers have successfully proved that stereotypes of male and female color preference are fairly accurate.

After giving birth to a girl, Anya C. Hurlbert, a professor of visual neuroscience at Newcastle University, set out to answer why a plethora of pink products were aimed at newborn girls, reports the Washington Post. Instead of finding out whether newborns show a "gender appropriate" color preference, Hurlbert, along with researcher Yazhu Ling, surveyed 208 men and women between ages 20 and 26. The participants were asked to view "a thousand different pairs" of colors and quickly determine which color they preferred.

On the blue-yellow color spectrum, both men and women showed a strong preference for blue. But women, Hurlbert says, showed such a strong "preference for the red end of the red-green axis" that they could eventually determine a participant's gender based on his or her color preference. "We find very clear differences between the males and females we have tested," says Hurlbert.

If you guessed that the researchers concluded that women's color preference is a result of having been, from birth, swathed in pink -- literally and then figuratively later on -- you're wrong. It's an evolutionarily (not culturally) coded color preference, they say. "Females were the ones who gathered red fruit against a green background," says Hurlbert. "Red is healthy in faces and in fruits." As for the universal preference for blue, she offers: "Going back to our 'savannah' days, we would have a natural preference for a clear blue sky, because it signaled good weather. Clear blue also signals a good water source."

The Post also had an outside expert comment on the findings. Kathy Mullen, a professor of ophthalmology at Montreal's McGill University, says: "I wouldn't be surprised at all that there is a gender difference. That's not to say that it's genetic. It might be a cultural thing."

Next up: Hulbert plans to settle this episode of the nature versus nurture debate by studying color preference among babies.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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