‘Girls’ preference for pink is not innate’

  • February 2, 2021
‘Girls’ preference for pink is not innate’

A new study led by Jac Davis finds young children in remote villages have no gendered colour preference while those in big cities do

Our findings suggest that the pairing of pink with female gender in global culture might influence boys to avoid options that are coloured pink.

Jac Davis

Children’s preference for pink or blue is a cultural phenomenon and girls do not have an innate preference for pink, according to a new study.

The study, whose first author is Gates Cambridge Scholar Jac Davis [2014], has just been published in the journal Child Development. It compares young children in three locations – remote villages in Peru and Vanuatu and foragers living in the northern Republic of Congo – locations with limited access to global culture via mass media, mass communication and mass‐produced children’s toys – with those living in Brisbane, a global Australian city.

Researchers, including Gates Cambridge Scholar Sheina Lew-Levy [2014], found there was no difference in colour preference among children aged four to 11 who lived in Shipibo villages in the Peruvian Amazon, kastom villages in the highlands of Tanna Island, Vanuatu, and BaYaka foragers in the northern Republic of Congo. However, there was a marked preference for pink among girls in Brisbane who had been exposed to global cultural influences. Moreover, older boys in Brisbane were less likely to choose pink than younger ones.

The findings suggest that global cultural attitudes influenced boys to avoid pink. This supports previous reports that children avoid culturally defined opposite‐sex behaviours. They say that this colour-coding may constrain what boys and girls do “as children use these cues to signal what they may be interested in, and what they may want to avoid”.

The researchers, led by Davis [2014], who did a PhD in Psychology at the University of Cambridge, say: “Our findings, in combination with previous research, suggest that the pairing of pink with female gender in global culture might influence boys to avoid options that are coloured pink.”

Latest News

Exploring the neural bases of consciousness

New insights into how neurochemical influences from the brainstem affect the rest of the brain to bring about consciousness could help brain-damaged patients and further our understanding of how consciousness works. A new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS] by researchers at the Division of Anaesthesia, University of Cambridge investigates the […]

Knowledge gap on zoonotic disease transmission highlighted

The impact of climate change on migration patterns, particularly in areas which depend on agriculture and livestock, could affect zoonotic disease transmission yet little research has been done to date. A new study, led by Gates Cambridge Scholar and Veterinary Science PhD student Dorien Braam [2018], looks at the research that currently exists, but calls […]

Addressing climate change in words and action

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has called for the US federal government to establish a national, robust and legally binding net-zero target that emphasises comprehensiveness, equity and clarity on the role of offsets.  In an opinion piece in Arizona Republic, Stephen Lezak and his co-authors, including Kate Gallego, the mayor of Phoenix, Arizona, which has done […]

Gates Cambridge mentors: forging bonds and giving back

The Gates Cambridge Scholars Council has been running a mentoring programme since 2018 as part of an effort to bring alumni and scholars closer together, build a stronger sense of community and to give mentors a chance to give back. This year has seen a big increase in the number of mentors coming forward, with […]