Sex Differences in Infants’ Visual Interest in Toys
- 5.4k Downloads
Evidence indicating that sex-linked toy preferences exist in two nonhuman primate species support the hypothesis that developmental sex differences such as those observed in children’s object preferences are shaped in part by inborn factors. If so, then preferences for sex-linked toys may emerge in children before any self-awareness of gender identity and gender–congruent behavior. In order to test this hypothesis, interest in a doll and a toy truck was measured in 30 infants ranging in age from 3 to 8 months using eye-tracking technology that provides precise indicators of visual attention. Consistent with primary hypothesis, sex differences in visual interest in sex-linked toys were found, such that girls showed a visual preference (d > 1.0) for the doll over the toy truck and boys compared to girls showed a greater number of visual fixations on the truck (d = .78). Our findings suggest that the conceptual categories of “masculine” and “feminine” toys are preceded by sex differences in the preferences for perceptual features associated with such objects. The existence of these innate preferences for object features coupled with well-documented social influences may explain why toy preferences are one of the earliest known manifestations of sex-linked social behavior.
KeywordsToy preferences Infants Eye-tracking Sex differences
This research was supported by NSF grant BCS-0618411 (GMA).
- Cohen, J. (1977). Statistical analysis for the behavioral sciences. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Fagot, B. I., & Littman, I. (1976). Relation of preschool sex-typing to intellectual performance in elementary school. Psychological Reports, 39, 699–704.Google Scholar
- Geary, D. C. (1999). Male, female: The evolution of human sex differences. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
- Johnson, M. H., & Morton, J. (1991). Biology and cognitive development: The case of face recognition. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Liben, L. S., & Bigler, R. S. (2002). The developmental course of gender differentiation: Conceptualizing, measuring, and evaluating constructs and pathways. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 67, 1–147.Google Scholar
- Maccoby, E. E. (1998). The two sexes: Growing up apart, coming together. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Martin, C. L., Ruble, D. N., & Szkrybalo, J. (2002). Cognitive theories of early gender development. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 903–933.Google Scholar
- Nordenstrom, A., Servin, A., Bohlin, G., Larsson, A., & Wedell, A. (2002). Sex-typed toy play behavior correlates with the degree of prenatal androgen exposure assessed by cyp21 genotype in girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 87, 5119–5124.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Ruble, D. N., Martin, C. L., & Berenbaum, S. A. (2006). Gender development. In W. Damon & R. M. Lerner (Series Eds.), and N. Eisenberg (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology. Vol. 3: Social, emotional, and personality development (6th ed., pp. 858–932). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Serbin, L. A., & Connor, J. M. (1979). Sex-typing of children’s play preferences and patterns of cognitive performance. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 134, 315–316.Google Scholar
- Zosuls, K. M., Ruble, D. N., Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Shrout, P. E., Bornstein, M. H., & Greulich, F. K. (in press). The acquisition of gender labels in infancy: Implications for sex-typed play. Developmental Psychology.Google Scholar