Pink for Girls, Red for Boys, and Blue for Both Genders: Colour Preferences in Children and Adults

Abstract

Colours carry social connotations like pink for girls and blue for boys. In a cross-sectional study, we investigated whether such early gender coding might be reflected in absolute colour preferences in children and adults of both genders. In two studies, participants selected their favourite (and least favourite, Study 2) colour from an unrestricted sample of colours. We tested 129 Swiss children (Study 1, 10–14 years-old, 68 boys) and 180 Swiss adults (Study 2, 17–48 years-old, 88 men). In children, we observed that girls chose pink/purple as their favourite hue more often than boys did, the most common favourite hue in girls and boys was blue, and boys chose red as their favourite more often than girls did. In adults, we observed that both genders almost never choose pink as their favourite, blue was a common favourite colour, and women were more likely to favour red than were men. In an additional study (n = 183 Swiss participants, 47 men), we tested whether liking of pink, blue, and red was related to emotion associations with these colours. Pink was associated with positive emotions to the same extent as blue and red. Women further associated more positive emotions with pink than did men. We conclude that some commonalities (blue) and gender differences (pink and red) exist in absolute colour preferences. These differences, however, cannot be fully accounted by emotional associations. We speculate about these gendered colour preferences in relation to gender stereotypes and status differences between men and women.

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Acknowledgements

We wish to thank Richard Klein for contributing to the translation of the survey instructions in French and Michael Quiblier for collecting part of the data. We also wish to thank Dr. Jean-Philippe Antonietti for statistical support throughout the project.

Funding

The current study was made possible thanks to the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation, providing a Doc.CH fellowship grant to DJ (P0LAP1_175055).

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Correspondence to Domicele Jonauskaite.

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Jonauskaite, D., Dael, N., Chèvre, L. et al. Pink for Girls, Red for Boys, and Blue for Both Genders: Colour Preferences in Children and Adults. Sex Roles 80, 630–642 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-018-0955-z

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Keywords

  • Gender differences
  • Colour cognition
  • Aesthetic preferences
  • Affect
  • Emotion
  • Individual differences