Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 7–14 | Cite as

An Evolutionary Perspective of Sex-Typed Toy Preferences: Pink, Blue, and the Brain

Article

Abstract

Large sex differences in children's toy preferences are attributed to gender group identification and social learning. The proposal outlined in this paper is that contemporary conceptual categories of “masculine” or “feminine” toys are also influenced by evolved perceptual categories of male-preferred and female-preferred objects. Research on children exposed prenatally to atypical levels of androgens and research on typically developing infants suggest sex-dimorphic preferences exist for object features, such as movement or color/form. The evolution and neurobiology of mammalian visual processing—and recent findings on sex-dimorphic toy preferences in nonhuman primates—suggest further that an innate bias for processing object movement or color/form may contribute to behaviors with differential adaptive significance for males and females. In this way, preferences for objects such as toys may indicate a biological preparedness for a “masculine” or “feminine” gender role—one that develops more fully as early perceptual preferences are coupled with object experiences imposed by contemporary gender socialization.

human evolution human sex differences toy preferences gender roles visual processing 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Alexander, G. M., & Hines, M. (1994). Gender labels and play styles: Their relative contribution to children's selection of playmates. Child Development, 65, 869–879.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, G. M., & Hines, M. (2002). Sex differences in response to children's toys in nonhuman primates (Cercopithecus aethiops sabaeus). Evolution and Human Behavior, 23, 467–469.Google Scholar
  3. Alexander, G. M., Packard, M. G., & Peterson, B. S. (2002). Sex and spatial position effects on object location memory following intentional learning of object identities. Neuropsychologia, 40, 1516–1522.Google Scholar
  4. Bachevalier, J., & Hagger, C. (1991). Sex differences in the development of learning abilities in primates. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 16, 177–188.Google Scholar
  5. Bailey, J. M., & Zucker, K. J. (1995). Childhood sex-typed behavior and sexual orientation: A conceptual analysis and quantitative review. Developmental Psychology, 31, 43–55.Google Scholar
  6. Bauer, J. A., Shimojo, S., Gwizada, J., & Held, R. (1986). Sex differences in the development of human infants. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, 27, 265–273.Google Scholar
  7. Benenson, J. F., Liroff, E. R., Pascal, S. J., & Cioppa, G. D. (1997). Propulsion: A behavioural expression of masculinity. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 15, 37–50.Google Scholar
  8. Benenson, J. F., Morganstein, R., & Roy, R. (1998). Sex differences in children's investment in peers. Human Nature, 9, 369–390.Google Scholar
  9. Berenbaum, S. A. (1999). Effects of early androgens on sex-typed activities and interests in adolescents with congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Hormones and Behavior, 35, 102–110.Google Scholar
  10. Berenbaum, S. A., & Hines, M. (1992). Early androgens are related to childhood sex-typed toy preferences. Psychological Science, 3, 203–206.Google Scholar
  11. Berenbaum, S. A., & Resnick, S. M. (1997). Early androgen effects on aggression in children and adults with congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 22, 505–515.Google Scholar
  12. Bjorklund, D. F., & Pellegrini, A. D. (2000). Child development and evolutionary psychology. Child Development, 71, 1687–1708.Google Scholar
  13. Born, R. T. (2001). Visual processing: Parallel-er and parallel-er. Current Biology, 11, R566–R568.Google Scholar
  14. Bornstein, M. H. (1985). On the development of color naming in young children: Data and theory. Brain and Language, 26, 72–93.Google Scholar
  15. Bornstein, M. H., Kessen, W., & Weiskopf, S. (1976). Color vision and hue categorization in young human infants. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 2, 115–129.Google Scholar
  16. Breedlove, S. M., Cooke, B. M., & Jordan, C. L. (1999). The orthodox view of brain sexual differentiation. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 54, 8–14.Google Scholar
  17. Burkhalter, A., Bernardo, K. L., & Charles, V. (1993). Development of local circuits in human visual cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 13, 1916–1931.Google Scholar
  18. Bussey, K., & Bandura, A. (1999). Social–cognitive theory of gender development and differentiation. Psychological Review, 106, 676–713.Google Scholar
  19. Campbell, D. W., & Eaton, W. O. (1999). Sex differences in the activity level of infants. Infant and Child Development, 8, 1–17.Google Scholar
  20. Campbell, A., Shirley, L., & Heywood, C. (2000). Infants' visual preference for sex-congruent babies, children, toys and activities: A longitudinal study. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 18, 479–498.Google Scholar
  21. Carson, D. J., Okuno, A., Lee, P. A., Stetten, G., Didolkar, S. M., & Migeon, C. J. (1982). Amniotic fluid steroid levels: Fetuses with adrenal hyperplasia, 46, XXY fetuses, and normal fetuses. American Journal of Diseases of Children, 136, 218–222.Google Scholar
  22. Collaer, M. L., & Hines, M. (1995). Human behavioral sex differences: A role for gonadal hormones during early development? Psychological Bulletin, 118, 55–107.Google Scholar
  23. Connellan, J., Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Batki, A., & Ahluwalia, J. (2000). Sex differences in human neonatal social perception. Infant Behavior and Development, 23, 113–118.Google Scholar
  24. Connor, J. M., & Serbin, L. A. (1977). Behaviorally based masculine-and feminine-activity preferences scales for preschoolers: Correlates with other classroom behaviors and cognitive tests. Child Development, 48, 1411–1416.Google Scholar
  25. Cooke, B., Hegstrom, C. D., Villeneuve, L. S., & Breedlove, S. M. (1998). Sexual differentiation of the vertebrate brain: Principles and mechanisms. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, 19, 323–362.Google Scholar
  26. Corbier, P., Edwards, D. A., & Roffi, J. (1992). The neonatal testosterone surge: A comparative study. Archives Internationales de Physiologie, de Biochimie et de Biophysique, 100, 127–131.Google Scholar
  27. Dobkins, K. R., & Anderson, C. M. (2002). Color-based motion processing is stronger in infants than in adults. Psychological Science, 13, 76–80.Google Scholar
  28. Dominy, N. J., & Lucas, P. W. (2001). Ecological importance of trichromatic vision to primates. Nature, 410, 363–366.Google Scholar
  29. Duchaine, B., Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (2001). Evolutionary psychology and the brain. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 11, 225–230.Google Scholar
  30. Eals, M., & Silverman, I. (1994). The hunter–gatherer theory of spatial sex differences: Proximate factors mediating the female advantage in location memory. Ethology and Sociobiology, 15, 95–105.Google Scholar
  31. Eisenberg, N., Murray, E., & Hite, T. (1982). Children's reasoning regarding sex-typed toy choices. Child Development, 53, 81–86.Google Scholar
  32. Fantz, R. L. (1963). Pattern vision in newborn infants. Science, 140, 296–297.Google Scholar
  33. Fausto-Sterling, A. (1992). Myths of gender: Biological theories about women and men. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  34. Galea, L. A., & Kimura, D. (1993). Sex differences in route-learning. Personality and Individual Differences, 14, 53–65.Google Scholar
  35. Hampson, E., Rovet, J. F., & Altmann, D. (1998). Spatial reasoning in children with congenital adrenal hyperplasia due to 21–hydroxylase deficiency. Developmental Neuropsychology, 14, 299–320.Google Scholar
  36. Held, R., Bauer, J., & Gwiazda, J. (1988). Age of onset of binocularity correlates with level of plasma testosterone in male infants. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences 29, 60.Google Scholar
  37. Hellige, J. B., & Cumberland, N. (2001). Categorical and coordinate spatial processing: More on the contributions of the transient/ magnocellular visual system. Brain and Cognition 45, 155–163.Google Scholar
  38. Hendry, S. H. C., & Reid, R. C. (2000). The koniocellular pathway in primate vision. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 23, 127–153.Google Scholar
  39. Higley, J. D., Hopkins, W. D., Hirsch, R. M., Marra, L. M., & Suomi, S. M. (1987). Preferences of female rhesus monkeys (Macaca Mulatta) for infantile coloration. Developmental Psychobiology, 20, 7–18.Google Scholar
  40. Hines, M., & Kaufman, F. R. (1994). Androgen and the development of human sex-typical behavior: Rough-and-tumble play and sex of preferred playmates in children with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). Child Development, 65, 1042–1053.Google Scholar
  41. Iijima, M., Arisaka, O., Minamoto, F., & Arai, Y. (2001). Sex differences in children's free drawings: A study on girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Hormones and Behavior, 40, 99–104.Google Scholar
  42. Jameson, K. A., Highnote, S. M., & Wasserman, L. M. (2001). Richer color experience in observers with multiple photopiment opsin genes. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 8, 244–261.Google Scholar
  43. Johnson, M. H. (2001). The development and neural basis of face recognition: Comment and speculation. Infant and Child Development, 10, 31–33.Google Scholar
  44. Johnson, M. H., & Morton, J. (1991). Biology and cognitive development: The case of face recognition. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  45. Kastner, S., & Ungerleider, L. G. (2000). Mechanisms of visual attention in the human cortex. Annual Reviews in Neuroscience 23, 315–341.Google Scholar
  46. Kelly, S. J., Ostrowski, N. L., & Wilson, M. A. (1999). Gender differences in brain and behavior: Hormonal and neural bases. Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, 64, 655–664.Google Scholar
  47. Kovacs, I. (2000). Human development of perceptual organization. Vision Research, 40, 1301–1310.Google Scholar
  48. Kramer, J. H., Ellenberg, L., Leonard, J., & Share, L. J. (1996). Developmental sex differences in global–local perceptual bias. Neuropsychology, 10, 402–407.Google Scholar
  49. Liss, M. B. (1981). Patterns of toy play: An analysis of sex differences. Sex Roles, 7, 1143–1150.Google Scholar
  50. Livingstone, M. S., & Hubel, D. H. (1987). Psychosocial evidence for separate channels for the perception of form, color, movement, and depth. Journal of Neuroscience, 11, 3416–3468.Google Scholar
  51. Livingstone, M., & Hubel, D. (1988). Segregation of form, color, movement, and depth: Anatomy, physiology and perception. Science, 240, 740–749.Google Scholar
  52. Maccoby, E. E. (1988). Gender as a social category. Developmental Psychology, 24, 755–765.Google Scholar
  53. Maccoby, E. E. (1990). Gender and relationships: A developmental account. American Psychologist, 45, 513–520.Google Scholar
  54. Maccoby, E. E. (1998). The two sexes: Growing up apart, coming together. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  55. MacLusky, N. J., Bowlby, D. A., Brown, T. J., Peterson, R. E., & Hochberg, R. B. (1997). Sex and the developing brain: Suppression of neuronal estrogen sensitivity by developmental androgen exposure. Neurochemical Research, 22, 1395–1414.Google Scholar
  56. Martin, C. L. (1989). Children's use of gender-related information in making social judgments. Developmental Psychology, 25, 80–88.Google Scholar
  57. Martin, C. L. (1999). A developmental perspective on gender effects and gender concepts. In W. B. SwannJr. & J. H. Langlois (Eds.), Sexism and stereotypes in modern society: The gender science of Janet Taylor Spence (pp. 45–73). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  58. Martin, C. L., & Halverson, C. F. (1981). A schematic processing model of sex typing and stereotyping in children. Child Development, 52, 1119–1134.Google Scholar
  59. Martin, C. L., & Little, J. K. (1990). The relation of gender understanding to children's sex-typed preferences and gender stereotypes. Child Development, 61, 1427–1439.Google Scholar
  60. McClure, E. B. (2000). A meta-analytic review of sex differences in facial expression processing and their development in infants, children, and adolescents. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 424–453.Google Scholar
  61. Meaney, M. J. (1988). The sexual differentiation of social play. Trends in Neuroscience, 11, 54–58.Google Scholar
  62. Meaney, M. J., & McEwen, B. S. (1986). Testosterone implants into the amygdala during the neonatal period masculinize the social play of juvenile female rats. Brain Research, 398, 324–328.Google Scholar
  63. Merigan, W. H., & Maunsell, J. H. R. (1993). How parallel are the primate visual pathways? Annual Review of Neuroscience, 16, 369–402.Google Scholar
  64. Miller, C. L. (1987). Qualitative differences among gender-stereotyped toys: Implications for cognitive and social development. Sex Roles, 16, 473–487.Google Scholar
  65. Miller, C. L., Younger, B. A., & Morse, P. A. (1982). The categorization of male and female voices in infancy. Infant Behavior and Development, 5, 143–159.Google Scholar
  66. Minamoto, F. (1985). Male-female differences in pictures. Tokyo: Shoseki.Google Scholar
  67. Moffat, S. D., Hampson, E., & Hatzipantelis, M. (1998). Navigation in a “virtual” maze: Sex differences and correlation with psychometric measures of spatial ability in humans. Evolution and Human Behavior, 19, 73–87.Google Scholar
  68. Mollon, J. D. (1986). Understanding colour vision. Nature, 321, 12–13.Google Scholar
  69. Morgan, M. J., Adam, A., & Mollon, J. D. (1992). Dichromats detect colour-camouflaged objects that are not detected by trichromats. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London—Series B: Biological Sciences, 248, 291–295.Google Scholar
  70. Morton, J., & Johnson, M. H. (1991). CONSPEC and CONLERN: A two-process theory of infant face recognition. Psychological Review, 98, 164–181.Google Scholar
  71. Nathans, J. (1999). The evolution and physiology of human color vision: Insights from molecular genetic studies of visual pigments. Neuron, 24, 299–312.Google Scholar
  72. Nathans, J., Thomas, D., & Hogness, D. S. (1986). Molecular genetics of human color vision: The genes encoding blue, green, and red pigments. Science, 232, 193–202.Google Scholar
  73. Nelson, C. A. (2001). The development and neural bases of face recognition. Infant and Child Development, 10, 3–18.Google Scholar
  74. Nelson, C. A., & Horowitz, F. D. (1987). Visual motion perception in infancy: A review and synthesis. In P. Salapatek & L. Cohen (Eds.), Handbook of infant perception (pp. 123–153). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  75. O'Brien, M., & Huston, A. C. (1985). Development of sex-typed play behavior in toddlers. Developmental Psychology, 21, 866–871.Google Scholar
  76. Ogueta, S. B., Schwartz, S. D., Yamashita, C. K., & Farber, D. B. (1999). Estrogen receptor in the human eye: Influence of gender and age on gene expression. Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 40, 1906–1911.Google Scholar
  77. Overman, W. H., Bachevalier, J., Schuhmann, E., & Ryan, P. (1996). Cognitive gender differences in very young children parallel biologically based cognitive gender differences in monkeys. Behavioral Neuroscience, 110, 673–684.Google Scholar
  78. Pichaud, F., Briscoe, A., & Desplan, C. (1999). Evolution of color vision. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 9, 622–627.Google Scholar
  79. Pomerleau, A., Bolduc, D., Malcuit, G., & Cossette, L. (1990). Pink or blue: Environmental gender stereotypes in the first two years of life. Sex Roles, 22, 359–367.Google Scholar
  80. Regan, B. C., Julliot, C., Simmen, B., Vienot, F., Charles-Dominque, P., & Mollon, J. D. (2001). Fruits, foliage, and the evolution of primate colour vision. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London—Biological Sciences, 356, 229–283.Google Scholar
  81. Resnick, S. M., Berenbaum, S. A., Gottesman, I. I., & Bouchard, T. J. (1986). Early hormonal influences on cognitive functioning in congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Developmental Psychology, 22, 191–198.Google Scholar
  82. Roth, E. C., & Hellige, J. B. (1998). Spatial processing and hemispheric asymmetry: Contributions of the transient/magnocellular visual system. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 10, 472–484.Google Scholar
  83. Ruble, D. N., & Martin, C. L. (1998). Gender development. In W. Damon (Series Ed.) and N. Eisenberg (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 3. Social, emotional, and personality development (5th ed., pp. 933–1016). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  84. Salyer, D. L., Lund, T. D., Fleming, D. E., Lephart, E. D., & Horvath, T. L. (2001). Sexual dimorphism and aromatase in the rat retina. Developmental Brain Research, 126, 131–136.Google Scholar
  85. Serbin, L. A., Poulin-Dubois, D., Colburne, K. A., Sen, M. G., & Eichstedt, J. A. (2001). Gender stereotyping in infant: Visual preferences for and knowledge of gender-stereotyped toys in the second year of life. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 25, 7–15.Google Scholar
  86. Shyue, S.-K., Hewett-Emmett, D., Sperling, H. G., Hunt, D. M., Bowmaker, J. K., Mollon, J. D., et al. (1995). Adaptive evolution of color vision genes in higher primates. Science, 269, 1265–1267.Google Scholar
  87. Silverman, I., Choi, J., MacKewn, A., Fisher, M., Moro, J., & Olshansky, E. (2000). Evolved mechanisms underlying wayfinding: Further studies on the hunter–gatherer theory of spatial sex differences. Evolution and Human Behavior, 21, 201–213.Google Scholar
  88. Silverman, I., & Eals, M. (1992). Sex differences in spatial abilities: Evolutionary theory and data. In J. H. Barkow, L. Cosmides, & J. Tooby (Eds.), The adapted mind (pp. 533–549). New York: Oxford.Google Scholar
  89. Tarr, M. J., Kersten, D., Cheng, Y., & Rossion, B. (2001, May). It's Pat! Sexing faces using only red and green. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Vision Sciences Society, Sarasota, FL.Google Scholar
  90. Teller, D. Y. (1998). Spatial and temporal aspects of infant color vision. Vision Research, 38, 3275–3282.Google Scholar
  91. Ungerleider, L. G., & Mishkin, M. (1982). Two cortical pathways. In D. J. Ingle, M. A. Goodale, & Mansfield, R. J. W. (Eds.), Analysis of visual behavior (pp. 549–586). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  92. Watson, N. V., & Kimura, D. (1991). Nontrivial sex differences in throwing and intercepting: Relation to psychometrically-defined spatial functions. Personality and Individual Differences, 12, 375–385.Google Scholar
  93. Wilson, J. D. (1999). The role of androgens in male gender role behavior. Endocrine Reviews, 20, 726–737.Google Scholar
  94. Zucker, K. J., & Bradley, S. J. (1995). Gender identity disorder and psychosexual problems in children and adolescents. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  95. Zucker, K. J., Bradley, S. J., Oliver, G., Blake, J., Fleming, S., & Hood, J. (1996). Psychosexual development of women with congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Hormones and Behavior, 30, 300–318.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yale Child Study CenterNew Haven

Personalised recommendations