back to article Girls prefer pink: official

Two Newcastle Uni researchers appear to have confirmed what the manufacturers of "My Little Pony" have known all along: that girls have a natural preference for pink while boys demonstrate a penchant for blue. Anya C Hurlbert and Yazhu Ling of the seat of learning's Institute of Neuroscience and School of Biology and Psychology …


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  1. Sampler

    How does this prove a biological link?

    They asked "208 young males and females" so if they've had the socially imprinted colours pushed on them all their lives they may intinctively pick them in this test, it does not prove a biological link to select the colour and seems to make no steps to rule out cultural influences.

    Plus 208 is a very small sample size to be comparable to society as a whole.

  2. Colonel Panic

    From the department of the blinding effing obvious...

    Correlation doesn't prove causation, people. The experimental subjects were adults - with preferences formed over the course of a lifetime, influenced by peers, chosen, reinforced - all that nurture stuff.

    It does NOT show that the preference is innate.

    This they call science ? Richard Dawkins is right... we're screwed. We'll be back to worshipping rocks and reading sheep entrails before long.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't prove a single thing!

    This study is a complete waste of time. It claims to show some kind of biological preference, but it doesn't do anything of the kind as it fails to eliminate cultural influence.

    They put some "young people" in front of various colours and asked them to express a preference, but however young these people are, they would probably have already been exposed to the "boys love blue, girls love pink" mindset from when they were first born.

    The only way to show a non-culturual link to colour preference would be to do this test with children who weren't brought up in a "boys-blue, girls-pink" culture.

    They haven't done that, so the survey is worthless as it doesn't really tell us anything new.

  4. Simon Ball


    Where was this sample drawn from? The student body? If so, how can it avoid being culturally biased? If western consumer culture reinforces the blue/boy and pink/girl dichotomy, then a proper test would require finding a group of people who haven't been affected by it yet. Rural China, for example.

  5. JP

    Sooooo many problems from the start...

    Did they think that maybe the reason for girls to like pink, and boys to like blue, is because it is conditioned into the children from the start? Growing up around pink and blue things will mean that these colours produce a feeling of safety when seen or worn by those people once they grow up.

    Women liking to wear pink, or reddish colours, because they were attracted to "ripe" fruits and other items, and this being "evolutionary" makes no sense, as the women are not trying to attract each other, but MEN. Men, being hunters rather than gatherers, wouldn't be too fussed about the pinky colour.

    Men being attracted to blue for "clear skies" and "clean water"? Clear, bright skies would make sneaking up on the prey harder, and at what point in the savanah do you ever get blue water? Blue water is blue because it reflects the blue sky, not because it is clean. Healthy water would actually probably be quite dark, surrounded by and containing vegetation.

    Just... ARGH! Spout some rubbish and get it published...

  6. LaeMi Qian

    Pink- GAK!!!

    My family is on warning that anyone who buys me a pink mouse or one of those horrid pink 'for her' PC tool kits will need a proctologist to retrieve them!

  7. Edward Fingleton

    What about Belgium....

    I'd have to agree that with the information given here the survey was complete tosh, Unless you are testing on people who haven't been exposed to culture (certain ethical problems with keeping kids in a dark room till their old enough to do the tests) then there is no way to distance culture from the biological preference.

    A better test would be to take large groups of infants from many different cultures and make them play with different coloured blocks. However this is still fatally flawed.

    A better explanation of the women liking pinky red, would be that its a good healthy colour of skin to be and they are more likely to be selected as a mate if they look healthy e.g. mating colour presentations in baboons...

    I wonder what their survey results would be if they did the exact same trial in Belgium, where pink is the boys colour and blue is the girls colour!

  8. Andy

    Rock Worshipping

    The rock I worship prefers green.

  9. Andy Enderby


    Astounding what they'll issue research funding for isn't it ? Now I need to bang together a proposal involving the study of time dilation as applied to pubs.......

    I'll get my coat.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I say

    I always wondered about men who wear pink shirts

  11. Jeff

    How did this...

    ...piece of tripe make it onto TheReg in the first place?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pink is vile

    Not sure if its biological or a social imprint but i detest pink, its either a dreadful washed out colour or something so hideous that words just can't really describe it :)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Edward Fingleton

    "certain ethical problems with keeping kids in a dark room till their old enough to do the tests"

    Even then, the females are likely to prefer pinks because it is a lighter colour and as such will be more different to the dark suffering that they have experienced. The fact that the males in the same situation might prefer blue can be ignored as an anomaly... all good research MUST have anomalies, as my high school 'science' teachers told me!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Olden days

    Despite being widely considered the colour of females, before the 1930s, pink was considered to be a colour for boys in America. Because pink is a watered down version of red, it was considered a colour of power and strength, as red is still today. Blue was for girls.

    It's from Wikipedia... it must be true!

  15. Keiran

    Why boys choose blue

    They've completely missed the bleeding obvious reason...the study was carried out by Newcastle Uni. Anyone who's ever been out in Newcastle in the middle of the winter will know that that is the colour the boys turn when out wearing a t-shirt at -5 C.

  16. Dave

    Check out baby clothes

    If you walk into the baby section of some stores you're met with a wall of pink and a wall of blue. It's not so easy to get generic clothes of other colours, although if you refuse to tell relatives the sex of an imminent baby they'll usually manage to find some. Once the sex is known, expect to be deluged with pink or blue, as appropriate. This is how the imprinting happens, right from an early age, aided and abetted by friends and relatives.

  17. Claus P. Nielsen

    The "explanations" are also pure speculation (as is often the case).

    "Blue sky and water is good so men like blue"and "red berries are good, so women like red"?

    I could just as easily have argued "Red meat is good so men like red" and "blue sky and water is good, so women like blue"

    The pink skintone is the only one that doesn't sound like total bullshit, but I don't think there were that many pink people "on the African savannah millennia ago".

    So do women like pink in africa?

  18. Phil

    Everything has a reason

    As all babies look identical to anyone except their parents, the pink/blue convention is vital to avoid embarrassing mistakes, or having to ask "what sex is it?".

  19. Charlie

    Reg Reader Arrogance

    You'd have to be a bit dim to think they missed a blindingly obvious point such as environmental conditioning.

    Is it really too hard to think they might have used subjects from cultural backgrounds which don't have as strong blue/pink male/female promotion?

  20. Daniel


    "Clear blue also signals a good water source."

    It also means you have spent too many nights "in" with the girlfriend...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    girls are puffs.

  22. tom currie

    who paid for such a silly study?

    Oh, that's right, you and me. Pure crap produced on the government dime.

  23. Nick


    I think we all know the law of business in that you can represent all findings via statistics. We also all know that 78.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

    Therefore, these results from the Ministry of statin' the bleedin obvious would seem to correlate with other PfTA (plucked from thin air) studies that show if the weapons of mass disruption were painted blue, then our boys would find them and save St Tone. from looking a little foolish.

  24. Rich Bryant

    Re: The "explanations" are also pure speculation (as is often the case).

    Uh, the pink skintone probably works, especially since mating displays tend to emphasise bits of the individual that are pink regardless of general melanin levels.

    I'm certain there are websites about this, should you wish to research it.

  25. caffeine addict

    100 years back

    Go back a hundred years and the colours were the other way around. Boys were red and girls were blue.

  26. JP

    Oh, yeah, and...

    "Where's the IT angle??"

    Coat please...

  27. Mark O

    Waste of time?

    It's not worth writing but it's sure as hell worth reading and complaining about. But then you get that with any research article which is reported in the mainstream media.

  28. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    My statistics classes were a while ago

    But I do seem to remember that, in order to have a representative portion of the population (for election poll purposes, for example), the sample studied should be at least 2000 individuals strong.

    Taking that as a given, it follows that this "study" is lacking around 88% of its required representivity, thus its credibility is at the 12% level, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5%.

    So, if I am to re-read the conclusion that boys do prefer blue and girls do prefer pink, viewed alongside the fact that it is 10% reliable, I don't have a problem with that conclusion.

    Personally, I like blue. My wife likes green. My daughter's room has just been redone in bluish pastel tones (on her request).

    Yep. That fits in 10% reliability all right.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actually glad this article was in el reg

    It's great to use as a bad example. Seriously, the article is interesting not in the findings of the study, but in how stupid the study and researchers are. Thanks for sharing Reg!

  30. Alan Donaly

    How many

    of these kind of logic blind people go on to create

    real studies for the pharmaceutical industry for

    example. I seem to see a similarity in some of the

    false correlaries and sloppy science that indicate

    quite a few one more reason our civilisation is doomed

  31. Nicholas Chapel

    Re: What about Belgium....

    "A better explanation of the women liking pinky red, would be that its a good healthy colour of skin to be and they are more likely to be selected as a mate if they look healthy e.g. mating colour presentations in baboons..."

    So pinky-red would be a good skin colour. In Africa. You know, with *Africans*.

    It may be hard to imagine, but I think the first humans probably weren't white.

    I completely agree about the research, though: while it's impossible to make a conclusive judgement without seeing the details of the methodology used, as presented in the article it sounds completely worthless.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blue, I hate blue.

    I told my wife, whatever you do, don't buy a blue (or green) car, coz I hate those colours. She got a blue one.

    Then she had it re-sprayed again last week - due to "where she parks in work", and guess what, its blue again!

    Then she painted our room blue, now we all like blue.

  33. Joseph Zygnerski


    There should be a caveat: "the Register does not endorse this study, only reports on it."

    Or, really, we should just all keep that in mind.

  34. Count Ludwig

    Just So Stories

    In the beginning best beloved...

    It's very tempting to make up these "Just So" stories ("women like red berries, men like blue water"). My favourite loony one was for why menstruation of female colleagues tends to become synchronized: "because in the old days women would often go on sex strike together".

    Some are testable: a nice piece of research that indicated morning sickness protects early feotuses from mothers' ingested toxins made some testable predictions, which came true and eliminated some other explanations. (Don't have the ref. to hand, sorry)

  35. A. Merkin

    Blue & Pink

    I like my Blue films with plenty of Pink.

    Beret, Cape, Fire Escape...

  36. Jon Brunson


    I prefare pink over blue, and I'm male. Am I the anomoly?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Experimental procedure

    Although the full article is pay-to-read, the supplemental data pdf can be downloaded for free, and it contains this enlightening information on how they dealt with cultural bias:

    " 208 observers with normal color vision (as verified on the Farnsworth-Munsell 100-hue test) were tested in three different experiments "

    "A sub-group of 90 subjects (28 UK females, 25 UK males, 18 Chinese females and 19 Chinese males) participated in Experiment 1" ... " Each subject in this sub-group also completed the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI) questionnaire , from which we calculated masculinity and femininity scores. "

    "A second sub-group of 35 subjects (21 UK females, 14 UK males) participated in Experiment 2 "

    "The last sub-group of 83 subjects (43 UK females, 40 UK males) participated in Experiment 3"

    I don't think they've adequately allowed for either cultural bias /or/ social role conditioning in this structure.

  38. Luther Blissett

    Obvious evolutionary "explanation"

    How about this: pink so that neanderthal males can remember where to put it in, and blue so that neanderthal females can remember being on their backs and seeing the sky.

    Have I got that right, or should I ask Dawkins to fetch my coat?

    Where's the IT angle?

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Colored rectangles?

    I don't really know what color rectangles I like. I like my black truck, and my gray house. I really like my lawn to be green, I would hate a blue or pink lawn.

    I suspect I like pink roses better than blue ones. Blue skies better than pink ones. I don't think I like either blue or pink dogs.

    But rectangles? Haven't given it much thought.

  40. J

    The bleeding obvious...

    Yes, there is something bleeding obvious here, but it's the stupidity of Reg readers' comments, mostly.

    First of all, it's bleeding obvious you guys didn't read the original research, and sure did not even read the "original press release" about the research, which was further butchered by the Register. For example, I saw this reported in another popular, but more respectful, news organization, and they bothered to keep the bit about having 171 Brits and 37 Chinese, supposedly to try controlling for cultural influence. Nothing like that in El Reg's report. And you guys (with one laudable exception) just jump up and down like rabid monkeys yelling at something you haven't even seen... Now I admit I haven't read it either, because I'm home and can't only access the journal from the university tomorrow. So I can't say whether the study is any good or not. Current Biology is a pretty respectable journal though.

    Second, it's bleeding obvious you have your own selves in too high of a regard, but are just deluded in that respect. You think you can judge what is valuable research and what is not; what does not demand studies because it is "obvious and stupid" and what is worthy of investigation. Fortunately for humanity, you are not in control of the process. Isn't it obvious that space and time are fixed and unchangeable? Who would someone be stupid enough to even imagine, let alone study whether time can change speed, right? It's so obvious it can't... It was once obvious that the Earth was flat too... Still looks flat to me when I look out of the window. We usually can not know what some "useless" piece of research will bring in the future. Maybe nothing but pure knowledge, which is pretty good by itself, methinks. Or maybe something interesting and unexpected. We just can't tell, and that's why academic freedom is so important.

    That said, I do agree it's hard to see how they got away with using only 208 subjects. Maybe this is just a "letter" or "report", some preliminary research published to get the funding agencies attention so they can get the real thing done whenever (if) they finally get money for it (if you know the academic world and its modus operandi, you know what I'm talking about), but obviously the popular media loves this type of story and everything gets blown out of proportion. Partly the scientists fault, I think, but anyway.

    Lastly, I do take everything "evolutionary psychology" with not a grain, but a kilo of salt. I have some confidence in their speculations when they are based on animal behaviour studies though, since animals have so few cultural phenomena, when they do have any, among other things.

    "as the women are not trying to attract each other, but MEN."

    Er... didn't you know that, in the past, women were the ones collecting fruits and the like while the men where out hunting and killing neighbors? It's still like that in many "primitive" societies. So, if women were more attracted to those colors they would be more apt to see the ripe fruit they are supposed to collect to feed the band. OK, not the best speculation ever but not as horrid as some I've seen before...

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pink skin?

    People who have suggested pink because of skin color, look at your skin. Especially if you are white. Your skin is not pink.

  42. david


    A girl may be attracted to a pink triangle, or a pink phone.

    But... are they attracted to men in pink trousers?

  43. Olly Molyneux


    I like brown, not blue. My girlfriend, she like brown too.

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