Tuesday, August 21, 2007

thinking pink

So, did women really evolve to prefer the color pink because natural selection favored those of our female hunter-gatherer ancestors who could easily pick out ripe fruit? For some, it's now settled beyond doubt:

IT'S official. Blue is the most popular colour and women really do prefer pink, and reddish shades of blue like lilac and purple.
And the preference isn't just a result of social stereotypes, pushing pink on girls and blue on boys. It's innate and occurs across cultures, claim British researchers who studied the colour preferences of 208 young adults: 171 Britons and 37 mainland Chinese.

For others, there are some doubts. First of all, the subjects of the study were aged between 20 and 26, allowing plenty of time for socialisation to have already taken place. This rather obvious flaw means that the scientists are now off to try to replicate the findings in babies instead of adults.
Secondly, the argument of nature over nurture is weakened by another finding in the study:
The participants in the study were Chinese and British. The Chinese students showed a marked preference for red. As red symbolises luck and happiness in China, this indicates that cultural norms are also involved.

To me, that just highlights the powerful role of socialisation and tends to support the conclusion that 'nurture' also strongly factors into the gender color preferences.
There's also a suggestion that it would've been adaptive for females to recognise emotional states associated with pinkness, but given the association of pinkness with the sexual states, it's just as feasible that it was adaptive for men to like pink too...
Also, the claim that this is a genuine cross-cultural study is a bit iffy. We're talking Westernised Chinese here, aren't we; subjected to the same gender color norms and the same aggressive marketing of pink. Show me the study with subjects from a completely different, non-consumer society--say a modern tribe of hunter-gatherers--and I'll buy it.