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Pink for Girls, Blue for Boys – Why??

Posted by shadmia on August 21, 2007


Have you ever wondered why girls prefer the color pink and boys the color blue? Is it because we have been conditioned to think that way since infancy or is there a genetic predisposition to color preference? Does culture or race have anything to do with it? A group of British researchers took up this question and claim to have come up with a definitive answer.

“Although we expected to find sex differences, we were surprised at how robust they were, given the simplicity of our test,” said visual neuroscientist Anya Hurlbert of Newcastle University at Newcastle upon Tyne. Along with psychologist Yazhu Ling, Professor Hurlbert asked volunteers to select, as quickly as possible, their preferred colour from each of a series of paired, coloured rectangles. They reported in the journal Current Biology (Aug. 21, 2007 issue) that the most popular colour by far was blue.

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.

The finding was so strong that observers could pick the sex of people based upon their colour preferences alone.

It is thought the difference has its roots in evolution and the activities of our hunter-gatherer forebears.

While men developed a preference for the clear blue skies that signalled good weather for hunting, women honed their ability to pick out the reds and pink while foraging for ripe fruits and berries. Professor Hulbert, of Newcastle’s school of psychology, said: “The explanation might date back to humans’ hunter-gatherer days, when women were the primary gatherers and would have benefited from the ability to home in on ripe, red fruits.”

However not everyone agrees with this characterization. As a matter of fact the opposite was true (blue for girls and pink for boys) when gender specific color dressing became popular at the beginning of the 20th century.

“At one point pink was considered more of a boy’s color, (as a watered-down red, which is a fierce color) and blue was more for girls. The associate of pink with bold, dramatic red clearly affected its use for boys. An American newspaper in 1914 advised mothers, “If you like the color note on the little one’s garments, use pink for the boy and blue for the girl, if you are a follower of convention.” [The Sunday Sentinal, March 29, 1914.]

“There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” [Ladies Home Journal, June, 1918]

“The preferred color to dress young boys in was pink! Blue was reserved for girls as it was considered the paler, more dainty of the two colors, and pink was thought to be the stronger (akin to red). It was not until WWII that the colors were reversed and pink was used for girls and blue for boys…” – Quote from Dress Maker Magazine

According to Jo B. Paoletti and Carol Kregloh: “The current pink for girls and blue for boys wasn’t uniform until the 1950’s.

On the other hand, the idea of associating blue with male babies may stem back to ancient times when having a boy was good luck. Blue, the color of the sky where gods and fates lived, held powers to ward off evil, so baby boys where dressed in blue. In Greece a blue eye is still thought to have powers to ward off evil. The idea of pink for girls might come from the European legend that baby girls were born inside delicate pink roses.

Another theory states that the sexual origins can be found in ancient China. At a time when certain dyes were quite rare, pink dye was readily available and therefore inexpensive. Since blues were rare and expensive, it was therefore considered to be more worthwhile to dress your son in blue, because when he married the family would receive a dowry.

OK………..I admit that I really don’t know what to believe. Does anyone know anyone who was old enough to remember the early days of the 20th century, who might shed some light on this? Or maybe we should just accept the fact that:

Blue is for boys and Pink is for girls!!


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3 Responses to “Pink for Girls, Blue for Boys – Why??”

  1. […] school bathrooms reinforces this point. Even though it hasn’t always been this way (it used to be that pink was for boys and blue was for girls), there is no mistaking the trend that girls in some technologically advanced societies prefer pink […]

  2. shadmia said

    Laelaps, The thing I don’t get is how much of a preference do we really have if we are constantly reminded that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. This notion is reinforced within us from the day we are born. A baby dressed in blue will invariably be a boy… don’t even have to ask! So we grow up with this “understanding” and pass it on to our children. Is it really a preference when you have been brainwashed all your life?


  3. I that a at some point in time there could have been a large group of peolpe that had synesthesia and the females saw most pink and the Males saw most in blue and so even thought the trait may not have been passed down the childeren grew with the parental influence that blue boys and pink girls…………………….

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