Throughout the world, boys and girls prefer to play with different types of toys. Boys typically like to play with cars and trucks, while girls typically choose to play with dolls. Why is this? A traditional sociological explanation is that boys and girls are socialized and encouraged to play with different types of toys by their parents, peers, and the â€œsociety.â€ Growing scientific evidence suggests, however, that boysâ€™ and girlsâ€™ toy preferences may have a biological origin.
In 2002, Gerianne M. Alexander of Texas A&M University and Melissa Hines of City University in London stunned the scientific world by showing that vervet monkeys showed the same sex-typical toy preferences as humans. In an incredibly ingenious study, published in Evolution and Human Behavior, Alexander and Hines gave two stereotypically masculine toys (a ball and a police car), two stereotypically feminine toys (a soft doll and a cooking pot), and two neutral toys (a picture book and a stuffed dog) to 44 male and 44 female vervet monkeys. They then assessed the monkeysâ€™ preference for each toy by measuring how much time they spent with each. Their data demonstrated that male vervet monkeys showed significantly greater interest in the masculine toys, and the female vervet monkeys showed significantly greater interest in the feminine toys. The two sexes did not differ in their preference for the neutral toys.
In a forthcoming article in Hormones and Behavior, Janice M. Hassett, Erin R. Siebert, and Kim Wallen, of Emory University, replicate the sex preferences in toys among members of another primate species (rhesus monkeys). Their study shows that, when given a choice between stereotypically male â€œwheeled toysâ€ (such as a wagon, a truck, and a car) and stereotypically female â€œplush toysâ€ (such as Winnie the Pooh, Raggedy Ann, and a koala bear hand puppet), male rhesus monkeys show strong and significant preference for the masculine toys. Female rhesus monkeys show preference for the feminine toys, but the difference in their preference is not statistically significant.
However, it is becoming less and less likely that â€œgender socializationâ€ is the reason why boys and girls prefer different toys, and more and more likely that there are some genetic, hormonal, and other biological reasons for the observed sex differences in toy preference.
We can’t say why, they mean.
Men and women are shaped by different levels of hormones. Men are designed to be more aggressive, and also, more focused on abstract and infrastructure-type issues; women are designed to be more emotional, more nurturing, and focused more on paying attention to the whole well-being of the individual.
These are complementary tendencies that work really well together. But, it’s politically unpopular to say ANY differences exist, so we must dance around the issue, like slaves in a dogmatic empire.
More from the gender misconceptions files:
Feminist theory of intimate violence is critically reviewed in the light of data from numerous incidence studies reporting levels of violence by female perpetrators higher than those reported for males, particularly in younger age samples. A critical analysis of the methodology of these studies is made with particular reference to the Conflict Tactics Scale developed and utilised by Straus and his colleagues. Results show that the gender disparity in injuries from domestic violence is less than originally portrayed by feminist theory. Studies are also reviewed indicating high levels of unilateral intimate violence by females to both males and females. Males appear to report their own victimization less than females do and to not view female violence against them as a crime. Hence, they differentially under-report being victimized by partners on crime victim surveys. It is concluded that feminist theory is contradicted by these findings and that the call for â€œqualitativeâ€ studies by feminists is really a means of avoiding this conclusion. A case is made for a paradigm having developed amongst family violence activists and researchers that precludes the notion of female violence, trivializes injuries to males and maintains a monolithic view of a complex social problem.
People can’t admit there are different responses to violence, which seems to be caused not by testosterone but by a diminished faith that negotiation can work out.
Maybe our biology is a response to our world — our context — and like scientific responses to nature, if the logic’s good, it always replicates itself, experiment after experiment. Those experiments are our lives.
When little boys and girls reach a certain age, they start accusing each other of having â€œcooties.â€ They regard each other as yucky and dirty because they have cooties, and avoid any contact with them for fear of contracting cooties themselves. That is, until they suddenly â€œdiscoverâ€ each other when they hit puberty, then they become crazy about each other and no longer fear cooties.
Westermarck is best known for discovering a phenomenon which is named after him: the Westermarck effect. It refers to the fact that when little boys and girls spend a lot of time together as they are growing up, they will later as adolescents find each other sexually repulsive. It is a mechanism designed for incest avoidance. Since individuals with whom small children come in regular and frequent contact as they grow up are almost always their genetic kin (their parents, siblings and other close family members), it will not be in the genetic interest of the children to be sexually attracted to them.
Evolution is always backward-looking and can only respond to situations that reliably and consistently existed in the past. Evolution can never anticipate the future, especially in a fast-moving environment like ours in the last 10,000 years.
From the perspective of the Westermarck effect, cooties (and their equivalents throughout the world) are a culturally specific device that reflects the operation of an underlying universal evolved psychological mechanism. Boys and girls in every society are evolutionarily designed to employ such a device (unconsciously) to make sure that they will not spend too much time with each other. Childrenâ€™s play groups in all human societies are sex-segregated; boys play with boys, and girls play with girls. This will guarantee that boys and girls will later find each other sexually attractive when the time is right, which in the context of the ancestral environment was right at puberty.
Nevertheless, if cooties are a device for children to avoid spending too much time with each other so that they could later select them as sexual mates, then they should not employ the device against their own brothers and sisters, whom they will not be selecting as mates anyway and with whom they should be spending a lot of time. In other words, little girls should allege that little boys have cooties, but not their brothers, and little boys should allege that little girls have cooties, but not their sisters. Brothers and sisters may resent, fight, and even hate each other, but they should not allege cootiesitus against each other.
That’s good research there, and an interesting revelation of how the same mechanisms show up in different cultures to keep the system working.
The findings, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveal that males are more tolerant than females of unrelated same-sex individuals. The males in this study rated their roommates as being more satisfactory and less bothersome than females did. In addition, the researchers found at three different collegiate institutions that females were more likely to switch to a new roommate than males were. The results of the final experiment, in which participants judged one negative behavior of a formerly reliable hypothetical friend, showed that women downgraded the best friend’s reliability significantly more than men did.
They add, “Females may simply weight negative information more heavily than males do, because negative information disrupts the establishment of intimacy, which serves a more important function in same-sex relationships for females than for males.” The authors go on to explain that the effort that we put into relationships with unrelated same-sex individuals may also depend on our short- and long- term needs during that specific time in our lives.
More innate hormonal differences. Neat.