Wednesday, August 22, 2007

And for the Most Part, Men Like Women Who are Dressed in Pink

Women really do prefer pink, researchers say
Aug 20, 2007

Boys like blue, girls like pink and there isn't much anybody can do about it, researchers said on Monday in one of the first studies to show scientifically that there are gender-based color preferences. [...]

Recent studies have suggested there is a universal preference for "blue," and there has not been much previous evidence to support the idea of sex differences when picking colors, said Anya Hurlbert, a neuroscientist at Newcastle University who led the study. [...]

In the study, the researchers asked a group of men and women to look at about 1,000 pairs of colored rectangles on a computer screen in a dark room and pick the ones they liked best as quickly as possible.

Afterwards, Hurlbert and colleagues plotted the results along the color spectrum and found that while men prefer blue, women gravitate towards the pinker end of the blue spectrum.

"Women have a very clear pattern. It's low in the yellow and green regions and rises to a peak in the purplish to reddish region," she said.

Hurlbert believes women's preference for pink may have evolved on top of a natural, universal preference for blue.

"When you add it together you get the colors they intrinsically like, you get bluish red, which is sort of lilac or pink," she said...


Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Universal preference for blue, eh?

According to Bernard Lewis, in the middle ages, the Arab word for 'blue,' when applied to artifacts we can still look at, meant green.

Although the Blue Mosque looks blue to me, apparently it does (or did) not to an Arab. But then, it's Persian.

I call shenanigans.

August 22, 2007 10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harry, where do you come up with this stuff?

Nevertheless, you are the epitome of well-grounded common sense compared to this: Hurlbert believes women's preference for pink may have evolved on top of a natural, universal preference for blue.

August 23, 2007 3:32 AM  
Blogger erp said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

August 23, 2007 5:52 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Blue eh? Think it has anything to do with this?

Pink? I have a theory, but you boys may think it hysterical.

August 23, 2007 5:54 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Mr. Eager;

I suspect that's a splitting rather than a renaming, in that the word probably covered both green and blue, a common occurence in primitive societies (for instance this was the case in China and Japan). See this about how color terms are adopted in cultures. Or, if you trust it, there is a Wikipedia article with some relevant information.

August 23, 2007 7:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to hear it anyway, erp. Also, your thoughts on fuschia and teale.

Do you think perhaps men's attraction to orange evolved on top of our natural, universal preference for gold?

August 23, 2007 7:13 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Peter, I was told that brits have irony sewed up and we yanks are tone deaf to it. It seems that you may be one of those of our northern neighbors who haven't inherited the irony detection gene from your forebearers and perhaps are even unable to detect the milder form, known as joshing.

Teal and fuchsia are among the many gorgeous colors made up of combinations of the primary colors, many of which are available, along with black and white, in the large box of Crayola crayons and I can recommend them highly.

Hint re: pink, go back to the roots.

August 23, 2007 7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely you don't believe American joshing is any match for Canadian understatement?

The only thing the Brits have mastered about irony is the ability to convince the rest of us we don't get it.

August 23, 2007 8:38 AM  
Blogger Ali said...

Why do women assume we can read minds?

Figure that one out, scientists.

August 23, 2007 9:56 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Peter, truce then.

Let's just assume we're both either kidding around or making an understatement when commenting on a story about a "scientific study" as reported by Reuters.

Ali, I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

August 23, 2007 11:17 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hillary Clinton often wears pink.

August 23, 2007 11:45 AM  
Blogger erp said...

David, 'nuf said.

August 23, 2007 12:20 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I got that one from 'Islam: From the Prophet Muhammad to the Capture of Constantinople, Vol. 2: Religion and Society'

SH is right about the difference being a semantic and binning problem.

However, Arabs receive the same frequencies everybody else does.
That they do not have a word for (perceive) whatever frequency these 'scientists' call 'blue' as a special case pretty much scotches the universality claim.

August 23, 2007 2:13 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Edgar, could it be a specific kind of color blindness?

August 23, 2007 3:12 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...


Possibly, but extremely unlikely. As noted, conflating blue and green is common among less modern cultures across the planet. We think of such colors as fundamental and obvious, but they're not, they're purely social constructs. The color wheel is continuous, and what Mr. Eager means by "binning" is "where do you draw the lines?", i.e., declare a certain range of frequencies of light to be one color and not another. Declaring "blue" and "green" distinct colors is just an opinion.

August 23, 2007 4:50 PM  
Blogger erp said...

Harry, so sorry about calling you Edgar! I don't know where that came from.

SH, Is it possible that primitive people living in a desert-like environment with little color variations may not have developed the ability to discern gradations.

August 23, 2007 6:09 PM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Yes, it's possible, but it still seems that the simpler explanation is that the Arab culture followed the same gradual expansion of color terms as every other culture. Note that China and Japan had the same "one word for blue and green" and they were hardly desert dwellers.

There are even cultures with words for "white", "black", and "red", but no other colors.

But the range of colors perceived is the same, they're simply not decadent enough to bother with all the color names we do.

August 23, 2007 7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Is your theory that an increase in the breadth of colour perception is a sign of decadence and decline? I can buy that. As a conservative, I am frequently accused of only seeing things in black and white.

You can play this game with language too. All this is vaguely reminicent of those documentaries on remote, stone-aged tribes in Central or South America one sees occasionally on the Discovery Channel. After showing us how the near-naked women haul water and pound the yams while the men sit around doing pretty much nothing, the narrator is suddenly struck by a crisis of multicultural conscience and wants to tell us how sophisticated they really are. So he goes all sombre and intones something like: "The langauge of the Cheechaweecha tribe is incredibly complex. They have twenty-five words for banana...(heavy pause)...but none for war."

August 24, 2007 4:50 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

Yes, as long as we're clear that it's a change of terminology, not actual perception. You know how you feel about the decadence of those frou-frou designer types who think "fushcia" and "magenta" are different colors? That's how old Arabic culture would feel about our "blue" and "green".

P.S. Is this not decadent?

August 24, 2007 6:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


That's the problem with you libertarians. You only see things in bisque and indigo.

August 24, 2007 6:55 AM  
Blogger erp said...

Gorgeous colors.

August 24, 2007 7:49 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Although the Empty Quarter may be sort of monochromatic, the parts of Arabia where the people live is apparently pretty colorful. That's the impression you get from reading T.E. Lawrence's descriptions, anyway.

August 24, 2007 9:31 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Is your theory that an increase in the breadth of colour perception is a sign of decadence and decline?

My theory is that an increase in color discrimination is based solely upon the ability to produce fine gradations of color on demand.

Nature pretty much covers the spectrum at one place or another, but our enjoyment of them is purely pasive.

Give a woman a chance to pfaff over which of a krillion colors (who thinks up the names, anyway?), though, and you have moved into an entirely new dynamic.

As for one of the first studies to show scientifically that there are gender-based color preferences, a stroll down the aisle of any toy store would quickly demonstrate that the preference for pink is more like an insistence, and happens practically from the git go.

My daughter came by her pink preference without a hint of instruction from either parent.

BTW, my color preference is strongly towards #A9A9A9.

Goes with everything.

August 24, 2007 11:14 PM  
Blogger David said...

This story says that, until the mid-20th century, pink was for boys and blue was for girls.

August 26, 2007 8:34 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

While the article was informative and thought-provoking, I suspect that the 1918 Ladies' Home Journal and 1914 Sunday Sentinel were referring to something other than pastel baby pink.

For instance, hot pink is indeed a "stronger", more masculine color than cornflower blue.

Maybe they considered "light red" to be "pink".

August 26, 2007 4:17 PM  

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