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Sex differences in 12, 18 and 24-old-month infants' preference for colour, toys and shape

Jadva, Vasanti (2006). Sex differences in 12, 18 and 24-old-month infants' preference for colour, toys and shape. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University, London)


Introduction: A growing number of studies have found differences between boys' and girls' preferences for sex-typed toys during infancy. Toy preferences have been explained using biological, social and cognitive theories. More recently, focus has turned towards the low-level properties of toys that boys and girls find attractive. The present study was designed to assess the relationship between toy preference and toy colour, as well as to examine sex differences in infants' preferences for colour and shape. In addition, sex differences in the colours of infants' home environments, and in the colour and type of infants' toys, were examined.

Method: A total of 120 infants aged 12, 18 or 24 months took part in the study, with 20 males and 20 females in each age group. Colour, toy and shape preference were assessed using the preferential looking task, whereby two images were presented to each infant simultaneously and the infant's gaze was recorded onto videotape. These tapes were later coded to determine the length of time the infant looked at each image. In addition, parental interviews were conducted to obtain data about the colour of infants' home environments and their toy preferences.

Results: Sex and age differences in visual preferences for toys were found when the brightness of pink and blue were controlled. Boys looked longer at the car than girls and girls looked longer at the doll than boys. This preference for sex-typed toys was greatest when the infants looked at a same-sex-typed toy coloured in a same-sextyped colour. Despite this overall sex difference, 12-month-olds, irrespective of their sex, looked at the doll more than the car. Infants were not found to show any sex differences in their visual preference for pink versus blue or for angular versus rounded shapes. Sex differences were not found in the colour of infants' bedrooms, bedcovers or bedroom curtains but sex differences were found in the colours of infant playrooms and clothing. With regard to reported toy play, boys played with more vehicles than girls, and girls played with more dolls than boys. A positive relationship was found between infants' reported play with vehicles and their looking time at the car on the preferential looking task.

Conclusions: Infants as young as 18 and 24 months show sex-typed visual preferences for toys which are strengthened when the toys are coloured in same sextyped colours. Sex differences in shape preference and colour preference were not found in the present study. Instead, boys and girls were found to be similar in their preference for rounded shapes over angular shapes, and for red over blue.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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