Boy monkeys prefer boy toys

February 13, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More

There’s no gender socialization in monkeys, right?   Then why are the boy monkeys (vervets and rhesus) preferring “boy” toys to “girl” toys?   The two sets of experiments have been reported by Psychology Today:

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 monkeys’ 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.

I wish they had reported the actual results in this short article.  They did report that the boy rhesus monkey preference for “boy” toys was “strong and significant.”

See also, this related post:  Boys’ Toys

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Category: Culture, nature, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. AnonaMiss says:

    Wow – if that's right, there are some serious (and strange!) implications.

    My reaction depends mostly on how the female monkeys received the pot – since monkeys don't cook, a marked preference for cookware by female monkeys would be verrrrry suspicious. Would point to severe methodological problems, or if those weren't in evidence after other studies, would shatter some pillar-level notions in our understanding of evolution and psychology. If female monkeys have a preference for cookware, I'd consider that a pretty convincing argument to go back to my religion, as it would indicate that parts of human psychology had evolved earlier in the tree than their selective pressures were around. Forget pop-top bananas, THAT would be convincing evidence of anthropocentric evolution/old world creationism.

    Other than that, I'd like to know how the females reacted to the stereotypically masculine toys, and vice versa. I can see why any monkey would be interested in something with moving parts, and I can see why females would be interested than males in roughly them-shaped stuffed animals/dolls – if there weren't some amount of preference wired into our brains there's no way we'd ever put up with all the crap women have to go through on behalf of the whiny, screamy little things.

    The interesting part would be to see how they reacted when their preferred toys were removed. I'd guess that females would likely prefer the "masculine" toys over the "neutral" toys, because moving parts are just interesting; and that males probably wouldn't show any difference in preference between "neutral" and "feminine" toys. While this ordering would be compatible with the results reported, it would lead to a very different, if less headline-prone, conclusion than the one the article seems to be suggesting: Toys that move are interesting, and girls' brains have to give them significant dopamine rewards to convince them to put up with children.

    P.S. Can we have the preview button back please?

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