December 9, 2005


Monkeys mimic kids in toy selections (United Press International, 12/08/05)

A Texas A&M study suggests biological pre-wiring determines why boys and girls enjoy playing with different types of toys, not sociological factors.

Psychologist Gerianne Alexander says it's commonly believed boys and girls learn what types of toys they should like based solely on society's expectations. But she says her research brings that into question. [...]

She and Melissa Hines of the University of London found monkeys' toy preferences are consistent along gender lines as those of human children. Young male monkeys enjoyed playing with model cars and young female monkeys preferred dolls.

"Masculine toys and feminine toys," Alexander says, "are clearly categories constructed by people. However, our finding that male and female vervet monkeys show similar preferences for these toys as boys and girls do, suggests that what makes a 'boy toy' and a 'girl toy' is more than just what society dictates -- it suggests that there may be perceptual cues that attract males or females to particular objects such as toys."

Who's gonna tell the chicks on the Harvard faculty?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 9, 2005 12:00 AM

Psychologist Gerianne Alexander says it's commonly believed boys and girls learn what types of toys they should like based solely on society's expectations.

Many years ago that's what was thought about toy guns, too, but parents found out that even if they didn't buy toy guns, their boys would use their fingers and sticks to simulate guns.

(Or maybe, since guns are the ultimate phallic symbols, young boys are using their fingers and sticks to symbolically reinforce their socialized claims of dominance in a patriarchal world).

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2005 9:00 AM

Put a stick in a room with three little boysand they'll fight over it. Someone will get hurt.

Put a stick in a room with three little girls and they'll dress it up and pretend to have tea with it.

Posted by: Rick T. at December 9, 2005 9:36 AM

Note that this also confirms the general impression that children are monkeys.

Posted by: Bob Hawkins at December 9, 2005 9:56 AM

Wow! Males play at fighting and females at nurturing. Who'da thunk it?

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 9, 2005 10:39 AM

You can have this stick when you pry it from my cold, dead, damn dirty paw.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 9, 2005 10:43 AM


Good one.

But what would the monkeys do if they were put in a playroom with just stuffed animals? Would the females gravitate towards ponies and porpoises and teddy bears, with the males taking the elephants, lions, snakes, and 'tougher' animals?

And what would they do with a Nancy Hopkins doll?

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 9, 2005 10:56 AM

My godson doesn't get guns to play with (or cool toy ICBMs like OJ's kids). So he makes guns out of Legos or other building blocks and runs around the yard pretending to be a Marine sniper. "One shot, one kill, boy!" I tell him.

Posted by: Bryan at December 9, 2005 11:07 AM


You should see ours with their lightsabers. The other night the 8 year old told him Mom he's come upstairs as soon as he'd killed his 3 year old brother....

Posted by: oj at December 9, 2005 11:13 AM

There was a documentary on tv the other day of a guy who had some kind of botched circumcision, and so the doctor advised the parents to have him castrated, give him female hormones, change his name from Bruce to Brenda, dress him as a girl, and never tell him.

It didn't take.

Posted by: RC at December 9, 2005 11:18 AM

But what would the monkeys do [...] with a Nancy Hopkins doll?

Probably laugh themselves to death.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 9, 2005 11:41 AM

True story. When my littlest guy was about four or five, a couple of little female visitors began playing with their Barbies. He instantly realized the potential, grabbed a doll, fashioned it into a gun and mowed down the rest of the dolls.

Our friends, parents of only girls, were appalled and reacted as if my pre-school son was a real killer.

Nice update: My guy, now in his 40's, is the father of four, an executive in the high tech industry and a pillar of the community. The two little girls in the story, also in their 40's, never grew up, went the counter culture way, have never had a full time job and move in with their folks at frequent intervals.

Posted by: erp at December 9, 2005 11:45 AM

Who needs a sticks? My daughter got in trouble at daycare for pretending a bar of soap was a gun.

Posted by: flanman at December 9, 2005 12:57 PM

My daughter-in-law got a big lesson in this a few years ago. She had proudly told us that we couldn't give him any type of gun toy, not even a squirt-gun.

Then one day they went thru McDonalds and a few blocks later she heard, "pow bang" coming from the back seat. Kirk had gnawed his chicken patty into the shape of a gun and was "pow"ing cars in the other lane.

Posted by: fred at December 9, 2005 1:35 PM


So your son is a cog in the great capitalist death machine while the two girls reject barbaric business hegemony and promote alternative living arrangements?

Just kidding. ;-)

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 9, 2005 3:36 PM

the thing is, bonobo's are just bi chimps

Posted by: alfred kinsey at December 9, 2005 10:23 PM