Primates, toys, and gender socialization

Its pretty popular to think these days that all those differences between little boys and girls, e.g., crashing toy cars vs. dressing up as a princess are largely a process of gender role socialization.  An interesting new study of monkeys (rhesus macaques) suggests that, rather there is something inherent in our primate DNA that helps explain the toy preferences of children.  From quirks and quarks:

We all know the stereotypes — little girls prefer dolls while little
boys prefer toy trucks. Just exactly how much this has to do with
cultural influence or inherent biology has been the subject of some
pretty intense debate. Dr. Kim Wallen,
a psychologist with the Yerkes Primate Research Center and Emory
University in Atlanta, Georgia, has been studying sex-specific toy
preferences in rhesus monkeys. Dr. Wallen says that male monkeys prefer
stereotypical male toys over soft and cuddly dolls. He says the results
support the notion that these preferences are likely inherent in humans
as well.  [you can listen to it here]

What is especially interesting is that the male monkeys had a really strong bias for the stereotypically male toys, while the female monkeys were quite happy playing with either.  It would seem to suggest, then, that socialization might actually play a larger role in little girls' toy preferences than for boys. 

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