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, 54 (3), 359-64

Sex Differences in Rhesus Monkey Toy Preferences Parallel Those of Children

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Sex Differences in Rhesus Monkey Toy Preferences Parallel Those of Children

Janice M Hassett et al. Horm Behav.

Abstract

Sex differences in toy preferences in children are marked, with boys expressing stronger and more rigid toy preferences than girls, whose preferences are more flexible. Socialization processes, parents, or peers encouraging play with gender-specific toys are thought to be the primary force shaping sex differences in toy preference. A contrast in view is that toy preferences reflect biologically-determined preferences for specific activities facilitated by specific toys. Sex differences in juvenile activities, such as rough-and-tumble play, peer preferences, and infant interest, share similarities in humans and monkeys. Thus if activity preferences shape toy preferences, male and female monkeys may show toy preferences similar to those seen in boys and girls. We compared the interactions of 34 rhesus monkeys, living within a 135 monkey troop, with human wheeled toys and plush toys. Male monkeys, like boys, showed consistent and strong preferences for wheeled toys, while female monkeys, like girls, showed greater variability in preferences. Thus, the magnitude of preference for wheeled over plush toys differed significantly between males and females. The similarities to human findings demonstrate that such preferences can develop without explicit gendered socialization. We offer the hypothesis that toy preferences reflect hormonally influenced behavioral and cognitive biases which are sculpted by social processes into the sex differences seen in monkeys and humans.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Figure 1a: Sex difference in play with stereotypical masculine and feminine toys in a choice paradigm. Different superscripts within category or within sex indicate significant differences. (Adapted from Berenbaum and Hines, 1992). Figure 1b: Sex difference in total frequency of interactions with plush and wheeled toys by rhesus monkeys. Different superscripts within category or within sex indicate significant differences.

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