Boys and their toys? It’s biological, not social

Telegraph (UK) 07 April 2008
Boys prefer playing with cars to dolls because of basic biological differences rather than social pressures, scientists say. Researchers observed young male monkeys spent more time playing with vehicles than with cuddly toys. They believe this suggests that in most cases boys have an innate predisposition for masculine toys, which is then reinforced by what they learn from their parents, friends and wider society.

Dr Kim Wallen, a psychologist at Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, studied a group of captive, mainly juvenile male and female rhesus monkeys. The animals were offered two categories of toys – ones with wheels such as wagons and other vehicles, and various dolls and cuddly toys including such as a Winnie the Pooh. In a series of videoed experiments one of each type of toy was placed 30ft apart to see which monkeys would be attracted to which category. In most cases the monkeys formed a group around one of the toys and eventually one of them would snatch it and run away.

…Their conclusion contradicts those of the dominant psychological theory that the preference of boys for vehicles and toy soldiers and that of girls for dolls is down to social rather than innate influences. Dr Wallen, whose study is published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, and highlighted on, said: “A five-year-old boy whose compatriots discover has a collection of Barbies is likely to take a lot of flak.”