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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 August 2007, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Why girls 'really do prefer pink'
Previous studies have shown a universal liking for blue
A little girl's love of all things pink may not be entirely due to marketing by clothes and toy firms say researchers.

A University of Newcastle study found that women naturally opted for redder shades when given a choice.

Writing in the journal Current Biology, experts say it may have helped women gather ripe fruit, or pick healthy mates.

Most earlier studies into colour suggest a universal liking for blue, regardless of sex.

This is one of the few studies that have tried to spot differences between the likes of males and females.

The Newcastle team, led by Dr Anya Hurlbert, tested more than 200 men and women in their 20s, asking them to choose between colours on the computer screen.

Women were far more likely to choose blue shades with more red mixed in, and more likely to reject more green and yellow hues.

Nature or nurture?

One of the problems facing the researchers was to work out if this reaction is the product of years of British "blue for a boy, pink for a girl" culture.

To do this, the group tested were a mixture of white British and Chinese volunteers.

Evolution may have driven females to prefer reddish colours - reddish fruits, healthy, reddish faces
Dr Anya Hurlbert, Newcastle University

While the Chinese volunteers, male and female, also tended to favour red shades, not surprisingly since red is a "lucky" colour in China, the difference between men and women persisted.

According to the researchers, this strengthened the idea that the preferences might be based in biology, rather than culture.

Dr Hurlbert said: "Evolution may have driven females to prefer reddish colours - reddish fruits, healthy, reddish faces.

"Culture may exploit and compound this natural female preference."

Depression and colour

Yazhu Ling, another researcher working on the project, said that work was planned in younger children to confirm the finding.

She said that she expected other projects to investigate links between colour preference and weight, and depression.

No clear explanation exists as to why all humans might also have an underlying liking for blue.

Dr Hurlbert speculated: "Going back to our 'savannah' days, we would have a natural preference for a clear blue sky, because it signalled good weather.

"Clear blue also signals a good water source."

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