Summer 2008: Of Note

A monkey plays with a plastic wheeled toy

the wheel goes round: Male rhesus monkeys strongly prefer toys with wheels while female monkeys play with both plush toys and wheeled toys, found Yerkes researchers.

Courtesy Yerkes National Primate Research Center

Boy Toys

Monkeys show same gender preferences in play as humans

Monkeys at play

“Male Monkeys Prefer Boys’ Toys” video of the Yerkes Primate Research Center from New Scientist

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By Mary J. Loftus

Hot Wheels, it seems, aren’t only fun for human boys.

Male rhesus monkeys strongly prefer toys with wheels, while female monkeys play with both plush toys and wheeled toys, found researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. This parallels human children’s preferences. “Young girls show a broader range of play patterns than boys, playing with many different kinds of toys,” said lead researcher Janice Hassett. “We found this to be true with the female monkeys as well.”

The results of the study, which ran in the online edition of Hormones and Behavior, suggest that toy preferences might reflect hormonally influenced behavior and inborn cognitive biases.

“Sex differences in human toy preferences are often thought to occur primarily through socialization influences, such as parents encouraging sons to play with cars and trucks, and daughters to play with dolls and stuffed animals,” Hassett says. “If, however, preferences for gender-specific toys exist in other species, then nonsocial factors also may play a role.”

Researchers compared the interactions of eleven male and twenty-three female rhesus macaques with wheeled toys and plush toys.

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Summer 2008

Of Note

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