Thursday, July 30, 2009

Boy Monkeys aren't Like Girl Monkeys: Who'd Have Thunk?

"Male monkeys prefer toy cars, females like dolls"
NewSciTech (April 26, 2006)

"Just like human boys and girls, male monkeys like to play with toy cars while female monkeys prefer dolls, a research project has shown.

"This intriguing discovery is one of many signs of deep-rooted behavioral differences between the sexes that scientists are exploring with the latest tools of genetics and neuroscience...."

This reminds me of the headlines, before the time this article was written, reading "RESEARCHERS DISCOVER MEN, WOMEN ARE DIFFERENT". As Gomer Pyle might have said, "shazam!"

The article gives a pretty good overview of the experiments which led to this (startling?) conclusion, and what we knew about primate brain functions about two years ago. The NewSciTech article acknowledges this with "...People used to think that boys and girls played differently because of the way they were brought up...."

Granted, academics are "people" in several generally-accepted senses of the term: but they're the ones who, in my experience, were insisting that men and women were equivalent, apart from the ability to bear children. Some were willing to acknowledge a few physical distinctions which emerge when a statistically significant sampling is taken of humanity. (Men tend, on average, generally speaking, to be a little taller, for one thing.)

"People" who weren't quite so well-educated, again in my experience, didn't have as much trouble telling the difference between men and women: and had noticed sex-linked average behavior patterns at least fifty years ago. Phrases like "boys will be boys" reflect this.

It seems that academics, at least in the field of psychology, have now independently made the same discovery.

"...'Vervet monkeys, like human beings, show sex differences in toy preferences,' [experiment leader and psychologist at Texas A&M University in College StationGerianne] Alexander wrote in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. 'Sex-related object preference appeared early in human evolution,' she said...."

Of course, this sort of research is important, since it provides verifiable data - and is published in a properly academic journal.

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