Color is everywhere; gender is everywhere; color and gender have a varied, changing, and hard-to-pin-down relationship, which nevertheless creates powerful, explicit and implicit signals by and for both the people who apply colors (to their kids, themselves, their cars) and those who see them (including themselves).

Naming and choosing colors has a subjective component, as Randall Munroe showed in his xkcd color survey.

In the old days, some surveys have simply asked people to name their favorite colors. Silver and colleagues (Perceptual and Motor Skills 1988, 66:295-99) used that method in 1988 in a survey of undergraduates, and got these results:


Anyway, nowadays, you get fancy color analyses with infants' eye movements recorded (no gender difference found), or rapid on-screen comparisons showing adults many different colors, analyzed (obviously) according to the "neural dimensions that underlie color coding in the human visual system" rather than specific color names such as "pink."



To make a short story long, with the recent news of Disney moving its product lines into the delivery room, I was wondering how one could study the application of colors by parents to their children in real life.

Just to try something, I looked at the first 20 boys and 20 girls on the "most recent" list of photo albums at I used a free eye-dropper program to select a swatch from each kids outfit (first picture that showed visible color either on the clothes or the blanket), trying to pick the color that took up the greatest space (not counting white). After the eye-dropper gave me the color codes, I dropped them into this web-color utility, to get a pure color sample. I figure you could show these to people, like xkcd did, and ask them to name the colors, something like that.

It was also a little tricky deciding which pixel to select, since there are shadows, spots, etc. So it's not as easy as if you had a single-colored fabric stretched out in set light conditions. And in some cases the mix of colors was too much, and I just couldn't pick one that was most prevalent. Here's what it looks like:

This post originally appeared on Family Inequality. Republished with permission.

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Image via Arunas Gabalis/