Friday, December 09, 2005

Monkey See, Monkey Do, so what?

From Knight Ridder Newspapers:
Monkeys show gender differences in toy preferences

[snips from the article]

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

..."Human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behavior," Richard Haier, a neuroscientist at the University of California in Irvine, wrote in the journal NeuroImage.

In the monkey experiment, researchers put a variety of toys in front of 44 male and 44 female vervets, a breed of small African monkeys, and measured the amount of time they spent with each object.

Like little boys, some male monkeys moved a toy car along the ground. Like little girls, female monkeys closely inspected a doll's bottom. Males also played with balls while females fancied cooking pots. Both were equally interested in neutral objects such as a picture book and a stuffed dog.

People used to think that boys and girls played differently because of the way they were brought up. Now scientists such as Alexander say a creature's genetic inheritance also plays an important role.

"Vervet monkeys, like human beings, show sex differences in toy preferences," Alexander wrote in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. "Sex-related object preference appeared early in human evolution," she said...

[Read Full Article]

That's great work folks. Now, can someone tell me exactly why they were compelled to do this research (and if any of my tax dollars went for it)? And can any of these scientists explain why my 6-year-old niece enjoys playing with trains, cars and Barbie© dolls?! And does any of it really matter one freaking iota in the grand scheme of things??? I personally do like research about children and thinking/playing. But I like research that shows how children learn. Why they mimic. And how we can help them reach their full potentials. I could care less about gender differences and children (although I have seen research that shows a child knows his/her gender -- and some of the societal rules and roles for that gender -- by age three and that saddens me). Let children be children. Let them gravitate to toys and activities in their own way and time. And for the gods' sakes, don't be freaked out if a child does not conform to your notions of what a good little boy or girl should want to play with. Me? I am waiting for my niece to be old enough for a chemistry set, which is "traditionally" a boy's toy. I don't care. My niece is intelligent and curious, and I can hardly wait to introduce her to fun home chemistry stuff. (And, no, if it turns out that she does not like chemistry, then I won't push it on her.)

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