Sex Roles

, Volume 80, Issue 9–10, pp 630–642 | Cite as

Pink for Girls, Red for Boys, and Blue for Both Genders: Colour Preferences in Children and Adults

  • Domicele JonauskaiteEmail author
  • Nele Dael
  • Laetitia Chèvre
  • Betty Althaus
  • Alessandro Tremea
  • Laetitia Charalambides
  • Christine Mohr
Original Article


Colours carry social connotations like pink for girls and blue for boys. In a cross-sectional study, we investigated whether such early gender coding might be reflected in absolute colour preferences in children and adults of both genders. In two studies, participants selected their favourite (and least favourite, Study 2) colour from an unrestricted sample of colours. We tested 129 Swiss children (Study 1, 10–14 years-old, 68 boys) and 180 Swiss adults (Study 2, 17–48 years-old, 88 men). In children, we observed that girls chose pink/purple as their favourite hue more often than boys did, the most common favourite hue in girls and boys was blue, and boys chose red as their favourite more often than girls did. In adults, we observed that both genders almost never choose pink as their favourite, blue was a common favourite colour, and women were more likely to favour red than were men. In an additional study (n = 183 Swiss participants, 47 men), we tested whether liking of pink, blue, and red was related to emotion associations with these colours. Pink was associated with positive emotions to the same extent as blue and red. Women further associated more positive emotions with pink than did men. We conclude that some commonalities (blue) and gender differences (pink and red) exist in absolute colour preferences. These differences, however, cannot be fully accounted by emotional associations. We speculate about these gendered colour preferences in relation to gender stereotypes and status differences between men and women.


Gender differences Colour cognition Aesthetic preferences Affect Emotion Individual differences 



We wish to thank Richard Klein for contributing to the translation of the survey instructions in French and Michael Quiblier for collecting part of the data. We also wish to thank Dr. Jean-Philippe Antonietti for statistical support throughout the project.


The current study was made possible thanks to the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation, providing a Doc.CH fellowship grant to DJ (P0LAP1_175055).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

None declared.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. No specific ethical clearance from a research ethic committee was received for this study as it was not required by the local law.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants. Informed consent was obtained from children’s accompanying adults in cases where participants were under 16 years old.

Supplementary material

11199_2018_955_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.4 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1388 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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