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The colour of gender stereotyping


Sheila Cunningham, School of Psychology, William Guild Building, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3FX, UK (e-mail:


Despite legislative attempts to eliminate gender stereotyping from society, the propensity to evaluate people on the basis of their sex remains a pernicious social problem. Noting the critical interplay between cultural and cognitive factors in the establishment of stereotypical beliefs, the current investigation explored the extent to which culturally transmitted colour–gender associations (i.e., pink is for girls, blue is for boys) set the stage for the automatic activation and expression of gender stereotypes. Across six experiments, the results demonstrated that (1) consumer choice for children's goods is dominated by gender-stereotyped colours (Experiment 1); (2) colour-based stereotypic associations guide young children's behaviour (Experiment 2); (3) colour–gender associations automatically activate associated stereotypes in adulthood (Experiments 3–5); and (4) colour-based stereotypic associations bias impressions of male and female targets (Experiment 6). These findings indicate that, despite prohibitions against stereotyping, seemingly innocuous societal practices may continue to promote this mode of thought.