Sunday, April 20, 2008

Monkey Boys will be Monkey Boys: Study Supports Strong Genetic Component to Play Behavior

One of the few areas where it seems it is the liberals that cling to ideology rather than science is on the subject of the blank slate. This is, roughly, the notion that we are born without significant genetic differences of abilities or preference, and that therefore most of what we consider a person's personality is formed by his environment.

Nowhere is this idealism clung to more fervently than in discussions of gender differences. In what seems a typical overcompensation from an era of unfair bigotry, where seemingly all differences in character between racial and gender groups were attributed to genetics, now the tendency is to dismiss any suggestion that genetics plays a role as sexism. Boys are said to prefer guns and girls barbies, not because they have a natural inclination to do so, but because of socialization that steers them in these directions.

However, it seems whenever good science is done on this subject the opposite is the case, and we have yet another example. This time the subjects weren't human children, but rhesus monkeys.

"... a team of scientists led by Kim Wallen of the Yerkes national Primate Research Centre in Atlanta, Georgia decided to offer typical 'male' and 'female' toys to rhesus monkeys to see if preferences aligned with sex.

Much to their surprise, they did. The 11 male monkeys headed straight for the wheeled toys, such as dump trucks, leaving the plush toys more-or-less unmolested. The 23 females were more curious, and played with both.

'They are not subject to advertising. They are not subject to parental encouragement, they are not subject to peer chastisement,' said Wallen.

The results support an earlier study at Texas A&M University, with green vervet monkeys, which also showed a distinct preference among male monkeys for 'masculine' playthings."

It is interesting to note that the toy preference was not a complete stereotypical split, with the female monkeys playing with everything. But 100% of the males going exclusively for the "male" toys, and in a completely culturally neutral, if not alien, environment? This certainly contradicts the blank slate premise, and suggests that behavior patterns are a far more complex interaction between genetics, development, and the environment than most left-wing ideologues would have us believe.

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