Chimps Play with Stick Dolls

Why do girls play with dolls and boys with cars (much to the consternation of feminists everywhere)? The answer may be rooted deep in evolution: scientists observed that female chimpanzee youngsters in the wild play with sticks as dolls:

The new work by Sonya M. Kahlenberg and Richard W. Wrangham, described this week in the journal Current Biology, provides the first suggestive evidence of a wild non-human species playing with rudimentary dolls, as well as the first known sex difference in a wild animal's choice of playthings.

The two researchers say their work adds to a growing body of evidence that human children are probably born with their own ideas of how they want to behave, rather than simply mirroring other girls who play with dolls and boys who play with trucks. Doll play among humans could have its origins in object-carrying by earlier apes, they say, suggesting that toy selection is probably not due entirely to socialization.


Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

I remember reading some interesting studies about kids with androgen insensitivity syndrome (genetic males with the outwards appearance of females including female external sexual organs). This condition is often not picked up on until later in life so as far as the child and parents know, they are girls. Measures of self report have shown that individuals with this condition had a far greater tendency to play with typically male toys (trucks etc...)than female toys (much more often that the typical female population). This also suggested that toy preference is not just a result of gender typing, but that there is a more biological basis.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
This is awesome! I never liked dolls, but my friends sure did when we were little. The fact that this behaviour might be biologically explained and even seen in closely related organisms means a lot of interesting research for those with sociology and anthropology degrees, and maybe some new items in the curriculum! I'm personally super excited to see if this is true, and how it's going to affect how we think about gender roles.

And make me wonder why I never liked dolls.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Ummm, I'm very female and I hated dolls when I was a child. I really hated them. I'd throw a fit when people bought me dolls because they just didn't understand that I preferred building things and transportation systems like cars and trains. Legos were my favorite.

My parents tried to keep my toys neutral too (equal amount of girly and boyish) so that wasn't what influenced my choice.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.
Email This Post to a Friend
"Chimps Play with Stick Dolls"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More