The notion that children's taste in toys might somehow be genetically determined has long been disparaged by psychologists, pooh-poohed as unscientific, sexist or both.
But a study by researchers in the United States suggests that when it comes to choosing between trucks and cuddly stuffed animals, chromosomes could make a difference.
A team of scientists led by Kim Wallen of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center 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 vervet monkeys, which also showed a distinct preference among male monkeys for "masculine" playthings.