Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Are Girls and Boys Really All That Different (Part I)?

Can You Tell The Difference Between Boys and Girls?

Chances are you can’t tell the difference between baby boys and baby girls, especially if they are wearing gender neutral or ambiguous clothing. My students take the following test at the beginning of our genetics and reproduction unit.It's a fun way to introduce the subject and tie it into bigger social issues.

Test your gender IQ. Take the Baby X Test below.

  1. Get out some scratch paper and record the number of the image
  2. Record your answer (male or female)
  3. Answers are given at the end of the test
Baby #1 by Sean Drelinger, Flickr

Baby #2, by Peasap, Flickr

Baby #3, by MiriamBJDolls, Flickr

Baby #4, by Wesley Oostvogels, flickr
Baby #5, by massdistraction, flickr

Baby #6, by hexodus, flickr
Baby #7, by Bram & Vera, flickr

Baby #8, by Mehregan Javanmard, flickr

Baby #9, by Badruddeen, flickr

Baby #10, by almoko, flickr

 Scroll down to see the correct answers

Baby #1 = female; Baby #2 = female; Baby #3 = male; Baby #4 = male; Baby #5 = female; Baby #6 = male; Baby #7 = female; Baby #8 = male; Baby #9 = male; Baby #10 = female.

Most people score somewhere near 50% on similar tests. The reason is that babies have not yet developed any secondary sexual characteristics (e.g., facial hair, breasts) and, without any gender-identifying cues (e.g., pink or blue clothing; bows or ribbons), a baby’s gender is not obvious (without taking of the diaper, of course). Yet babies start to pick up gender cues almost immediately. Adults often treat babies differently depending on their gender (e.g., tone of voice, types of play). The babies observe their surroundings, how other children and grown ups dress and behave, advertisements, television. Our assumptions and prejudices influence how our children develop their own gender identities, but so does their environment and society .

See Comments Thread at Democratic Underground

What are the implications of our assumptions and prejudices around gender?


  1. Hannah Bell from the Democratic Underground reposted this and started a pretty lively discussion. Check it out at:

  2. Interesting. However, I scored a 70%. I don't think I'm any more astute than anyone else re gender, but there are a few gender clues in the photos. Photo 2-- that polka dot pattern is common in little girl baby clothes. I've not seen polka dot attire in boy clothes. Photo 3- there is a blue ribbon, which gives the boy clue. Photo 4- most parents wouldn't put such a green/neutral hue on a girl for a special photo. (Green somehow is more "boy" and yellow more "girl" of the neutral colors) [ditto Photo 8]

  3. one neuroscientist has written a book arguing that biological differnces between boys and girls slight compared to differences between individuals. she puts more emphasis on socialization than biology:

    great book, 'pink brain, blue brain'

  4. Thanks, Anon,

    That article ( was interesting. I'd love to read the original paper some time.