When faced with the option of a toy truck and a doll, which toy do you think a baby girl would select? How about a baby boy?

According to new research by the University of Western Sydney, both babies – regardless of gender – would prefer to play with the doll. This research utilized eye-tracking technology to study the young study participant’s preferences.

The study included 24 girls and 24 boys, as well as 48 young adults. They were shown images of males and females along with toy cars and dolls. Researchers tracked the participant’s eye gaze with a state-of-the-art eye-tracker. They assessed toy preference based on how long, and how frequently, the participant looked at a particular toy.

Researchers have found that baby boys prefer playing with human-face objects rather than with toy cars or trucks. This finding challenges the idea that boys have an innate preference for cars or trucks, typically “male” oriented toys.

In fact, the study results showed that gender-specific preference for toys wasn’t evident until five months of age. Perhaps a doll is the best gift for newborn babies, or even for expectant mothers who don’t yet know the gender of their baby.

Eye gaze research is helpful for gaining insight into the minds of study participants who cannot – for whatever reason – verbally communicate their preferences. Without such technology, we would miss out on discoveries like this.

Image credit: Christina Rutz

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