NEWS1 June 2022

Remove ‘pink and blue divides’ in products, neuroscientist says

Behavioural science Inclusion Media News People Youth

UK – There is no such thing as a ‘male’ or ‘female’ brain and business needs to “remove pink and blue divides” in their products, especially toys, according to Professor Gina Rippon, professor of cognitive neuroimaging at Aston University.

Brainy Bar event

Speaking at Warc and Walnut Unlimited’s Brainy Bar event last week, Rippon said that much of our belief in differences between how men’s and women’s brains work is based on outdated science from the 18th and 19th century.

She said previously that “fixed, determined in some way, hard-wired and that was the brain you got”, while recent evidence suggests this is completely false.

“There is no consistent, reliable difference,” Rippon said. “We need to get rid of the idea that we have some kind of difference between male and female.”

Rippon said the brain is “flexible” throughout people’s lives, and can change depending on external stimuli.

“The brain is not just a passive information processor,” she explained. “It actually works out the rules of engagement.

“It follows tracks to a choice you made or a response to a stimulus and generates a rule and then generates a prediction – ‘next time you come across this, this is what you are likely to encounter and this is how you should behave’. A high-end sat nav.”

Brains are also permeable, she added, with negative and positive messaging having profound impacts on people’s abilities when carrying out tasks.

“Our brain is constantly interacting with the outside world,” Rippon maintained. “And that is really important when we look at the outside work and the messages we have.”

The concept of nature versus nurture is also outdated, Rippon said. “It is not nature or nurture. We now know that the two processes are so entangled we need to get rid of that idea – it is past its sell-by date.

“It is still a brain process. If the outside is telling you something about yourself, it will have quite profound effects on your behaviour.”

This means that we need to abandon gendered marketing, Rippon explained, as it was having a profoundly negative impact on children’s development.

“This is the time where brains are developing – they are hugely plastic, flexible and influenceable,” she added. “We therefore need to be very careful.

“We need to get rid of pink or blue divides.”