Experiments with Baby: My Face vs Squeaky Moose

My baby, Roni, just turned 2 months old. Ninety nine percent of our day consists of sleeping, eating, pooping, cooing and crying. There is a definite lack of traditional intellectual stimulation. This gap has been filled with little experiments. Experiments like My Face vs. Squeaky Moose. The experimental protocol is simple: If the baby is crying, what will make her stop? Me making funny faces or her favorite toy, Squeaky Moose? I win, hands down, pretty much all of the time.

This probably shouldn’t be a surprise to me based on my experiences with gender, facial expression and design, but it’s still impressive to see in person. Experiments have shown that one day old girls spend more time looking at faces while one day old boys spend more time looking at mobiles. And, it doesn’t stop at humans. In several studies, researchers gave a large variety of toys to a bunch of baby velvet monkeys and baby humans. Both groups of toddlers, furry and hairless, showed the similar preferences: girls preferred dolls, boys preferred cars and balls, everybody equally liked stuffed dogs and picture books.

Numerous studies have shown that women were more sensitive to facial expressions than men. In most cases, they are capable of recognizing a facial expression before men even recognize it to be a face. This gender difference holds up in countries are varied as New Guinea, Israel, Australia, and North America. In one experiment, men and women were shown pairs of images of humans and mechanical objects, using a stereoscope. The two images fall on the same part of the visual field and compete for attention. The women saw more people and the men saw more machines.

As a designer, I have regularly observed similar preferences. Women are instantly drawn towards products that look human in some way, something they can relate to. It can be anything from a Flip Video camera to a Mini Cooper car. On the other hand, men are irresistibly drawn towards powerful complex machines with lots of gleaming silver buttons. Traditionally cars are considered to be men’s toys and it’s women who are supposed to buy and use vacuum cleaners. The Volkswagen Beetle has a personality that’s very easy to recognize and relate to - women own 2/3 of all Bugs. By emphasizing a complex and powerful suction system, Dyson manages to make men drool over their vacuum cleaners.

- yvonne lin