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Men and Women See Things Differently

They really do! A new study reveals that the way that the visual centers of men and women's brains works is different: Men have greater sensitivity to fine detail and rapidly moving stimuli, but women are better at discriminating between colors. In fact, most of the people who are colorblind are men.

In the brain there are high concentrations of male sex hormone (androgen) receptors throughout cerebral cortex, especially in the visual cortex, which is responsible for processing images. Androgens are also responsible for controlling the development of neurons in the visual cortex, meaning that males have 25% more of them than females.

Researchers compared the vision of men and women over 16 from both college and high school, including students and staff, all of whom had normal color vision and 20/20 vision either naturally or when corrected by glasses or contact lenses.

When the volunteers were required to describe colors shown to them across the visual spectrum it became obvious that the color vision of men was shifted, and that they required a slightly longer wavelength to experience the same hue as the women. The males also had a broader range in the center of the spectrum where they were less able to discriminate between colors.

When other psychologists analyzed data from a series of visual recognition tests, they discovered that women are better than men at recognizing living things and men are better than women at recognizing vehicles.

Psychologist Isabel Gauthier says, "These results aren't definitive, but they are consistent with the following story: Everyone is born with a general ability to recognize objects and the capability to get really good at it. Nearly everyone becomes expert at recognizing faces, because of their importance for social interactions. Most people also develop expertise for recognizing other types of objects due to their jobs, hobbies or interests. Our culture influences which categories we become interested in, which explains the differences between men and women.

"Face recognition abilities are exciting to study because they have been found to have a clear genetic basis, and many studies conclude that abilities in face recognition are not predicted by abilities in object recognition. But this is usually based on comparing faces to only one object category for men and women."
Is there some sort of reason for this? Researcher Israel Abramov says, "The evolutionary driving force between these differences is (not) clear."

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