Women and Men Literally See Things Differently

Posted September 4th, 2012 at 6:37 pm (UTC+0)
4 comments

New study reveals that the brain processes vision differently in men  than  in women. (Photo: Adam Cuerden (L) and Petar Milošević (R) via Wikimedia Creative Commons

A new study finds the brain processes vision differently in men than in women. (Photo: Adam Cuerden (L) and Petar Milošević (R) via Wikimedia Creative Commons

In the battle of the sexes, it’s been said that men and women see things differently. Now, a new scientific study could back that view up.

Published in  Biology of Sex Differences, the report finds that the part of the brain which processes vision works differently in men than  in women.

While men have greater visual sensitivity to fine detail and rapidly-moving stimuli, women are better at discriminating between colors.

The brain’s visual cortex- highlighted by color (Image: Chavez01 via Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

Scientists say there are high concentrations of androgen – male sex hormone receptors – in the cerebral cortex in both sexes, especially in the visual cortex, the part of the brain which processes images.

Androgen is also responsible for controlling the development of neurons within the visual cortex as the human embryo forms and develops. Since it is a male sex hormone receptor, men have 25 percent more of these neurons than females.

The researchers, from Brooklyn and Hunter Colleges of the City University of New York, compared the vision of men and women  over the age of 16.

The scientists recruited staff and students from local high schools and colleges. All of the study volunteers had  normal color vision and 20/20 vision, either naturally or when corrected by glasses or contact lenses.

First, the researchers  had their volunteers describe colors shown to them from across the visual spectrum.  They quickly found that men’s color vision shifted and that they required a slightly longer wavelength of light in order to experience the same color hue as women. They also found that the guys were less able to discriminate between colors.

New study shows that women are better at discriminating between colors than men. (Photo: Ramesh NG via Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

A new study suggests women are better at discriminating between colors than men. (Photo: Ramesh NG via Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

Next, the researchers wanted to measure the contrast-sensitivity functions (CSF). They displayed an image of light and dark, horizontal or vertical, bars to volunteers who then chose which of the two images they saw.  When the researchers alternated between the light and dark bars, the image appeared to flicker.

Researchers also varied the change speed of the  images and how close the bars were to each other. They found that,  when the images changed at a moderate rate of speed, the volunteers lost sensitivity for seeing the close together bars, but gained sensitivity when the bars were farther apart.

The researchers noticed that men, as compared to the women, could better resolve the more rapidly changing images of the bars that were closer together.

“As with other senses, such as hearing and the olfactory system, there are marked sex differences in vision between men and women,” says Israel Abramov, a professor who led the study.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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4 Responses to “Women and Men Literally See Things Differently”

  1. BWJones says:

    Some percentage of women are likely tetra chromatic and that the ability to discriminate color is due to additional opsins in the retina.

  2. [...] centers of their brains. Experts suggest that while females are better at distinguishing …Women and Men Literally See Things DifferentlyVoice of America (blog)Sex & Vision: Men, Women See World Differently, Gender Study [...]

  3. Huihui Ni says:

    Good.

  4. [...] says women and men see things differently. Duh! So women discern different colors better than men, eh? Hmm, I wonder if lime green is a [...]