It’s True - Men and Women Do See Things Differently

Research carried out at West London College shows legacy of our hunter-gather past.


Sign up for a newsletter

from Acton, Brentford, Chiswick, Ealing, Fulham, Hammersmith, Putney, Wandsworth and Shepherd's Bush

Sex differences in how the brain processes visual information could be a legacy of our hunter-gather past. This is the conclusion of a paper published online today, 30th July, in the British Journal of Psychology. 

In the visual task, carried out by Helen Stancey at Hammersmith & West London College, men and women used a laser pointer to mark the midpoint of lines on a piece of paper within hands-reach (50cm away) and again beyond hands-reach (100cm away). The place where the 24 women and 24 men pointed to was marked, and the distance from their mark to the actual midpoint was measured to judge their accuracy. 

Men were found to be more accurate than women at marking the middle of lines when the target was far away than when it was close by. However, women showed the opposite pattern; they were more accurate at finding the mid-point of the line when the target was close to them than when it was further away. 

Helen Stancey said, "Evidence already exists that separate pathways in the brain process visual information from near and far space. Our results suggest that the near pathway is favoured in women and the far pathway is favoured in men. These sex differences in visual processing may be a result of our hunter-gatherer evolutionary legacy. As the predominant gatherers, women would have needed to work well in near space, whereas the prey for (predominantly male) hunters would have been in far space." 

In a second study, participants were asked to do the same task, but were asked to point to the mid point using a stick rather than a laser pointer. In this study, no significant differences between near and far accuracy were found in either men or women, suggesting that the stick provides feedback which makes the brain process distant information as if it's in near space. 

Women were found to be significantly better than men at both distances using the stick, which supports the earlier finding that women process visual information better from near space than men. 


July 30, 2009