After having put young adults with normal vision through a battery of tests, scientists were able to conclude that females are better at discriminating among colors, while males excel at tracking fast-moving objects and discerning detail from a distance. These evolutionary adaptations might be linked to the hunter-gatherer past of humans.
The scientists published their findings in the journal Biology of Sex Differences (1, 2). Israel Abramov, lead author and psychologist at Brooklyn College, performed the color experiments, finding that men and women tend to ascribe different shades to the same objects.
Males require a slightly longer wavelength than females to experience the same hue. Longer wavelengths are associated with warmer colors, implying that colors like orange might appear redder to a man than a woman. Likewise, green appears a bit yellower to men than women. Men are also less adept at distinguishing among the shades in the center of the color spectrum, like blues, greens and yellows.
Men could detect quick-changing details from afar, and could track thinner, faster-flashing bars within a bank of blinking lights. The team associates this evolutionary advantage down to neuron development in the visual cortex, which is boosted by male hormones. Testosterone means that males are born with 25% more neurons in this brain region than women.
The findings support the hunter-gatherer hypothesis, which states that the sexes evolved distinct psychological abilities to fit their roles in prehistoric society. The advantage would have allowed males to detect predators or prey from afar, and identify as well as categorize these objects more easily.
Female gatherers may have become better adapted at recognizing static objects like wild berries.
[via National Geographic]