Why men can’t pick the right shade of Dulux

August 29, 2012 | The University

Ever wondered why men can’t seem to tastefully decorate a house? Or have a tendency for dressing in clothes that clash?

By Stephen Adams

September 4, 2012

And why, for that matter, can’t women seem to hack it at computer games?

Now scientists claim to have discovered the reason: the sexes see differently.

Women are better able to tell fine differences between colours, but men are better at keeping an eye on rapidly moving objects, they say.

Professor Israel Abramov and colleagues at the City University of New York reached their conclusions after testing the sight of students and staff, all over 16, at two colleges.

They found men tended to find it more difficult to make fine distinctions between colours in the middle of the visual spectrum, such as between greeny-blues (or bluey-greens).

Men and women also perceived colours slightly differently.

The authors wrote: “Across most of the visible spectrum males require a slightly longer wavelength than do females in order to experience the same hue.”

So, a man would perceive a turquoise vase, for instance, as being a little more blue than a woman who was looking at it too.

Abramov, professor of cognition, admitted they currently had “no idea” about how sex influenced colour perception.

However, writing in the journal Biology of Sex Differences, he said it seemed “reasonable to postulate” that differences in testosterone levels were responsible.

This also appeared to be the reason, he said, for why men were better at spotting fine detail and rapidly moving objects.

Men have 25 per cent more neurons in the visual cortex of the brain than women, a change that is evident even before birth.

Prof Abramov said: “We suggest that, since these neurons are guided by the cortex during embryogenesis, that testosterone plays a major role, somehow leading to different connectivity between males and females.”

Evolutionary biologists believe differences could be the result of men and women performing different tasks for millennia, the so-called ‘hunter-gatherer hypothesis’.

The rationale is that it became advantageous for men’s vision to excel at spotting and keeping an eye on distant animals, while it was more important for women’s vision to allow them to finely discriminate forage foods at a close distance.

But John Barbur, professor of optics and visual science at City University, London, disputed the findings on colour differences.

He said it was true that many more men than women had congenital defects that caused imperfect colour vision: eight per cent compared to 0.5 per cent.

However, he argued: “Among those who don’t exhibit loss of colour vision, men tend to have better colour vision than women.”

Women might pay more attention to colour differences, he said, but that did not mean they could actually distinguish between them better.

Originally published by The Telegraph