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Perception Study Shows Men Better At Recognizing Cars, Women At Recognizing Living Things

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Men recognize cars and women recognize birds best, a new visual recognition study suggests. | Alamy

Men and women see the world differently--and not just in a metaphorical sense. A new study from psychologists at Vanderbilt University shows that women are better at recognizing living things--birds, for example--while men are better at spotting cars and other vehicles.

The study was published online in the journal Vision Research on Aug. 3.

“Everyone is born with a general ability to recognize objects and the capability to get really good at it," Dr. Isabel Gauthier, a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt, said in a written statement. "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.”

While the results aren't definitive, Gauthier said, they're certainly interesting. The study data came from a series of visual recognition tests given to 227 people. After the study participants were asked to study a number of various images, they were shown three photos at a time--one from the group of images they studied and two that they haven’t seen before. Then they were asked to pick out the image that they studied.

The researchers' test was modeled after the well-known Cambridge Face Memory Task, which measures a person’s ability to recognize faces. And the study participants were asked to complete a face recognition test. It turned out, the men who were better at recognizing vehicles also were better at recognizing faces, while women who were better at recognizing living things tended to be better at recognizing faces.

“Face recognition abilities are exciting to study because they have been found to have a clear genetic basis,” Gauthier said in the statement, “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.”

Earlier this month, a study from the City University of New York found that men's eyes are more sensitive to moving objects and small details, while women are more likely to notice color changes.

Gauthier further discusses gender differences in object recognition in the video below:

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