Men and women are better at recognizing different things, according to new research.
Scientists found that while women are better than men at recognizing living things, men are better than women at recognizing cars. Previous studies have also shown other sex differences in perceptual tasks like mental rotation tasks.
"A recent study looking only at car recognition found that men were better than women but attributed this to the male advantage in mental rotation. Our finding that women are better than men at recognizing objects in other categories suggests that this explanation is incorrect," said lead researcher Professor Isabel Gauthier of Vanderbilt University said in a statement.
She said that the latest discovery of the sex effect in object recognition also casts doubt on several studies that suggest that a person's ability recognize faces is largely independent of his or her ability to recognize objects.
"Face recognition abilities are exciting to study because they have been found to have a clear genetic basis, 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," said Gauthier.
Researchers studied 227 participants, with an average age of 23 years old, and found that face recognition abilities were also correlated with the ability to recognize different object categories for men and women. For instance, men who are better at recognizing cars were also better at recognizing faces, while women who are better at recognizing living things tended to be better at recognizing faces, according to the study published in the journal Vision Research.
"These results aren't definitive, but they are consistent with the following story," Gauthier noted.
"Everyone is born with a general ability to recognize objects and the capability to get really good at it. 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," she added.