Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Men are in charge of hunting; meanwhile women collect - thus perceptions of beauty differ [WIRED]

Earlier studies on sex-based cognitive differences have found that men seem to have a heightened sense of absolute location. Women, by contrast, are quicker to process relative values.

Differences in cognitive tasks, however, may be less mysterious: For much of human history, men and women had different jobs. Their brains may thus have developed in subtly different ways.

"In current hunter-gatherer groups, men are in charge of hunting; meanwhile women collect," said Cela-Conde. "If this is a scheme that can be extended to ancestors’ behavior, then we can think about a selective pressure to increase the capacity of spatial orientation in men, and the capacity to identify edible plants and tubers in women."
clipped from

Beauty is famously in the eye of the beholder; but it's also in the beholder's brain, and may work differently in the brains of men and women.

In men, images they consider to be beautiful appear to activate brain regions responsible for locating objects in absolute terms — x- and y-coordinates on a grid. Images considered beautiful by women do the same, but they also activate regions associated with relative location: above and behind, over and under. The difference could be the result of evolutionary pressures on our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

"This the first study about neural activation in aesthetic tasks to include sex as a variable," said study co-author Camilo Cela-Conde, an evolutionary anthropologist at Spain's Universitat de les Illes Balears.

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