Gender differences in perception of beauty

Paul Raven @ 25-02-2009

This little bit of neurological research is all over the news outlets at the moment. Here in the UK, The Guardian leads their piece with the headline “Women appreciate beauty better than men, says study“.

Brain scans of people looking at paintings and photographs have revealed that beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder. When men and women see something they think is beautiful, their brains react differently, with the female brain showing more activity than the male, according to new research.

[snip]

The researchers believe the different responses are linked to the ways in which men and women process spatial information, but suggest that men may tend to look only at the picture as a whole, while women also pay attention to the smaller details.

We never seem to tire of these gender difference studies, do we? It’s as if we thought we were having something we’d always known proved to us, no matter what the actual meaning may be at a scientific level.

But it’s always interesting to watch how they’re reported by different media channels. So, for extra points, here’s Big Blog of Cheese running the comparisons – why not play along with headlines from your own country?

BBC: Art appreciation ‘a gender issue’

Science journal: Sex-related similarities and differences in the neural correlates of beauty

Daily Telegraph: Why women cannot read maps and men lose their keys

Headlines and links in the comments, please!

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2 Responses to “Gender differences in perception of beauty”

  1. Nancy Jane Moore says:

    I remain deeply suspicious of any so-called scientific study that purports to document significant brain differences between men and women. They’re almost always debunked later. The wonderful linguist blog Language Log usually weighs in on the flaws in news reports on these studies — they have some great posts documenting the flaws in news reports about studies such as the ones that insist women talk more than men (they don’t) — but I guess they’re not doing this one because it’s art, rather than language.

    Here’s the most interesting headline I found via Google: Women Process Beauty With Entire Brain. That one definitely slants in favor of the supposed female process.

    Here’s another: Gender differences highlighted. Ah, yes: More comfort for those who want to believe any differences between men and women are innate, not cultural.

    I wonder what will happen when we get some good scientific studies showing that there just isn’t much difference at all between men and women outside of the obvious difference in reproductive systems. So many people are desperate to hang onto the difference.

    Sorry not to be funny. I wanted to be funny, but the truth is every time I see a study claiming men and women are innately different, I see someone coming along behind to tell women they’re biologically unfit to do this or that.

  2. Tom Marcinko says:

    Women lose their keys? And spend half their lives muttering “where did I put my glasses?” under their breath to a world that has heard it so often before that it can no longer even pretend to be surprised?

    Not necessarily a sex-specific trait. I’m just sayin’.