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Men and women exhibit a differential bias for processing movement versus objects

  • Author(s): McGivern, RF
  • Adams, B
  • Handa, RJ
  • Pineda, JA
  • et al.
Abstract

Sex differences in many spatial and verbal tasks appear to reflect an inherent low-level processing bias for movement in males and objects in females. We explored this potential movement/object bias in men and women using a computer task that measured targeting performance and/or color recognition. The targeting task showed a ball moving vertically towards a horizontal line. Before reaching the line, the ball disappeared behind a masking screen, requiring the participant to imagine the movement vector and identify the intersection point. For the color recognition task, the ball briefly changed color before disappearing beneath the mask and participants were required only to identify the color shade. Results showed that targeting accuracy for slow and fast moving balls was significantly better in males compared to females. No sex difference was observed for color shade recognition. We also studied a third, dual attention task comprised of the first two, where the moving ball briefly changed color randomly just before passing beneath the masking screen. When the ball changed color, participants were required only to identify the color shade. If the ball didn't change color, participants estimated the intersection point. Participants in this dual attention condition were first tested with the targeting and color tasks alone and showed results that were similar to the previous groups tested on a single task. However, under the dual attention condition, male accuracy in targeting, as well as color shade recognition, declined significantly compared to their performance when the tasks were tested alone. No significant changes were found in female performance. Finally, reaction times for targeting and color choices in both sexes correlated highly with ball speed, but not accuracy. Overall, these results provide evidence of a sex-related bias in processing objects versus movement, which may reflect sex differences in bottom up versus top-down analytical strategies. © 2012 McGivern et al.

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