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Women Process Beauty With Entire Brain

February 24, 2009

According to a report in the electronic edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, women use their entire brain to process beauty, while men only use the right side.

The finding surprised researchers.

“It is well known that there are differences between brain activity in women and men in cognitive tasks,” said Camilo J. Cela-Conde, a researcher from the University of Baleares in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. “However, why should this kind of difference appear in the case of appreciation of beauty?”

According to Cela-Conde, men focus on the spatial aspects of an object when considering beauty, while women link the object to language.

This observation doesn’t explain why humanity’s ability to appreciate beauty has evolved he added.

“The differences that we have found might relate to the different social roles that, hypothetically, men and women had during human evolution.” Cela-Conde told the Associated Press.

The scientists tested how 10 men and 10 women rated beauty by showing them paintings and having them rate each as “beautiful” or “not beautiful.”

The researchers then looked at images of the magnetic fields produced by the subjects’ brains during this period.

During the first 300 milliseconds there was no difference.  Brain activity increased during the 300 to 700 millisecond time span for objects that were rated as beautiful.

The most active region of the brain in both sexes was the parietal lobe, which deals with visual perception and spatial orientation.  The activity in this region was focused on the right side of the brain in men, but was active on both sides in women.

Cela-Conde did not find many differences in the way the sexes perceived beauty.

“Any person can find beautiful a landscape, a building or a canvas that some others will find awful. But sex has little to do with those differences. Perhaps they relate with other variables, such as age or education.” he said.

“It is curious that, using different neural networks, the final result is very similar in women and men. But this seems to be the case,” Cela-Conde added.

“Human nature is complex and difficult to study and understand. Nevertheless, thanks to scientific tools we are starting to know a bit more about some very important aspects of our nature.”

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