I’ve frequently joked that most men can’t tell the difference between pink and coral or taupe and beige. I’ve even suggested married men should be required to show a note from their wives before selecting paint colors.
Turns out, it’s no joke. I recently stumbled on an article on Health.com that suggests women not only distinguish colors more precisely, they also taste, smell, hear and feel textures more accurately than men.
While researchers agree that women have superior senses, they don’t always agree whether the differential is biological, psychological or societal.
When it comes to the sense of smell, biology plays a major factor. On average, women have 43% more cells and almost 50% more neurons in their olfactory centers (the part dedicated to odors) than men. At the same time, the domestic tasks traditionally assigned to women may contribute to their ability to know when the milk has gone bad or there’s a smelly sock hidden in the back of her son’s closet.
A 2002 study further indicates that women can become more sensitive to a particular smell over time, where men can’t.
Hearing, however, may be linked to either nature or nurture. Despite the fact there’s no auditory difference between male and female babies, adult men are five and a half times more likely to lose their hearing than adult women, according to a 2008 study from Johns Hopkins University.
(My own research concludes that all men go wife-deaf after 15 or 20 years of marriage, which is another issue begging for scientific study.)
Women also have the advantage when it comes to tasting. Yale University research found that women actually have more taste buds on their tongues than men.
Touch is a different story. It actually depends less on gender and more on the size of one’s finger tips. The smaller the finger tips, the closer together the sensory receptors and the more sensitive they are to different textures.
While women may have the advantage when it comes to the five basic senses. There’s one sense where testosterone rules. Science has now found a link between male hormones and a sense of direction.
A 2015 study conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that women scored much lower than men on way-finding tasks in a virtual environment. But when the women got a drop of testosterone under their tongue, several improved their scores.
All of which explains, why Jack thinks his new sweater is orange, while I think it’s paprika: and why I can’t find my way around the block — even with a map (particularly with a map).
How are do you and your partner differ when it comes to the senses? Please comment here.