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Women See Colors Better 103

fenimor writes "The results of the study by researchers at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, suggests that natural genetic selection has provided women with a frequent ability to better discriminate between colors than men. 'Normally, this degree of genetic variation is suppressed through natural selection,' says Brian Verrelli, a researcher at ASU. 'In this case, nature is supporting a high degree of variation instead.' Because women have two X chromosomes, women can receive one chromosome with the typical configuration of the red vision gene while the other chromosome receives a slight variation. By contrast, men have one X chromosome, and any variation in the single red gene that they receive reduces their ability to distinguish between red and green."
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Women See Colors Better

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  • [OBVIOUS] (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 02, 2004 @10:15AM (#10138389)
    If this were fark, this story would have the OBVIOUS tag.
    • I am pretty sure their research went something like this: ns e-of-women.shtml

      I wonder how much this study cost us tax payers?
      • Sorry about the bad link. Here it is again: e-of-women.shtml []
      • Funny... but wrong. I do hope he's joking about the second law of thermodynamics meaning that evolution can only degrade a system. The problem being, of course, that the earth isn't a closed system. Simply add in the sun, constantly bombarding us with an endless stream of all the entropy we could ever want, and wow... looks like evolution can work after all. I just like pointing out the obvious.

        Now for the not-so-obvious: I've actually observed the effects of this experiment (along with a new result wh

        • I was mostly stiring the pot (aka Trolling) with the taxpayers and thermodynamics comments.

          That is interesting about your girlfriend and popsicles. I think you are right on the money with the rods and cones.
    • "sorry office i have two X chromosomes and i saw it as a green light."
  • not really news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tomahawk ( 1343 ) * on Thursday September 02, 2004 @10:18AM (#10138411) Homepage
    This isn't really news - it's well known that women have better eyesight, and are less prone to colour blindness than men, all due to that X-Chromosome.

    There was a story last year sometime (couldn't fine it, and was trying to find the article on Google - I'll try again and post a listing) where it claimed that someone women had an extra-sensitive sight for colours - especially shades of blue. Again, all due to them have 2 X-Chromosomes. One lady in the article was able to pick out a pair of shoes that were a perfect match for a dress she had purchased months back and was in her wardrobe since then.

    Interesting stuff, but not really all that newsworthy, methinks.

  • Well, duh!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Geraden ( 15689 ) * on Thursday September 02, 2004 @10:20AM (#10138425) Homepage
    When I describe a color for my wife, she always corrects me, "That's not pink, that's peach!" or, "That's more of a seafoam green, Scott!"

    Any man who is married & has gone paint shopping with his spouse knows exactly what I mean.

    At least we now have a biological reason for our apparent color-blindness.
    • I just tell my fiancee that I don't really care. I make her pick out paint colors herself. Besides, isn't that what we're here for? They pick out the paint, we get to put it on the walls....

    • Yes, women definitely know a lot more color names than men. Other examples include fuchsia, teal, cornflower (which is blue -- not yellow!), taupe, chartreuse, and mauve. Heck, I'm lucky if I can distinguish beige from white or tan -- much less subtle shades in between like cream, ivory, or eggshell.

      My theory on this is that women had the box of 64 or 128 crayons when they were little, and men grew up with only the 8-pack box of crayons. Still doesn't explain why neither gender ever mentions the color "bur []
      • Yeah, but do they actually agree on the names?
        I've observed a few girls debating on what is turquoise and what isn't. Wasn't very conclusive[1].

        It's not very useful to have many names for colours if everyone has different names for the colours.

        [1] While women can be pigheaded about such subjective stuff, they're usually not pigheaded and obsessive about it as a few men - who'd then do stuff like take a lot of trouble and time to define a "standard" colour chart.
      • Yes, women definitely know a lot more color names than men. Other examples include fuchsia, teal, cornflower (which is blue -- not yellow!), taupe, chartreuse, and mauve. Heck, I'm lucky if I can distinguish beige from white or tan -- much less subtle shades in between like cream, ivory, or eggshell.

        But can men see the difference between the different colors? If so, maybe they just have a larger color vocabulary, due to experience.

      • cornflower (which is blue -- not yellow!)

        I'm not sure that corn has a real flower that you'd recognize. You've got the tassel (which isn't usually yellow) and the silk - which starts out yellowish but browns after pollenation.

        I'd think that cornflower would probably be white - the color of corn flour.

      • Still doesn't explain why neither gender ever mentions the color "burnt sienna" after age 6.

        Well, Bob Ross [] always used a little bit of burnt sienna - and a lot of other little bits of strange colors to paint his happy little somethings. What that says about his gender, I don't know. PS: the link is harmless. No, really.

        • Bob Ross rocks! For some unknown reason, we had a Bob Ross kit of some sort in the tech shop when I worked at CompUSA. We joked about getting Bob Ross certifications.
    • I agree whole-heartedly! I have indeed done the paint thing with my wife and am amazed that she can differentiate between colors that to my eyes looks alike. I think just the fact that colors like "mauve" and "fuschia" exist is more than adequate support for the notion.
  • by GypC ( 7592 ) on Thursday September 02, 2004 @10:21AM (#10138447) Homepage Journal

    That explains why there are so many female master painters in the classical Western style, which uses subtle color variations to portray a scene in a very lifelike manner.

    Rembrandt, being male, was obviously a hack.

    • Unless he wasn't really male! dundunDUN
    • Well, ignoring the patriarchal and oppressive nature of Western society until recently, a whole lot of those painters were also gay, which might explain part of it. /Not that there's anything wrong with that.
      • patriarchal and oppressive nature of Western society As opposed to the enlightened and egalitarian societies of... where, exactly?

        a whole lot of those painters were also gay, which might explain part of it.

        What are you saying? Gay men have 2 X chromosomes?

        • What are you saying? Gay men have 2 X chromosomes?
          No, but gay men have certain brain structures that are like women's. It may not have anything to do with chromosomes. The gay interior designers and the like that I see on various reality shows seem to know color pretty well.

          As far as enlightened societies...well...uhh...I'm sure there was one somewhere, once...maybe.
        • While not specificaly linked it is possible for them to have 2 X chromosomes:

          See here []
    • From a real world perspective. I was in a painting and color theory class about 2 years ago. There was a guy in my class who was completely red green color blind and partially blue orange color blind as well. His clothes were usually dark shirt, khaki pants so he wouldn't mess up the colors and clash. As unbelievable as it sounds, the guy was one of the BEST in the class in terms of matching the color on his canvas to the real world color of what he was painting.

      I can't imagine this would happen often, and
  • Personal theory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clintp ( 5169 ) on Thursday September 02, 2004 @10:26AM (#10138482)
    My pet theory is that humans are selected that way because for millions of years as hunter-gatherers women did the gathering and men did the hunting. (Presumably, because it's harder to hunt with an infant, but it really doesn't slow down your gathering.)

    Women would need to be able to distinguish fine colors to tell plant features apart (poisonous, spoiled). If you make a bad choice, your group might get sick. Whereas men don't really need to distinguish colors as finely because an antelope is an antelope no matter what shade it is.

    A color-blind male won't hurt the group much. A color-blind (or handicapped) female would.
    • The last paper I saw hypothosised that color blindness is an advantage while hunting because everything is camoflaged so motion and shape cues are more important (which is what better hunters rely on normall). A colorblind male could potentially help the hunting group.
      • An aside on this: the military recruits color blind individuals very heavily. As it turns out, they make excellent snipers because they are not easily fooled by camo. The same problem was probably an advantage in some circumstances on the serengetti thousands of years ago.
        • Re:Personal theory (Score:5, Informative)

          by NegativeK ( 547688 ) <tekarien@hotm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Thursday September 02, 2004 @01:10PM (#10140694) Homepage
          An aside on this: the military recruits color blind individuals very heavily.

          They do..? After deciding to join the service, I looked through the Army MOS specifications: less than 20 out of 200 jobs the Army offers allow for red-green deficiency. Specifically, the Army doesn't allow color-blind programmers (much less infantry.) Go figure.
          The Air Force, which is who I intend on going with, seems to think that black text on white backgrounds isn't a bane to us with minor red-green deficiency. w0074r.

          By the way, the official MOS descriptions for the Army are located here. [] You can also find all of the other official descriptions for the other services at the wonderful website as well.
          • Huh, interesting. I was told about this by an army sniper who was color blind...of course, there could have been a high BS factor.
            • Huh, interesting. I was told about this by an army sniper who was color blind...

              "Dammit, you stupid soldier! I ordered you to shoot the guy in RED, not in green."
              • Colour blind guys are better at not being fooled by camoflague (thus, good for snipers). I've a colour-blind friend who proved this at the Army stand at the local show, when they were showing off their new camo gear. They had a picture with ten guys in camo hidden in it, saying that most people could only find two or three. My mate picked out all ten in less than half a minute. Guess it's a good thing he's a pacifist.
      • Re:Personal theory (Score:2, Interesting)

        by smurf975 ( 632127 )
        This is also what I thought as dogs are color blind and they are normally hunters. Seeing in black and white makes you see contrast better.

        As I understand some of the big cats (lions, panthers, tigers) only see in shades of green. Which is basically the same as being color blind, however the shades of green work out better at night (moonlight) time.

        The only species that need to see color are ones that eat fruit, to see if its ripe or not.
    • What I don't like about that theory, or at least my understanding from it, is that it sounds like women and men would evolve seperately.

      My theory is, colour blindness, like any genetic "defect" is recessive. And in the case of the gonosomes, men lack the usual dominant allele (in exchange for some other features)

      But in contrast to other genetic defects, for example cystic fibrosis, the phenotpye is less lethal. Hence it is more prevalent.

      The reason, that it is bound to the gonosomes can be pure chance.
    • Um, the reason women see colors better, according to the article, is because they have 2 X-Chromosomes. So, your theory implies that they developed with 2 X-Chromosomes, and men with one, due to millions of years of hunting and gathering?

      I am not sure that makes sense...

    • Also, a colorblind person can supposedly see better in the dark than a non-colorblind person, due to there being more rods in their eye.

      I'm horribly colorblind, but I can see fine when others think it's pitch black.
    • This'll be insightful as soon as you can name a plant or meat in which subtle color changes indicate rot. The chef among us will quickly point out that the first and most accurate way to determine the state of food is smell, not sight. The variations between perfectly good plants in some cases reach across thirty degrees of both hue and value.

      And, by the way, the article points out that the women simply have a greater statistical domain for eyesight, being able to carry both a normal and a mutant vision
  • Hmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by LordOfYourPants ( 145342 ) on Thursday September 02, 2004 @10:29AM (#10138519)
    I've taken this color blindness test [] myself and I have to say that I was shocked with the final results.
  • by Bluesman ( 104513 ) on Thursday September 02, 2004 @10:30AM (#10138532) Homepage
    I'm color blind, and I've always heard color blindness is passed genetically and occurs in men, predominantly.

    My grandfather had that problem too, so I guess my mother passed it to me.
    • It's sex linked. The gene is deficient in the X cromesome and reccessive. I'm sure this is simplified as there isn't one colorblind gene. Girls require two colorblind genes to be colorblind, or they are just carriers. Boys have a 50% chance of being colorblind if their mom is a carrier. Fathers always pass their X chromasome to their female offspring (colorblind or not colorblind, mothers pass one of their two to their offspring. A colorblind father will not pass the gene to his sons but could pass it
  • Do monitors/printers/etc. produce low quality color
    images in the eyes of women?

    Perhaps R1R2GB/CMY1Y2 devices would better fit to
    their needs? :)
    • I think you mean CM1M2YK. ;)
    • Monitors and printers make colors differently.

      Monitors work with a subtractive color palette (ie. the presence of red blue and green make white) and printers work with an additive color palette (red green and blue make black).

      I think you use CMYK as a color scheme on computer monitors (in graphics) because color printers work in CMYK. Makes sense to me anyway.
  • by halothane ( 200070 ) on Thursday September 02, 2004 @10:42AM (#10138671)

    This is old news. Studies published in 2000 based on data from the early 90s have talked of the tetrachromat phenomenon. See this article []. There is even a mention of it in wikipedia. Some people [] even think that all humans are blocked tetrachromats.

    • Close, I agree this is truly ancient news. However
      tetrachrmoacy is very rare (not the "frequent" the blurb claims) as true tetrachrmoacy requires the fourth cone to have a frequency response curve that is significantly different from either the existing red or green gone.
      • Accordind to TFA, variation between the genes which control red perception is very high - as many as 40% of women may have significant variation. That means that some degree of tetrachromacy is much more common than previously thought.

  • I don't agree with any of the theories.

    Think about this. Suppose a little boy grew up in the woman culture. From the time he is able to understand words, he would be taught in many different ways that color matters, because "being beautiful" matters. Such a person would learn to be especially sensitive to color, the way someone who has been blinded learns to be especially sensitive to sounds. It has nothing to do with gender.

    More than 30 years ago, a woman told me I was a "typical engineer". She said
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "What women often want is a man who is horny, knows what to do, but is otherwise just like them."

      That has to be the dumbest thing I've ever read. Men that fit that description end up as 'THE FRIEND', a condition worse than terminal cancer.

      1. Last Sunday I went clothes shopping with my wife.
      2. A few months ago I was standing in a bar surrounded by at least 200 people talking to a woman I had met...I ran my hand under her jacket along her waist...
      3. I didn't see the direction things would take in a few seconds

      Either congratulations on your recent marriage or quit being a assclown and posting evidence for your divorce case on slashdot.

      • A lot of Slashdot readers look for something that might be wrong with a comment, rather than respond to the message.

        My wife was standing about 10 feet away when the incident I described happened. I have a photo of the woman and my wife together. A lot of women think a man is more attractive when they can see another woman likes him.

        My wife knows I'm friendly with women and it doesn't bother her. She also knows I'm happily married and she does not have to worry about another woman.
    • What the hell?

      You know your wife's taste in clothes, you sucessfully come on to drunk women in bars, russians and brazilians have shared with you their insight into north american sluttiness. What does any of that have to do with discrediting the genetics theory of colour perception?

      Despite your uncanny ability to pick up chicks in bars and to tell wheter or not you like an art piece in under a minute, this doesn't change any of the data that actually pertains to the matter at hand: Women have better colo

      • It's amazing how many hostile responses there have been to my post.

        My point is: There is absolutely NO evidence that genetic differences that may have been discovered have any effect whatsoever on what a man is able to do. In normal human interaction, men are just as able to perceive and understand color as women.

        There are thousands of "scientific" articles like this that vastly overstate the scientist's actual findings. The article is written the way it is only because that way it will be read by m
  • by ptaff ( 165113 ) on Thursday September 02, 2004 @12:42PM (#10140325) Homepage
    Finally I understand why they have run out of color names for makeup! Calculator Beige, Misty brown, Mirror, Dead Duck, Greedy Pumpkin and all variations.

    Feel ready to own one or many Tux Stickers []?
  • Language [] and colors []

  • I actually can tell the difference between mauve, tan taupe and beige, but I'm a guy: I don't care!
  • One industry that knows about colour perception is the folks who process film and print pictures. The staff who run those 1 hour minilab photo places are almost entirely women. The people who do the hiring know exactly why.


  • Maybe in general, but this isn't true in my family. Both my sisters are color blind. So is my dad, my brother, and I. My mom isn't. What is interesting is that dad and my brother are about equal, unable to tell red from green, while my 2 sisters and I can tell there is a difference except in subtile things. (Well as far as I can tell, in any case when given yarn tests we get them right most of the time, while my bother doesn't)

    I'm not sure what this means.

  • As the summary hints and is obvious if you read the article, the news is not about women in general being able to see colors in general better than men. The news is about women being less prone to have color blindness, which according to article happens to 8% of men. If you are a man and do not have color blindness then you can see colors just as well as a normal woman.
    So to say that women see colors better is wrong.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell