We’ve known for a long time that men are more likely to be color blind than women. But as Amy Norton reports in this Reuters Health article, it goes way beyond that. Just as the Inuit people have many more words for snow than inhabitants of warmer climates, it seems women understand, really understand, many more words for “red” than do men.
A new gene study may help explain why she sees crimson, vermilion and tomato, but it’s all just red to him. In an analysis of the DNA of 236 men from around the globe, researchers found that the gene that allows people to see the color red comes in an unusually high number of variations. And that may be a boon to women’s color perception in particular, study co-author Dr. Brian C. Verrelli told Reuters Health.That’s because the gene, known as OPN1LW, sits on the X sex chromosome. Women have two X chromosomes, one from each parent, while men have one X and one Y chromosome. Because women have two different copies of the “red” gene, the fact that the gene can have so many variations means it may especially aid women’s perception of the red-orange spectrum.Verrelli, an assistant professor at Arizona State University in Tempe, and colleague Dr. Sarah Tishkoff report the findings in the American Journal of Human Genetics (September 2004)… He noted that past research into color-vision genes has focused largely on variations related to color blindness: The red gene routinely swaps bits of genetic material with its neighbor on the X chromosome, the “green” gene. Sometimes this exchange goes wrong and results in a defect that causes color blindness. An estimated eight percent of men are color-blind, while few women have the condition because the odds are they will have at least one good copy of the red and green genes.
But the new findings show that variations in the red-perceiving gene are beneficial as well, according to Verrelli. For the many variants to have been preserved throughout evolution, he explained, this diversity must have served a purpose. He and Tishkoff speculate that the gene variations may have been useful in humankind’s hunter-gatherer days, when sharp color perception may have helped women in their foraging work…
“Today,” Verrelli noted, “it’s not really that important.”
My guess is he hasn’t made a recent comparison between men’s and women’s clothing stores. Or noticed that most of us of the male persuasion have difficulty understanding why anyone would ever need more than about 8 paint chips.
gender gap, men and women, relationships, gender psychology