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Men May Have Better 'Cocktail Party' Hearing

WEDNESDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Men are better than women at determining the location of a sound in a noisy setting, a talent that may have developed through evolution, researchers say.

They tested the audio-spatial abilities of men and women by having them listen to sounds and determine the location of the sound source. At first, the sounds were presented one at a time, and both men and women had high levels of accuracy.

But the women found the task much more difficult than men when several sounds were presented simultaneously and the participants had to pinpoint the source of only one sound. This ability to detect and concentrate on just one sound in a noisy setting is known as the "cocktail party phenomenon," the researchers said. In some cases, the women thought the sounds were coming from the opposite direction.

The study appears in the June issue of the journal Cortex.

Men also tend to do better than women in visuospatial abilities, such as finding their way in new places. Writing in a journal news release, the researchers said it has been suggested that men have developed these spatial abilities as the result of natural and sexual selection throughout human evolution.

More information

The BBC has more about gender and spatial ability.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Cortex, news release, June 30, 2011

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