50 young adult males and 50 females undertook a series of psychophysical
experiments in the auditory and visual modalities, testing (i) sensory
threshold, (H) the subjective response to intensity,· and (Hi) discriminatory
ability (the Phase 1 experiments). Significant differences between the sexes
in performance in the auditory modality were found in absolute threshold for
some frequencies with females being more sensitive in each instance. In
their subjective response to intensity in the auditory modality, females
consistently set levels 8 - 9 dB lower than those set by males at all
frequencies. In all instances the difference was statistically significant.
No significant differences between the sexes were obtained in their ability
to discriminate pitch. In the visual modality significant differences
between the sexes are not apparent for dark adaptation (used as a test of
threshold) or the subjective reaction to intensity (glare). Analysis of the
visual acuity scores (discriminatory ability) shows a sex difference in favour
of the males (p> 0.01). Extensive correlational analyses are employed to
examine within-mode and inter-modality relationships. The lack of
consistent significant and high relationships obtained indicate that sensory
sensitivity is not a consistent property of the nervous system, and presents
some problems for current theories of personality. The effects of the
menstrual cycle on female performance in the auditory and visual modality
tasks are also considered, and the data indicates that hormonal influences
Having established that some differences between the sexes do exist in
the performance of visual and auditory tasks at the sensory or basic
perceptual levels, the second phase experiments (administering the Bennett
Differential Aptitude Tests) were commenced. The rationale and methodology
for these experiments is described. Significant differences between the male
and female groups in this study were not apparent in any of the Verbal/Language
Usage tests, but significant differences in favour of the males were obtained
for Space Relations (p.> 0.05) and Mechanical Reasoning (p>0.02).
Correlational analyses between the auditory and visual parameters and
the cognitive abilities tested on the. Bennett DAT showed high significant
relationships (p > 0 .01) between auditory intensity tolerance and all the
Verbal/Language Usage tests, and a significant relationship for the total
sample (p >0·.05) between visual acuity and the Space Relations test.
The implications of the data obtained in this study for existing theories
of sex differences are discussed.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.