Men vs. Women: Investigation of a Possible Evolutionary Influence Upon Reaction Times

Daniel Ritter, Vanessa Meyer, Sierra Obert

CU Boulder, Fall 2007


            For centuries, men and women have debated who is the superior race. Over time, most of these arguments were passed off as social bias. There are, of course, real differences between men and women, but these are mostly anatomical in nature. We set out to test one aspect, and see if there was a difference between men and women. We chose to test reaction times between men and women. We also wanted to known whether or not boredom affected reaction times. With this in mind, we hypothesized that men would have faster reaction times thanks to evolutionary traits that can be traced to times when men were the primary hunters and protectors of the human race. We predicted that men would have faster reaction times, and both men and women would show slowed reaction times as the trial progressed. This slowing of reaction time may, however, be negated if motor functions improve with practice.


            Because we were basing our predictions on traits evolved from being in nature, we conducted our test in the classroom to include environment stimuli. Using a reaction timer and a random sequence-generating algorithm, we tested the subjects over a five-minute period, with stimuli occurring three times at random intervals. The stimuli to which the subject responded to were also chosen at random. A total of 14 subjects were tested, seven males and seven females.


            The mean reaction time over three trials for the men was .763 seconds. The women had a mean reaction time .732 seconds. Although the women had slightly faster reaction, the difference is insignificant (P= 0.252).  Half of the subjects had faster reaction times to the third stimuli, as compared to the first stimuli, while the other seven subjects had slower reactions.


            The results of our experiment show that there is not a significant difference between the reaction times of men and women. This could point to several conclusions about reaction times. Reaction times may not be an inherited trait, and this depends more on nurture versus nature. It could also mean that the traits evolved during the time of early man have been lost over time as they become less important to everyday activities. Our results are inconsistent with our hypothesis, leading us to believe that reaction time is not a trait that evolved to be stronger in men. In this case, men and women appear to be equal.