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10 Superpowers Of Women According To Science

by Marc V.
fact checked by Jamie Frater

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Women are some of the most misunderstood creatures of all time. In fact, they possess a myriad of amazing abilities that we’re just now beginning to understand. Although we have modern science to help us, there is undoubtedly a lot we still don’t understand about just how awesome these abilities really are.

10They Can Spot Cheaters On Sight

Don Juans of the world, look out. Apparently women have the uncanny ability to tell if a man is a cheater just by looking at his face. When scientists at an Australian university asked 34 women to look at photographs of dozens of different men and identify which ones were unfaithful, the participants succeeded 62 percent of the time. The women seemed to base their decisions on how masculine—but not necessarily attractive—the man in the photo looked, and these manly men were indeed far more likely to cheat on their partners.

By contrast, the women’s male counterparts in the study performed dismally, falsely concluding 77 percent of the time that the women shown to them were unfaithful. The scientists surmised that women may have developed this ability because they stood to lose a lot more in cases of infidelity. Whereas a man may only have to raise another man’s offspring, a woman may lose precious resources needed for her own offspring to those of another woman.

9They Perceive More Colors

How many colors of the rainbow are there? There actually isn’t a clear-cut answer, and for women, the number is a lot higher. According to one respected scientist named Israel Abramov, women can see differences in colors far better than men. Having studied human vision for half a century, Abramov found that while men were better at seeing objects move across their line of sight, women were better at identifying subtle disparities among different hues. Abramov postulated that women developed this ability before the onset of the agricultural period, when they had to carefully choose edible vegetation while the men hunted for food.

Additionally, there is a small group of women known as “tetrachromats,” who have the ability to perceive 100 million different colors because they possess four types of cones in the retina instead of three. These additional cones allow their brains to combine more colors. It took scientists decades to find such an individual, but researcher Gabriele Jordan managed to identify a physician from Northern England as the first known tetrachromat in 2007, and she is certain that there are many more out there.

8Morning Sickness Saves Lives

As if we needed another reason to denounce thalidomide, scientists Paul Sherman and Samuel Flaxman asserted that morning sickness is actually a defense mechanism to protect an expecting mother and her unborn child from parasites and harmful toxins found primarily in meat, fish, and poultry products. They discovered that morning sickness occurs especially during the early stages of fetal development, when the baby is most vulnerable, and tapers off during the later part of pregnancy.

Additionally, they found that women who endured the most intense morning sickness suffered fewer incidents of miscarriage than their counterparts who didn’t experience it. From an evolutionary standpoint, this adaptation enabled the growth of healthy offspring and ensured the survival of the human race. The next time a pregnant woman throws up, just comfort her with the knowledge that it’s for her own good.

7Obstetrical Orgasms

While pleasure is probably the last feeling we associate with childbirth, some women do experience it. In a 2013 study, French psychologist Thierry Postel interviewed more than 900 midwives. They confirmed that, out of over 200,000 births during which they assisted, at least 668 women reported having an orgasm. Postel was the first to crunch the numbers, but the phenomenon of obstetrical orgasm had already been revealed to the public with the 2009 film Orgasmic Birth: The Best-Kept Secret. The maker of this film, Debra Pascali-Bonaro, said that since Postel interviewed midwives instead of the actual mothers, the number of incidents may actually be higher than what was reported.

Psychologist Barry Komisaruk stated that, physiologically, “orgasmic birth is no surprise,” since the process can stimulate the woman’s erogenous zones. Still, Komisaruk said that the childbirth experience is wholly dependent upon the unique anatomy of each mother: Some may feel pleasure, but many others feel pain.

6Stress Makes Them More Empathetic

From deadlines to bills, stress is all around us, and women apparently thrive on it. According to a 2014 study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, women under stress tend to reach out to others more, while men become more selfish and unable to understand the people around them. For Giorgia Silani, the lead researcher in the study, it was a surprising find. He expected that both male and female participants would become less empathetic when subjected to stress during the study, which tested areas of motor, emotional, and cognitive functioning.

Silani offered two plausible explanations for why stressed women are more understanding. The first is that women may be socialized to seek help from other people in times of trouble, while men are encouraged to solve problems independently. There may also be hormonal factors in play, as high levels of oxytocin produced by stressed women’s bodies may compel them to become more sociable than men.

5They Have Stronger Immune Systems

So much for the weaker sex. Apparently, women have far stronger immune systems than men, thanks to some key biological differences. According to scientists from Ghent University, that extra X chromosome means women have more microRNA, which can strengthen the immune system and inhibit the growth of cancer. In another study, Dr. Maya Saleh discovered that estrogen prevented the creation of an enzyme called Caspase-12 that interferes with the inflammatory process.

A Japanese study led by Professor Katsuiku Hirokawa also found that women’s immune systems age more slowly. He suggested that this could be the reason why women tend to live longer than their male peers. A study also linked high levels of testosterone to a decreased immune response, making men more susceptible to infectious diseases than women.

4Their Tears Can Turn Men Off

According to a 2011 study, an unknown chemical found in the emotional tears of women effectively reduced the testosterone levels—and therefore, the sexual arousal—of male participants who were exposed to them. Afterward, the men rated photographs of attractive women much lower than usual, and MRI images of their brains showed that they were very much turned off.

From an evolutionary point of view, this would have been beneficial to efficient mating, as a woman is more likely to cry when she’s at her least fertile, i.e. during and just prior to menstruation. However, one of the researchers, Noam Sobel, cautioned that it’s still too soon to arrive at a definite conclusion, since there are still many factors that could be in play. He advised that more research should be done in order to truly understand women’s tears.

3Enhanced Gaydar During Ovulation

Gaydar—that is, the ability to determine someone’s sexual orientation on sight—has actually been proven to be a real thing, and according to a 2011 study, ovulating women are especially keen. Led by Nicholas Rule, University of Toronto scientists put 40 women through three tests to confirm their hypothesis that ovulating women are better able to determine a man’s sexual orientation.

The researchers discovered that the more fertile the woman, the more accurately she identified the faces of homosexual men shown in different photos. They also found that women who were asked to read an erotic story before the same experiment scored even higher. According to Rule, this is evidence that evolution had a hand in priming fertile women to mate. Since women produce a limited number of eggs during their lifetime, they have to be very careful in selecting their potential mate.

2Enhanced Sense Of Danger, Too

Generally speaking, women are very protective of their offspring. New research has shown that their protectiveness actually extends all the way back to before their children were even born. In a study published in 2012, Kyoto University researchers Nobuo Masataka and Masahiro Nabasaki tested the ability of 60 female participants of childbearing age to detect snakes hidden in photographs. They found that the women identified the snakes more quickly during their the luteal phase (the days following ovulation) of their menstruation cycle.

The researchers have theorized that increased levels of progesterone, along with hormones such as cortisol and estradiol, during the luteal phase could play a key role in heightening a woman’s anxiety and danger-detecting abilities. This makes sense, as this is the phrase during which a woman could be pregnant without knowing it, so it’s natural that her body would evolve to protect itself during this time.

1They Are Masters Of Multitasking

In 2013, a team of UK psychologists conducted two experiments that seemed to illustrate the superiority of women in multitasking. In the first experiment, they asked men and women to perform different tasks on a computer such as counting and recognizing shapes. While both groups could do each task quickly one at a time, the researchers discovered that the men performed more slowly than the women when the tasks were rapidly alternated.

In the second experiment, they asked the two groups to perform spatial tasks such as finding restaurants on a map and finding keys lost in a field while answering some simple math questions and talking on the phone. They were required to complete these tasks within eight minutes. In this experiment, the researchers found the women to be far more methodical and organized than the men.

For the researchers, this study opens up a whole new field of interesting issues, such as whether multitasking really benefited our ancestors. While it could have helped women, it may have also been detrimental for men, especially when they needed to perform important tasks like hunting free of distraction. Interestingly, different studies have shown that men are actually better at multitasking, but it appears to be largely dependent on the task at hand, which fits the theory that men and women have evolved to perform in different capacities.

Marc V. is always open for a conversation, so do drop him a line sometime.

fact checked by Jamie Frater