This female gibbon has displays different learning mechanisms than her male counterparts. (Image taken from

A new study from the University of Abertay Dundee has shown that males and females really do learn differently…at least among gibbons. It seems that if you give females a tool before they’re tested on using it for obtaining food, they learn from hands-on experience. Unfortunately, males didn’t seem to receive quite so many benefits from hands-on learning. Could this point to a fundamental difference in the way males and females learn?

One possible reason behind the learning differences between genders is that females evolutionarily benefit from this type of learning. Females take on the role of care-giver during and after pregnancy, which could explain their extra caution and why they can learn so much through hands-on experimentation. Here’s some real science that backs up why our own mothers are so skilled in keeping us out of harm’s way.

Of course, the study’s results were met with some skepticism, as some researchers did not expect there to be such a big disparity between female and male learning. But the facts ring true: female gibbons can use a tool to get food three times faster if they have been allowed to “test out” the tool prior to being tested. On the other hand, male gibbons did not show any improvement in retrieval times after experimenting with the tools beforehand. In any case, whatever your opinion, this is certainly a glimpse into the fascinating research that is ongoing to learn about why and how males and females learn differently.


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