Blog Rewind: She doesn’t recognize threats like you do!

By: Joshua Gideon

I must confess I have a terrible time finding matching clothes each morning. I gaze into the closet and see a blur of different colored shirts and pants that all look the same. It takes much pain and effort to be able to find what I am looking for in there. At the same time, my wife can glance into the closet and while walking away tell me exactly where what I am looking for is located. This has baffled me and frustrated me all my life. How can women do this?

As it turns out, they are kind of wired that way. It seems that men and women quite literally see things different from each other. Brooklyn College psychology professor Israel Abramov and his team have done extensive studies on vision differences between men and women. The conclusions are very interesting when it comes to training men and women to recognize threats. The fact is due to testosterone and neural development of the visual cortex, man and women simply see things differently. That revelation should dictate the methods we use to recognize threats!

Men have a slight edge in being able to focus on far distances, a significantly greater sensitivity for fine detail and for rapidly moving stimuli. This gives him the ability to detect possible predators or prey from afar and also identify and categorize them more easily. On the other side, women have a significantly better ability to distinguish color contrasts. This helps her to recognizing close-at-hand, static objects easily. This enables her to detect any predator or threat of danger by detecting color contrast at close range very quickly. Her vision also encompasses a wider visual field than her male counterparts, with a field of view of nearly 180 degrees. This gives her a great advantage in detecting non-moving threats.

In another study it was discovered that men and women are not the same at distinguishing emotions based on facial expressions. Mark A. Williams, a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his co-author, Jason B. Mattingley, a psychology professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia found that men are significantly faster than women at recognizing an angry face. However, women are much better at recognizing happy, sad, surprised or disgusted emotions in facial expressions. That same study also suggests there are cognitive differences between males and females that give females a slight advantage on ability to do tasks requiring fine motor skills.

With this information, the advice to “keep your head on a swivel” seems to make sense for men who are better at detecting small details and motion. Keeping their head moving and scanning counters the tunnel vision effect caused by how men see. However, it falls short when given to women who have a much better field of view but that field of view is limited to closer ranges. Women don’t need to scan side to side, up and down, like men do to recognize a threat. At the same time, keeping your head on a swivel does very little to detect something that isn’t moving or is very well camouflaged at close range. This advice is out dated and needs to be revised!

As instructors, what are we doing to play to our student’s strengths and develop techniques to improve their weaknesses? As more and more ladies seek defensive firearms instruction, I’m afraid we are doing them a disservice by lumping them in the same group as the guys. The scientific discoveries in the field of gender studies should cause us to cause us to recognize there are differences between men and women that must force us to adjust our teaching methods so we ensure they are prepared for a worst case dynamic critical incident.

In the classic self-help book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, by John Gray, it is quoted, “when man and women are able to respect and accept there differences then love has a chance to blossom.” Just as in John Gray’s advice for love, instructors and teachers, those who are educating the minds of students, must be aware, respect and accept the differences in their students. Sadly, because we haven’t evolved this area of defensive firearms training, I am afraid we have stunted many of our female students from blossoming. Because we fail to recognize there are differences between our male and female students and fail to appropriately teach them, we have let our female students down.

Although different, the strengths of both sexes make them both equally capable of defending against threats. Their individual ability to detect predators and threats presents and equal threat to the predator that wants to attack them. Put them together with good training, as we are seeing professional security details beginning to do, and you have a formidable opponent to any threat. This is a new and evolving area that is impacting our defensive firearms world. We need to adapt for the sake of our students!

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