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Women Make Science More Creative

December 11, 2013 - London, United Kingdom


'Reflections' by Maria Iordanous: the 'most preferred artwork', attracting 45% of the vote (Photo: B ...

'Reflections' by Maria Iordanous: the 'most preferred artwork', attracting 45% of the vote (Photo: Business Wire)

Female scientists are more receptive of abstract artworks than their male counterparts, suggesting that they are likely to be open to a more ‘anarchic, creative and radical’ approach to science, according to new research released today.

‘How Scientists Look At Art’, a study conducted by University of Reading and commissioned by Bayer to mark its 150th anniversary, suggests that women may bring added creativity and a more challenging approach to science, adding weight to the ongoing, global drive to encourage more women to enter the profession.

The project analysed scientists’ quantitative and qualitative responses to a carefully selected suite of artworks from art movements over the last 150 years – ranging from well-known masterpieces to conceptual student art, and extending from realism to cubism. Researchers identified a statistically significant trend in that female scientists were more likely to prefer abstract artworks and seem more at ease with the ‘affective’ dimensions of artworks (colour, mood, and creativity) than their male counterparts. Male scientists expressed a preference for figurative artworks such as portraits and landscapes. The results build on previous theories on gender differences in visual perception (Salkind L and Salkind NJ 1997; Geary D 2009) which have shown that women’s more balanced response to the range of artworks provides evidence of a better balance between different ways of thinking.

In addition to these gender differences, the findings also suggest that the perceived gap between science and humanities – once singled out as being “a hindrance to solving the world’s problems” by chemist and novelist, CP Snow - may not be quite as wide as he thought. At an aggregated level, the results show that, overall, working scientists and a non-science degree educated control group saw art in broadly the same way, shining a light on how society sees scientists and ‘Brand Science’, and questioning long-held assumptions about scientists being a breed unto themselves.

The artwork that was voted the overall favourite by all groups (45% score) was quite unexpected – Maria Iordanous’ Reflections which was part of the Conceptual Student section. This shows the ability of a particular artwork to transcend predictable preferences, and perhaps further reinforce the fact that scientists, just like the rest of us, are as open to new images and ways of seeing things when the ‘elusive combination of analytical, affective, and aesthetic appeal is just right’.

Nicole Farmer, senior scientist, Bayer UK said: “ It is intriguing that female scientists have a statistically significant preference for abstract art when compared with male scientists, for example female scientists seem more at ease with the dimensions of colour, mood and creativity. We agree with the research authors that female scientists are more likely to be open to a more ‘anarchic, creative and radical’ approach to science as advocated by the science writer Michael Brooks.”

Jenny Waller, report author, University of Reading, commented: “This is a ‘first of its kind’ research project and the results are striking. Like most people, scientists seem to rely as much on instinct and personal judgment as logic in their methods when forming opinions. Contrary to previous perceptions, our research helps demonstrate that science and scientists are not poles apart from others in society and in fact are little more like the rest of us than some might think.”

Ute Bockstegers, COO, Bayer UK commented: “As a global science business celebrating 150 years as an inventor-company, it is heartening to find that scientists are in some senses ‘normal’ in their response to art. The findings provide yet another impetus for science businesses and organisations to deploy active gender diversity programmes. Bayer’s own diversity programme recognises that science benefits from a better gender balance in the workforce; we see this everyday in the work we do and the innovations our people create.”

The sample of 1,148 respondents comprised of three groups: 367 Scientists by occupation, 460 Scientists by degree, and 321 Non-Scientists. The research was designed to highlight its role as an innovative company by looking for new ways of promoting debate about science. The research proposition was prompted partly by the anniversary role of the Bayer art collection exhibition in Berlin in March, and partly by the historic fascination shared by many of the perceived differences and indeed similarities between artists and scientists in modern life.

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About Bayer and 150th anniversary

Bayer: Science for a Better Life

Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the fields of health care, agriculture and high-tech materials. As an inventor company, it sets trends in research-intensive areas. Bayer’s products and services are designed to benefit people and improve the quality of life. At the same time, the Group aims to create value through innovation, growth and high earning power. Bayer is committed to the principles of sustainable development and acts as a socially and ethically responsible corporate citizen. In fiscal 2012, the Group employed 110,500 people and had sales of €39.8 billion. Capital expenditures amounted to €2.0 billion, R&D expenses to €3.0 billion. For more information, go to

Bayer’s offices in the UK and Ireland are located in Newbury (head office), Cambridge and Dublin. For more information, go to

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CONTACTS : For Bayer: Duncan Mackenzie-Reid 01903 703295 or Olivia Howard 01903 821550

Source: Business Wire India


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