Signal-detection outcomes on heartbeat and respiratory resistance detection tasks in male and female subjects


  • This research was supported by PHS BRSG (2S07RR0706723) and aided by a grant from the American Lung Association.

  • We thank David Emmerich for comments provided on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Address correspondence to: Andrew Harver, now at the Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC 28223.


Male and female subjects were compared on heartbeat, respiratory resistance, and light-tone signal-detection tasks. Subjects judged whether a series of 10 tones was coincident with their heartbeats; whether an external load added to the airway was either present or absent during targeted inspiratory cycles; and whether a series of 10 light flashes was matched with auditory tones presented following a fixed delay of either 50 or 100 ms. Nonparametric indices of perceptual sensitivity and response bias indicated that men were more sensitive than women on the resistive load task (p < .05) and on the heartbeat task (p= .07). Performance on the light-tone task was virtually identical. All subjects used a stricter criterion on the respiratory resistance task than on either the heartbeat or the light-tone task; women employed a stricter criterion than men on the heartbeat task. The gender differences may be understood in terms of lateralization of central processing of somesthetic sensory information.