Picture reality decision, semantic categories and gender: A new set of pictures, with norms and an experimental study

Riccardo Barbarotto, Marcella Laiacona, Valeria Macchi, Erminio Capitani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a new corpus of 80 pictures of unreal objects, useful for a controlled assessment of object reality decision. The new pictures were assembled from parts of the Snodgrass and Vanderwart [J. Exp. Psychol., Hum. Learning Memory 6; 1980: 174] set and were devised for the purpose of contrasting natural categories (animals, fruits and vegetables), artefacts (tools, vehicles and furniture), body parts and musical instruments. We examined 140 normal subjects in a free-choice and a multiple-choice object decision task, assembled with 80 pictures of real objects and above 80 new pictures of unreal objects in order to obtain a difficulty index for each picture. We found that the tasks were more difficult with pictures representing natural entities than with pictures of artefacts. We found a gender by category interaction, with a female superiority with some natural categories (fruits and vegetables, but not animals), and a male advantage with artefacts. On this basis, the difficulty index we calculated for each picture is separately reported for males and females. We discuss the possible origin of the gender effect, which has been found with the same categories in other tasks and has a counterpart in the different familiarity of the stimuli for males and females. In particular, we contrast explanations based on socially determined gender differences with accounts based on evolutionary pressures. We further comment on the relationship between data from normal subjects and the domain-specific account of semantic category dissociations observed in brain-damaged patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1637-1653
Number of pages17
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • Gender
  • Reality decision
  • Semantic categories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology


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