This is a scientific hypothesis based on the theory I’ve written up in the last couple of days about sensory processing differences under intense stimulation, according to different volumes of global gray matter in the brain. It is inspired by Dario Nardi’s “engagement curve”, where a person’s brain activity correlates with their interest/motivation in a task, and the difficulty of the task. The correlation with interest is essentially linear, but the difficulty curve is the one I’m mostly interested in here. A person’s engagement with a task will increase linearly with the task’s difficulty until a certain point, and then drop off dramatically because it is perceived as too difficult to reasonably exert effort to complete it.
It also relies on the theory that engagement is shown by pupil dilation (taken from Kahneman’s book). A person who is performing mental cross multiplication, for instance, will have pupils that are dilated far more than when they are watching TV.
My theory is that when we give people visual perception tasks of gradually increasing difficulty (like a “Where’s Waldo” book for example) their pupils will dilate up until a certain difficulty threshold, and then begin contracting as resignation sets in. If we give groups of men and women visual perception tasks of gradually increasing difficulty (while somehow keeping motivation constant- how?), I believe the women will “tap out” earlier in the sequence of tasks. They will probably continue to attempt the task, but they will do so with a much lower baseline of engagement.
In order to think about this more efficiently, I shall hereby coin the term “sensory threshold” to refer to this hypothetical phenomenon. That is, the “sensory threshold” is the level of stimulation at which a person’s engagement begins to decrease.