More than 1000 scientists and non-scientists were asked to look at a range of art works, classified as either "abstract" or "figurative" by a Reading University team.
Participants filled in questionnaires designed to explore what kind of art they preferred. Analysis revealed a "significant difference" in how male and female scientists responded to abstract art, the team said.
Women seemed to prefer abstract works, such as Picasso's cubist paintings, and were more at ease with the moody or "affective" aspects of this kind of art.
Men, in contrast, were more drawn to realistic figurative artworks such as portraits and landscapes.
The researchers, led by Jenny Waller, said the women's responses were evidence of a "better balance between different ways of thinking".
In a report, How Scientists Look At Art, they wrote: "We might even speculate that women scientists are more likely to be open to a more anarchic, creative and radical approach to science."
The research was commissioned by the German chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer to mark its 150th anniversary.