Brain scans, controlled studies, evolutionary psychology, and anthropology demonstrate that men and women are not the same! We are physically & mentally different. We input, process and deliver information differently. We evolved with different priorities, and we are marinated in different combinations of hormones. This leads to a misaligned interpretation of reality…which creates conflict, not only in our love lives, but in our family lives, and the lives of our children. The following is a list of 50 of these differences…perhaps if we’re aware of them, we can interact with more empathy, and better logic.
1. Men & women don’t see in the same way
From the very start of light hitting the retina, to the information arriving in the cerebral cortex, this process is different in males and females.
-The male retina is thicker
– It has more M cells (magnocellular)
– M cells are larger and are distributed across the retina
– M cells are responsible for tracking the movement of objects
-The female retina is thinner
– It has more P cells (parvocellular)
– P cells are smaller & concentrated around the center of the retina
– P cells are responsible for identifying objects & analyzing texture and color
(has been documented in other mammals)
(Sax, Leonard. “Why Gender Matters” 23)Wright, Robert. “The Moral Animal” Robert. “The Moral Animal”
2. Female babies like faces, male babies like moving objects
This isn’t surprising, since – as we just learned – males and females see differently.
Over 100 infants were studied on the day of their birth. They were given a choice between looking at a young woman’s face or a dangling mobile. The researchers were not told the sex of the babies while they recorded their eye movement. The boys were twice as likely to prefer gazing at the mobile and the girls were more likely to look at the face. (Sax, Leonard. “Why Gender Matters” 19)
– In the first few months of life, a baby girl’s eye contact and mutual facial gazing will increase by over 400% while the boys will show significantly less improvement. (Brizendine. “The Female Brain” 15) (original study can be seen here)
3. Boys and girls like to draw different things
– Most girls prefer drawing people, animals, and plants, arranged symmetrically & facing the viewer
– They’re more likely to use lots of color and the colors they use tend to be warm
– Boys mostly draw action scenes with dynamic movement
– It’s not common for them to use more than 6 colours, and the colours they do use tend to be cool
(Sax, Leonard. “Why Gender Matters” 25) (Brizendine. “The Male Brain” 20)
If you’re finding yourself thinking “Ok who cares? Kids draw different stuff” keep in mind that most early grade teachers are female, with a feminine bias. They favour girls’ drawings to be the correct type of art, which can put boys off art forever. And it goes beyond boys doing poorly in art class. I always see headlines like “boy suspended from school for drawing a gun.” I think if teachers were aware of these hardwired differences then they would stop raising concerns about male students depicting “violent” scenes. We should look back to the old proverb “boys will be boys,” take a deep breath, and relax.
4. Females hear better than males
-In the brain centres for language and hearing, women have 11% more neurons than men (Brizendine. “The Female Brain” 5)
– Females not only hear better, but can discern between a broader range of emotional tones in the human voice. This is probably because BABIES! Women evolved to be nurturers, so hearing & interpreting their infant’s cries is kind of an important skill.
– And it’s a skill we’re born with: a study of infants on the day of their birth showed that girls will respond more to the cries of another baby than boys. (Brizendine. “The Female Brain” 17)
Hey! Soft spoken female teachers! Before you label a boy with attention deficit, try moving him to the front of the class. He probably can’t hear you!
5. Music affects us differently
Premature baby girls who received music therapy had fewer complications, grew faster and were able to be discharged earlier than the ones that did not. There was no effect on premature baby boys. (Sax, Leonard. “Why Gender Matters” 16)
6. Males will automatically block out certain sounds
-A study of adults in the Netherlands monitored the brain activity of 17 to 25 year old males and females as they processed white noise and music.
– the females had an intense response to both sounds.
– the males responded to the music but deactivated to the white noise, as if they didn’t even hear it.
-This may be because during male fetal brain development, testosterone impacts the formation of the auditory system, making it block out unwanted noise and repetitious acoustic stimuli. (Brizendine. “The Male Brain” 41)
This is a big issue in most male/female relationships. A girl will say something and the guy won’t hear her. She will repeat herself, several times, which makes his brain register her voice as “unwanted repetitious acoustic stimuli” …and before you know it, it devolves to “he never listens” and “she’s always nagging.” And a lot of us will get stuck in a feedback loop of behaviour, creating a fascinating ‘chicken or the egg scenario’…does my mom say the same thing 500 hundred times because my dad doesn’t hear her, or does my dad tune her out because she repeats herself?
7. Females can verbally express their emotions better than males
The key word here is can, as in, have the ability to. This is not, as some will have you believe, a difference caused by societal gender norms: This is a legitimate brain difference.
-MRI’s were used to examine how emotion is processed in the brains of girls & boys from the ages of 7 through to 17.
-They found that in children, negative emotions were localized in the primitive area of the brain, the amygdala. This part of the brain has few direct connections to the language & reasoning centre in the cerebral cortex, which is why it’s difficult for most kids to verbally express how they feel.
-Then in adolescence, a large portion of the brain activity associated with negative emotion moves up from the amygdala to the cerebral cortex…but this change only happens in girls.
-A study from Germany duplicated this finding, and went on to conclude that both positive and negative emotions are processed differently in males and females post puberty.
Judging by this, it’s no surprise that men rarely want to “talk about it.” Men are wired to avoid contact with others when they are going through a rough time & even report thinking women would want to do the same. So before you get mad at your boyfriend for his silence, remember that it’s literally difficult for him to verbalize his feelings. (Brizendine. “The Female Brain” 126) (Sax, Leonard. “Why Gender Matters” 29)
8. Boys naturally use movement to think
Boys and girls of grade school age were studied to see how long it took them to solve conceptual math problems.
-The boys solved the problems faster than the girls.
– The researchers noted that when asked to explain how they got the answer, most of the boys gave an explanation without using any words; they wiggled, acted and gestured their process! Words were a barrier.
-So over the following few weeks the researchers taught the girls to explain their answers with movement and then retested everyone.
– The girls were now able to solve the math problems as quickly as the boys.
-It seems that the male and female brains have access to the same circuitry but use differently circuitry by default. (Brizendine. “The Male Brain” 26-27)
9. Boys are more likely to take risks
Researchers in Missouri studied the responses of kids that rode a stationary bicycle while watching a hyper-realistic simulation. When confronted with a hazard, the boys were much slower to break than the girls. If it was real, many of the boys would have been seriously injured.
The boys also reported feeling excited during a simulated collision, while the girls reported feeling fearful.
(Sax, Leonard. “Why Gender Matters” 43) (Higher risk taking in males has also been observed in primates) (Sax, Leonard. “Why Gender Matters” 44)
10. Females are easier to startle
This was demonstrated in a ‘scary stimuli study’ that measured fear through electrical conductivity in the skin. (Brizendine. “The Female Brain” 123)