What About His Brain and Her Brain?
They say men are from mars and women are from venus; that boys and girls are different not only in what they look like, but also in how they think and act like, ever since they were conceived. From looks to intelligence and behavior, men and women are compared with each other. But beyond the common stereotypes on gender differences lies the truth about how different men really are from women in various aspects, particularly their brain structures and brain activities. Psychologists have found out that:
- The hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for regulating sexual behavior, is bigger and more active in men than in women.
- Portions of the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that connects the left and right hemispheres of the cerebral cortex, are more dense in women than in men, indicating that women integrate more information coming from both sides of the brain than men do.
- Activity in both hemispheres during language-processing is more observed among women than among men. However, both genders performed equally on the same task (i.e., sounding out words). Perhaps "nature has given the brain different routes to the same ability."
- Brain tissue loss happens earlier and in greater quantity in men than in women. Additionally, men lose neurons mainly in the cerebral cortex, particularly the frontal and temporal lobes, while women lose brain tissues primarily in the parietal lobe and the hippocampus.
- According to brain imaging techniques, the parietal lobe, an area of the cerebral cortex, is bigger and more active in men than in women.
- In spatial-navigational skills, such as map reading, distance-estimation and dart throwing, men perform better than women.
- In fine motor activities, such as sewing, drawing, painting and writing, women perform better than men.
- The linguistic and objective memories of women are better than men's.
Implications and Debate
Evolutionary Psychology proposes that the cause of the differences between men and women lies in survivability and the division of labor. It is said that because men took the role of hunting for and protecting the family, they developed bigger and more active parietal lobes than women, manifesting in their excellent spatial-navigational skills. On the other hand, women took the role of a nurturer and care-giver thereby improving their attention to detail, language skills and fine motor skills. Critics of evolutionary psychology, meanwhile, claim that men and women are just naturally different from each other, that their differences are merely expressions of their genetic codes.
Aside from the set of differences between men and women as reported above, readers have probably stumbled upon statements claiming that men are more intelligent than women, whereas women are more creative than men; or that men are to math and women are to language. Differences between men and women abound, and there are claims here and there; but what is important to note is that these reported differences are oftentimes small and simply exaggerated. For instance, it is well-documented that boys have higher SAT scores in math than girls. This does not mean, however, that ALL boys will perform better in their SAT math than ALL girls. And because the difference is too small (about 3-5 points only), the information does not have much to offer. The same goes for girls performing better in language than do boys. As some psychologists say, "So what?". Physical and natural causes aside, such a small difference may well be attributed to social stigma and expectations instead. As Diane Halpern said, "Differences do not necessarily mean better."
Differences between men and women also spark controversial social implications. The choice for a college degree, for example, shows that women are more interested in creative and communication degrees than men, who are more inclined towards the physical and business degrees. Because interests and physical make-up differ between men and women, policy-makers of educational institutions speculate about teaching women and men differently. All-boys and all-girls schools are many; and some universities, particularly Harvard University, opened up its campus to women just about a century ago.
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