you want a clear illustration of one of the many differences
in the ways men and women think, a simple car ride will
paint a pretty clear picture.
Saima and Robin Arman of Uttara hit the road recently, their
navigational radar tuned into different frequencies. Robin
used a mental map, while Saima used landmarks to get around.
As the couple tried to get around a tricky area of the town,
Robin said, "Turn left to Westecs" while Saima
said, "You have to turn before the ice cream cone."
Helen Fisher, an expert in gender differences, would say
the Armans' are not unusual in their navigational skills.
"Women go from one object to another. On the other
hand, a man will say, go two miles down the road and then
head east. That's very different from saying go down to
the shoe store and take a left at the high stone wall."
these differences begin long before people get their driver's
licenses. The Armans are already observing major differences
in the way their three children communicate, particularly
their two children -- Saimon, 11, and Nayeema, 9.
Arman says her daughter Nayeema describes her day with a
lot more drama than her son. "Everything is about relationship,"
she says. "I know who was whose best friend today and
who fought with who and what boy likes whom. Saimon has
no interest in that kind of stuff. Saimon would be happy
to just say, “My day was fine.”
the Armans' family stories sound familiar? If so, you're
not alone. The fact is men and women are very different
in the way they speak, behave, solve problems, and even
remember where the car keys are.
The reasons behind these differences have fuelled arguments
for generations and continue to do so today. Is it our biology,
or our culture? Many scientists say it's all in our heads,
or, more precisely, in the way men and women's brains are
designed and the way they function.
A century ago, the discovery that female brains were about
10 percent smaller than male brains was cited as proof that
women could never be as smart as men--contributing to their
status as second-class citizens. We now know that size isn't
everything when it comes to the power of brain. Our IQs
are the same. In fact, the highest recorded I.Q. belongs
to a woman, a writer named Marilyn vos Savant.
are other, perhaps more significant, differences that distinguish
male and female brains. Male brains are wired to move information
quickly within each side -- or hemisphere -- of the brain.
This gives them better spatial abilities. They can see an
object in space, and react quickly.
women's brains, areas of the cerebral cortex-- linked to
language, judgment and memory -- are more densely packed
with nerve cells than men's brains. This allows them to
process that information more effectively.
explained that the 'corpus callosum,' which she
describes as a "big highway between the two sides of
the brain," is larger in women toward the rear than
it is in men. "Hence," she said, "the two
sides of the brain are better interconnected" in women.
means that women can absorb and analyse all sorts of information
from the environment simultaneously. This makes women more
adept at multitasking, while men tend to do better tackling
one thing at a time.
in the Womb?
Scientists are developing new ways of looking inside the
working brain-- to see just how it's wired. Diagnostic tests
such as Functional MRIs, which can measure blood flow, electrical
activity and energy use, are being used to give researchers
pictures of our brains in action.
Ruben and Raquel Gur, a husband and wife neuroscience team
at the University of Pennsylvania, put men and women inside
an MRI and studied how their brains responded to various
verbal and spatial tasks.
each case, the men's brains "lit up" in a few
areas, while the women's brains showed activity in many
areas for both spatial and verbal tasks. Ruben Gur said
the men's brain activity became completely focused, while
women did exactly the opposite, activating other parts of
have found that the male brain's ability to focus on one
area works better for spatial tests, while the female brain's
approach is better for verbal tests. Scientists are still
trying to figure out why that's the case.
The differences, researchers say, begin in the womb. At
first, all foetuses' brains are virtually the same. At about
nine weeks, however, testosterone surges through the male
foetus, not only creating a boy's body, but actually hard-wiring
the brain to be male. Without testosterone to spur those
changes, girls develop "female" brains.
Lewis, director of the Institute for the Study of Child
Development at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in
New Jersey, has documented behavioural differences in children
as young as one year of age. In one study, Lewis placed
toddler boys and girls behind a barrier, blocking them from
reaching their mothers.
male and female children had very different strategies for
getting past the barrier. Lewis said, "The boy child
wants to get back to mom and it's going to climb over that
barrier. It's going to knock it down. It's gonna push on
it. It's gonna try to go around the side."
girls' strategy? According to Lewis, they "get help
from another person." Interestingly, the female children
got out from behind the barrier faster than the boys. They
showed distress, and their mothers came and picked them
Old Brain in a Modern Culture
The degree to which individuals' behaviour is determined
by their physiological make-up remains a hotly debated question.
Lewis points out that children grow up in a world that reinforces
boy and girl differences-- through cartoons, commercials,
clothing--and their behaviour as adults will be shaped by
these social cues.
Fausto-Sterling, a biologist at Brown University, thinks
these external influences are so substantial that we shouldn't
study the brain in isolation. "I balk at the notion
that our brains are hard-wired," Fausto-Sterling said.
"Our brains develop, and they develop new connections.
So, you never have development outside of culture and experience,"
like Lewis, pointed out that children are bombarded with
"heavily gendered messages." Fausto-Sterling said
these messages "start earlier than we can imagine."
researchers say the perception that men excel in motor and
spatial skills while women are stronger in the verbal department
is not just an over-parodied stereotype. Evolutionary scientists
claim it all began with our ancient ancestors.
said it all goes back to the hunter-gatherer days. Women
needed verbal and emotional skills to cajole, educate and
discipline their babies, while men needed spatial skills
out on the hunt. "We've got an old brain in a very
and the Brain
Differences in the way male and female brains work don't
just affect our career choices or academic aptitudes, they
control the way we perceive beauty, and they may affect
how our bodies deal with stress and disease.
romantics believe love comes from the heart, scientists
know it starts with the brain. When the brain sees something
it likes a very distinct message is transmitted throughout
have learned that beauty taps into a part of the brain called
the limbic system, which deals with craving and reward.
Dr. Nancy Etcoff, a Harvard psychologist, has been studying
how the brain responds to beauty.
observed that the so-called reward area in men's brains
lit up when they were shown pictures of beautiful women.
The same reward circuitry is triggered for many different
pleasures, researchers say. Some people will respond similarly
to a good meal, cocaine will trigger the same reaction in
addicts. When men were shown photos of attractive men, however,
there was no activity in the
brain's reward centre at all.
responded differently to the photos. "They wanted to
get a second look, not only at the beautiful men, but at
the beautiful women," Etcofff said.
by SYED AZAD
Souces: ABC News and Anatomy of Brain by Scott Brewmen.