Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Male and Female

Recent research finds differences between men and women's brains

A guide to the male and female influence points

Controlled by the frontal lobe, which is proportionally larger in women.

Controlled by the limbic cortex, which is also proportionally larger in women.

Controlled by the parietal cortex , which regulates how we move around. Proportionally larger in men.

Controlled by the amygdala, which is proportionally larger in men. When recalling an emotionally charged scene, men enlist its right side, women its left. Men remember the gist of the scene, and women the details.

Controlled by the periaqueductal grey, an area of grey matter in the mid-brain, known to have a role in the suppression of pain in men but perhaps not in women.

What the experts think about the research

Rosie Boycott, Founder of Spare Rib Magazine
There are real differences between men's and women's brains.
In the 1970s, I saw feminist girlfriends bringing up children and religiously give the girl a truck to play with, and try to get the boy to like the colour pink. It never worked. Little girls and boys had very different ideas about what they wanted to play with and what colours they liked
Oliver James, Psychologist
It does not prove anything about the role of genes or environment. It is pure speculation. The size of different parts of the brain can be affected by childhood experiences. For example, a woman who was sexually abused as a child has, on average, 5 per cent less mass in in her hippocampal region than a woman who was not sexually abused.
A C Grayling, Philosopher
This discovery does not affect just the difference between the sexes, but also different populations, and different ethnicities which have different propensities to illness and disease. For instance, we treat children differently from adults, so it's not surprising that we might treat Europeans differently from Asians, men differently from women.
Phillip Hodson, Psychotherapist
This evidence could be used to reinforce stereotypes, and this is worrying. Humans need to be interchangeable – women need to be able to do the traditional male jobs and the same applies to men. Long-term relationships that work are ones where people are similar. I do not believe "men are from Mars and women are from Venus". We are all from Earth.
Judi James, Body language analyst
I'm not surprised by this new evidence. Research like this has been going on for years. However, I think instead of trying to categorise differences we should celebrate diversity and people's individuality and their quirks, rather than looking at whether they are male or female. I find evidence like this tends to create stereotypes.
Natasha Walter, Feminist author
I think we have to be careful and not jump on small studies that show small differences and assume they're going to remain significant. Obviously there are some physical differences between the brains of men and women, but these differences may not be innate and unchanging. They can be produced by our environment and circumstances
Another take on the above is that several of those invited made sensible comments

Why is it that scientists insist on looking at the mechanical structures?
They continue with reductionistic approaches
Even though there is not a hope in hell of understanding a complex human system by ever more minute examinations of it's component parts
We seem to be incapable of looking at things holistically
For example where does consciousness fit in this study?
The brain is nothing without consciousness
And where is consciousness to be located?
Still such approaches help sell newspapers and it certainly does no harm to mainstream scientists trying to obtain funding and kudos
Bottom line looked at another way is that we need each other and can help each other and this surely is the most important aspect of the similarities and differences between women and men
Who knows nature might even have a reason for creating us in a similar but dissimilar fashion at this point in our evolutionary journey?

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