Men and Women’s brains are different says research – what a surprise!
Current research demonstrates what we have always known – that our brains function differently
Exploring the emotional and mental differences between men and women
We now know there is a physiological reason for our differences regardless of our background or conditioning although these factors are relevant and need to be acknowledged.
Please note this is a general view and does not apply to all men and all women. Even when it is usually applicable there will be some occasions when men or women change their usual response patterns. However, if we bear in mind that the male/female thought patterns and responses differ this can greatly improve communication and understanding
Women and Men’s Brains
Women use both sides of the brain when processing information whereas men use predominantly their left brain. Consequently, men are more focused on facts and women will remember more about the emotional content. Women are more in touch with their own feelings and therefore interested in the feelings of others. Although men will analyse and remember more factual information.
A consequence of this is that women’s conversation tends to revolve more around people and human behaviour and they may feel men are being insensitive and uncaring when they don’t remember or appear disinterested. Men may feel the same when women are less than enthusiastic about analytical factual information.
Misunderstandings can be avoided when we understand our different interests come from our different brain function. Women often say if he loved me he would understand what I need without my having to tell him when he needs specific clear factual information and can be genuinely confused by innuendos and hints.
Women prefer to talk through problems or situations reaching their conclusion by sharing and empathic responses. Men prefer to think through things alone and clarify their options before discussing.
Women may therefore accuse a man of not listening when he offers advice and solutions and men will resent suggestions that he needs to talk when he wants time alone to think.
Men need greater stimulus to start on a project although they will then take more risks and enjoy deadlines and competition. This could explain why they have tended to achieve more senior positions than women who are more risk-averse, less competitive and prefer to work as part of a team.
Women are less focused on doing one thing at a time so can appear to achieve less, although they will be more aware of what is happening on an emotional level with the people around them.
By understanding each other’s approach to getting things done (in the workplace and at home) we can use our different skills to create harmony rather than conflict.
When stressed or upset men are more likely to become angry whereas women tend to become withdrawn or depressed. Women need to understand that this anger often masks deep underlying painful feelings which may not be directly related to her. In our present culture, many people are suffering from stress which increases the strain when a relationship is not at its best.
Exploring these differences and how couples can communicate effectively is one aspect of couples counselling.
Another common cause of conflict especially when there is an attraction of opposites is that the characteristics which draw people to each other can eventually cause the problems which drive them apart.
Strong emotions block rational thought leading to arguments and misunderstandings. Therapy will help to lower high emotional states making it possible to clarify the real cause of the problem and to work out a strategy for change.
An article by Oregon Counselling covers these same points also very well
For centuries, the differences between men and women were socially defined and distorted through a lens of sexism in which men assumed superiority over women and maintained it through domination. As the goal of equality between men and women now grows closer we are also losing our awareness of important differences. In some circles of society, politically correct thinking is obliterating important discussion as well as our awareness of the similarities and differences between men and women. The vision of equality between the sexes has narrowed the possibilities for discovery of what truly exists within a man and within a woman. The world is less interesting when everything is the same.
It is my position that men and women are equal but different. When I say equal, I mean that men and women have a right to equal opportunity and protection under the law. The fact that people in this country are assured these rights does not negate my observation that men and women are at least as different psychologically as they are physical.
None of us would argue the fact that men and women are physically different. The physical differences are rather obvious and most of these can be seen and easily measured. Weight, shape, size and anatomy are not political opinions but rather tangible and easily measured. The physical differences between men and women provide functional advantages and have survival value.
Men usually have greater upper body strength, build muscle easily, have thicker skin, bruise less easily and have a lower threshold of awareness of injuries to their extremities. Men are essentially built for physical confrontation and the use of force. Their joints are well suited for throwing objects. A man’s skull is almost always thicker and stronger than a women’s. The stereotype that men are more “thick-headed” than women is not far fetched.
A man’s “thick headedness”, and other anatomical differences have been associated with a uniquely male attraction to high-speed activities and reckless behaviour that usually involve collisions with other males or automobiles. Men invented the game “chicken”, not women. Men and a number of other male species of animal seem to charge and crash into each other a great deal in their spare time.
Women on the other hand have four times as many brain cells (neurons) connecting the right and left side of their brain. This latter finding provides physical evidence that supports the observation that men rely easily and more heavily on their left brain to solve one problem one step at a time.
Women have more efficient access to both sides of their brain and therefore greater use of their right brain. Women can focus on more than one problem at one time and frequently prefer to solve problems through multiple activities at a time. Nearly every parent has observed how young girls find the conversations of young boys “boring”. Young boys express confusion and would rather play sports than participate actively in a conversation between 5 girls who are discussing as many as three subjects at once!
The psychological differences between man and women are less obvious.
They can be difficult to describe. Yet these differences can profoundly influence how we form and maintain relationships that can range from work and friendships to marriage and parenting.
Recognizing, understanding, discussing as well as acting skillfully in light of the differences between men and women can be difficult. Our failure to recognize and appreciate these differences can become a life long source of disappointment, frustration, tension and eventually our downfall in a relationship. Not only can these differences destroy a promising relationship, but most people will grudgingly accept or learn to live with the consequences. Eventually they find some compromise or way to cope. Few people ever work past these difficulties. People tend to accept what they don’t understand when they feel powerless to change it.
Relationships between men and women are not impossible or necessarily difficult. Problems simply arise when we expect or assume the opposite sex should think, feel or act the way we do. It’s not that men and women live in completely different realities. Rather, our lack of knowledge and mutual experience gives rise to our difficulties.
Despite great strides in this country toward equality, modern society hasn’t made relationships between men and women any easier. Today’s society has taught us and has imposed on us the expectation that men and women should live together continuously, in communion, and in harmony. These expectations are not only unrealistic but ultimately they leave people feeling unloved, inadequate, cynical, apathetic or ashamed.
The challenge facing men and women is to become aware of their identities, to accept their differences, and to live their lives fully and as skillfully as possible. To do this we must first understand in what ways we are different. We must avoid trying to change others to suit our needs. The following illustrates some important differences between men and women. These differences are not absolute. They describe how men and women are in most situations most of the time.
Men and women approach problems with similar goals but with different considerations. While men and women can solve problems equally well, their approach and their process are often quit different. For most women, sharing and discussing a problem presents an opportunity to explore, deepen or strengthen the relationship with the person they are talking with. Woman are usually more concerned about how problems are solved than merely solving the problem itself. For women, solving a problem can profoundly impact whether they feel closer and less alone or whether they feel distant and less connected. The process of solving a problem can strengthen or weaken a relationship. Most men are less concerned and do not feel the same as women when solving a problem.
Men approach problems in a very different manner than women. For most men, solving a problem presents an opportunity to demonstrate their competence, their strength of resolve, and their commitment to a relationship. How the problem is solved is not nearly as important as solving it effectively and in the best possible manner. Men have a tendency to dominate and to assume authority in a problem-solving process. They set aside their feelings provided the dominance hierarchy was agreed upon in advance and respected. They are often distracted and do not attend well to the quality of the relationship while solving problems.
Some of the more important differences can be illustrated by observing groups of young teenage boys and groups of young teenage girls when they attempt to find their way out of a maze. A group of boys generally establish a hierarchy or chain of command with a leader who emerges on his own or through demonstrations of ability and power. Boys explore the maze using scouts while remaining in distant proximity to each other. Groups of girls tend to explore the maze together as a group without establishing a clear or dominant leader. Relationships tends to be co-equal. Girls tend to elicit discussion and employ “collective intelligence” to the task of discovering a way out. Girls tend to work their way through the maze as a group. Boys tend to search and explore using structured links and a chain of command.
While men and women can reach similar conclusions and make similar decisions, the process they use can be quit different and in some cases can lead to entirely different outcomes. In general, men and women consider and process information differently.
Women tend to be intuitive global thinkers. They consider multiple sources of information within a process that can be described as simultaneous, global in perspective and will view elements in the task in terms of their interconnectedness. Women come to understand and consider problems all at once. They take a broad or “collective” perspective, and they view elements in a task as interconnected and interdependent. Women are prone to become overwhelmed with complexities that “exist”, or may exist, and may have difficulty separating their personal experience from problems.
Men tend to focus on one problem at a time or a limited number of problems at a time. They have an enhanced ability to separate themselves from problems and minimize the complexity that may exist. Men come to understand and consider problems one piece at a time. They take a linear or sequential perspective and view elements in a task as less interconnected and more independent. Men are prone to minimize and fail to appreciate subtleties that can be crucial to successful solutions. A male may work through a problem repeatedly, talking about the same thing over and over, rather than trying to address the problem all at once.
While there are differences in the ways that men and women think, it must be emphasized that they can and do solve problems in a similar manner. There are no absolutes, only tendencies.
Women have an enhanced ability to recall memories that have strong emotional components. They can also recall events or experiences that have similar emotions in common. Women are very adept at recalling information, events or experiences in which there is a common emotional theme. Men tend to recall events using strategies that rely on reconstructing the experience in terms of elements, tasks or activities that took place. Profound experiences that are associated with competition or physical activities are more easily recalled. There appears to be a structural and chemical basis for observed memory differences. For instance, the hippocampus, the area in the brain primarily responsible for memory, reacts differently to testosterone in men and it reacts differently to changing levels of estrogen and progesterone in women. Women tend to remember or be reminded of different “emotional memories” and content to some extent as part of their menstrual cycle.
There is evidence to suggest that a great deal of the sensitivity that exists within men and women has a physiological basis. It has been observed that is many cases, women have an enhanced physical alarm response to danger or threat. Their autonomic and sympathetic systems have a lower threshold of arousal and greater reactivity than men. In both men and women, higher levels of testosterone directly affect the aggressive response and behaviour centres of the brain. Increasing estrogen and progesterone in men has a “feminizing” effect. Sexually aggressive males become less focused on sexual aggressive behaviour and content when they are given female hormones. On the other hand, changing estrogen and progesterone levels in women during menstrual cycles can produce a “flood” of memories as well as strong emotions. Increasing or high levels of testosterone can produce an emotional insensitivity, empathic block and increased indifference to the distress others.
At the heart of sensitivity is our capacity to form, appreciate and maintain relationships that are rewarding. Even here there are important differences. For men, what demonstrates a solid relationship is quite different from that of most women. Men feel closer and validated through shared activities. Such activities include sports, competition, outdoor activities or sexual activities that are decidedly active and physical. While both men and women can appreciate and engage in these activities they often have preferential differences. Women, on the other hand, feel closer and validated through communication, dialogue and intimate sharing of experience, emotional content and personal perspectives. Many men tend to find such sharing and involvement uncomfortable, if not, overwhelming.
The Task Of Relationship Facing Men and Women
The task that faces men and women is to learn to accept their differences, avoid taking their differences as personal attempts to frustrate each other and to compromise whenever possible. The idea that one gender can think and feel like the other if they truly loved each is rather absurd. Sure, a man or women could act in consideration of the other’s needs, but this would not necessarily be rewarding and honest. Holding the benefit of another above our own is rewarding. But from time to time, and more often for most of us, it is important to be our self and to be accepted, and not to be the source of distress and disappointment in the lives of people we love.