There are many myths about brain functioning and capabilities. There has also been much talk about the differences in functions between one hemisphere and another. And about the differences between the male and female brain. How much truth is there in it? Scientific evidence about physiognomic and functional divergences of the brain between sexes is not as clear as some may lead us to believe.
It is true that evidence has been found regarding differences between the male and female brain at the structural level. But many have used this fact to make claims about functional differences that are not entirely true. In this article, we will review scientific findings about the differences between male and female brains.
5 differences between the male and female brain supported by science
Let’s look at the main differences supported by science:
- Men have a bigger brain than women. A study by Witelson found that the average weight of women’s brains was 1248 grams, while that of men was higher at 1378 grams. But making a separate observation of some brains, the study observed that some women had greater brain capacity than some men. Size is not directly related to intelligence or greater capacity, so this discovery’s implications are not exactly known.
- The hippocampus is usually bigger for women and the amygdala is bigger for men, according to a study conducted by Cahill in 2006. The hippocampus is related to functions such as immediate memory and amygdala with emotions and aggression.
- Some areas located in the brain activate differently in each sex. For example, emotional memories activate the left amygdala more in women, but the right in men.
- Men are better at performing tasks of rotation. Tasks of rotation consist of observing a geometric figure and imagining how the image would rotate mentally. It is a visuospatial task, like orientation on a map.
- Women are better at emotional processing. They have more resources when it comes to understanding and processing their emotions. This is also related to greater empathy in women.
Myths about the differences between the male and female brain
The differences between sexes has always been a controversial issue — very interesting too. That’s why some statements supported by scientific studies are exaggerated to make exciting headlines.
However, it’s important to find out the initial source of information. We should put all the data in perspective so that we do not perpetuate myths like these ones:
- The female brain functioning is more balanced and complete. The famous author of the bestseller “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus”, John Gray, in his sequel “Why Mars and Venus Collide” writes that men only use one cerebral hemisphere when performing tasks, while women use both. It’s the basis of many jokes: men can only perform one task at a time, supposedly. A simplistic conclusion hides behind this statement. In addition, since there is no scientific evidence of this, it is questionable.
- The mirror neurons of women are “hyperactive”. Many assume that women are more empathetic and process emotions better by having more mirror neuron activity. But no one has proven this scientifically. It is true that numerous studies claim that women are better able to process emotions. But it has not been found that the physiological reason lies in greater mirror neurons activity.
The differences between individuals cannot be reduced to sex
Human behavior is very diverse and unpredictable. Despite our efforts to find an answer to such differences, we must admit that heterogeneity is an inherent characteristic for all humans. Despite attempts to attribute differences in the behavior of each sex to differences in the brain, we haven’t proven very much.
The reality is that differences between sexes are not as marked as they are between individuals. Probably a large number of these differences are due to culture. In fact, cultural beliefs, such as women being bad at math, can have an effect on expectations or the assessment we can make of our own abilities.
It would not be surprising to find that the differences in behavior between sexes has their roots in how each their upbringing. It’s important not to get carried away by the attractiveness of curious, striking data.
Instead, we should interpret information rigorously. It’s time to stop perpetuating beliefs that are not completely true. Maybe this way we can get a little closer to equal opportunities and allow both sexes to reach their potential.