Many of my female friends complain that there just aren’t enough good men out there for all the good women. This got me to wondering if they had a point. Are women really nicer than men? I did some research and according to information I found, there may be some truth in it. The University of Zurich in Switzerland published research that showed men’s brains reward selfish behaviour, whereas women’s brains reward generosity.
The University of Zurich ran a series of experiments that required participants to make decisions about whether or not they would share money with other people. Neuroscientists analysed their brains.
The study found that the striatum (the brain’s reward centre, which administers the happy-dopamine hit for ‘good’ behaviour) responds strongly in women when they make prosocial sharing decisions. It does not respond so strongly in men when they behave well. In contrast, selfish behaviour did trigger a dopamine response in men’s brains.
In other words, women’s brains reward them for kindness, whereas men’s brains reward them for being selfish.
Lead researcher Alexander Soutschek from University of Zurich said the results “demonstrate that the brains of women and men also process generosity differently at the pharmacological level”.
Prof Soutschek is calling for further research, and for the need for neuroscientists to “take into account gender differences more seriously”.
Are girls taught to be nicer than boys?
Prof Souschek is not sure if women and men are born with these differences, or if they are trained to behave in different ways. Are girls bought up to be caring and kind, whereas boys are raised to be self-centred go-getters?
“The reward and learning systems in our brains work in close cooperation,” said Prof Souschek. “Studies show that girls are rewarded with praise for prosocial behavior, implying that their reward systems learn to expect a reward for helping behavior instead of selfish behavior. With this in mind, the gender differences that we observed in our studies could best be attributed to the different cultural expectations placed on men and women.”
Maybe boys are naturally selfish and girls naturally generous
New York scientists did brain scans on 118 foetuses in the second half of pregnancy to analyse the links between gender and the developing brain. They believe the brain differences are biological.
Professor Moriah Thomason, from New York University, said one of the main differences was in connectivity across distant areas of the brain. According to the US study, published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, female brains growing in the uterus produced very different brain networks, which could cause more social caring behaviour.
There are many biological statistical differences between the sexes
Scientists have found even more difference in the way men and women’s minds work.
Women have a larger pre-fontal cortex. This is the centre of the brain that controls social behaviour, judgement, and consequential thinking. Women develop their pre-fontal cortex at a younger age, which is why they take fewer risks as teenagers than males of the same age. Women have a larger prefontal cortex and men have a larger amygdala, which means men have more processing power for threats, and women have more processing power for details, according to these scientists.
Women also have a larger anterior cortex. This is the centre where people process emotions, arrange memories, and ruminate. This means womenspend more time trying to process emotions and worrying.
The brain is divided into two hemispheres: the right brain has more creative and intuitive thought, and the left brain, which is for linear and logical thinking. They are connected by the corpus callosum, a thick bundle of nerves connecting the right and left sides of the brain. Scientists disagree, but some scientists think that this means women tend to bounce back and forth between feelings and facts very easily, while men like to think in steps, processing one fact at a time. In other words, men think in straight lines, whereas women think in webs, constantly connecting ideas. However other researchers say by ratio women do not have a larger corpus callosum, and this theory is flawed.
What are the key differences in ability?
According to one Stanford University paper, women excel in several measures of verbal ability. Women’s reading comprehension and writing ability consistently exceeds that of men, on average. They out-perform men in tests of fine-motor coordination and perceptual (understanding) speed. They’re better at retrieving information from long-term memory.
Men can more easily juggle items in their working memory. They have superior visuospatial skills: They’re better at visualizing what happens when a complicated two or three dimensional shape is rotated in space, at correctly determining angles from the horizontal, at tracking moving objects and at aiming projectiles.
Navigation studies in both humans and rats show that females of both species tend to rely on landmarks, while males more typically rely on dead reckoning’: calculating one’s position by estimating the direction and distance travelled rather than using landmarks.
Women are twice as likely as men to experience clinical depression during their life and post-traumatic stress disorder. Men are twice as likely to become alcoholic or drug-dependent, and 40 percent more likely to develop schizophrenia. Boys’ dyslexia rate is perhaps 10 times that of girls, and they’re four or five times as likely to get a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. It seems men have unique strengths and weaknesses, as do women. My conclusion, let’s accept and enjoy these differences. We should always aim to get along. As the French say, vive la difference!
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.