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The Brains of Men and Women Are 'Wired Differently' 509

Posted by Soulskill
from the brain-and-brain-what-is-brain dept.
Rambo Tribble writes "Research out of the University of Philadelphia concludes there are major differences in the neural pathways in the brains of men and women. Men, they say, are wired more front-to-back, women more side-to-side. 'The results establish that male brains are optimized for intrahemispheric and female brains for interhemispheric communication. The developmental trajectories of males and females separate at a young age, demonstrating wide differences during adolescence and adulthood. The observations suggest that male brains are structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action, whereas female brains are designed to facilitate communication between analytical and intuitive processing modes.' They propose this may explain why women have been found to be better multitaskers. Of course, this may also have ramifications for what skill and career proclivities each sex exhibits."
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The Brains of Men and Women Are 'Wired Differently'

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  • Oh noooos! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:47PM (#45588199)

    Don't tell me! Men and women might be different!?!?!?!?!?

  • Women in STEM (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:51PM (#45588263)

    Can we please stop posting articles about having more women in STEM.

    It will never be 50/50 and won't ever get much higher than it is now. It is what it is.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:56PM (#45588329) Homepage Journal still dwarfed by the differences between individuals of a gender. None of these articles about statistical differences will ever justify the prejudices and social roles some people want to enforce on others to make things simpler.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:56PM (#45588331)

    As the article notes, the pathways being studied can change throughout life.

    Presumably they change to fit the tasks the person spends most time on.

    So... it seems plausible that the pathways reflect gender stereotypes because gender stereotypes created them in the first place.

  • Great.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jythie (914043) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:57PM (#45588343)
    So a study noted some interesting neurological structural differences, which is cool.

    What is likely to be not cool are the coming comments about how this is just more evidence that divides in fields like STEM, management, finance, etc, are somehow the result of natural drives/talents and that women really do just want to be relegated to the low paid, low respect fields which have minimal chances for advancement, and that they are paid less because they are simply less capable.
  • Uh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tthomas48 (180798) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:00PM (#45588375) Homepage

    " is a huge leap to extrapolate from anatomical differences to try to explain behavioural variation between the sexes. Also, brain connections are not set and can change throughout life."

    So... basically this could be 100% enculturation and there could be zero genetic differences. This is essentially the equivalent of pointing out that people who do a lot of running have strikingly different looking cells in their leg muscles than people who sit on the couch all day. Jumping to the runners being born with different leg muscles might not be the correct answer.

  • Cause and effect? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zumbs (1241138) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:00PM (#45588393) Homepage
    As I understand it, the brain is highly adaptive. This begs the question that early conditioning and training may very well have long term consequences to how our brains develop. If boys and girls are subjected to different stimuli and expectations, it follows that their brains are also going to develop differently. Or, to be more blunt, any change in development trajectories that happen after birth could be due to different biology just as well as environmental pressure on the child. This, naturally, makes it very difficult when one wants to consider which is cause and which is effect.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:05PM (#45588453)

    Won't stop them from using it like it is evidence.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:07PM (#45588473)

    Indeed. The number of human beings who are able to grasp even simple concepts is vanishingly small regardless of gender.

  • Re:Women in STEM (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:08PM (#45588491)

    Don't fix what isn't broken is a good reason.

  • Re:Oh noooos! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:11PM (#45588523)

    Yes, so can we please stop pretending that it is a travesty that few women are interested in IT?

    Sure, let them do it if they're interested, but if they aren't interested they don't need to have their noses rubbed into it in high school with the expectation that the gender gap in that particular career field will close.

  • Re:Equality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:22PM (#45588667)

    No! Men and women are EQUAL, dammit! I'm not listening, lalalalalala...!

    One of the great myths of our time is that "equality" is the same as "identicality."

  • by mellon (7048) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:23PM (#45588699) Homepage

    Yup. There's a pretty nice analysis of the study [] on MindHacker. It looks like the authors of the study found what they were looking for. Whether it's meaningfully there is less certain.

  • Re:Equality (Score:1, Insightful)

    by x0ra (1249540) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:31PM (#45588799)
    This is newspeak. If 'equality' is neither fairness or identicality, then the concept you are trying to describe is not 'equality'. What is so wrong about the denial that men and women are "equal" ? Egalitarianism is total bs, women and men will never be equal, let's keep it that way...
  • Re:Oh noooos! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:34PM (#45588817)

    My theory is that women are far to smart to get suckered into IT.

  • Re:Equality (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:36PM (#45588857)

    Eh? I always thought when people use the term "equality" it is about equality of opportunity regardless of gender, race, physical deficiencies, etc. not that people are actually equal as an individual, that would be an oxymoron...

  • Re:Oh noooos! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:38PM (#45588877)

    The alternative is that it is cultural, but the thing is that this is common throughout just about every culture.

  • by Antipater (2053064) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:39PM (#45588889)

    The fight over "begging the question" was lost decades ago. The modern usage makes more sense anyway: the logical fallacy would be better off renamed "assuming the premise", which both serves as a more descriptive name and is a better translation of the Latin petitio principii.

    Save your time and effort for the "literally" folks. It's wasted here.

  • by mjm1231 (751545) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:46PM (#45588961)

    You are missing the point. Even if what you are saying is true (which it largely is), this does not prevent the range of variance within genders from being greater than the range of variance between genders. You are talking about the meaty part of the bell curve, the parent is talking about the tails. But the fact that some people will naturally fall on the tails of the curve means that you can't use their gender to predict anything else about them (in this case, which way their brain is mostly wired).

    You are right, though. Wishing for science to reinforce your prejudices has a huge failure rate.

  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:56PM (#45589127) Homepage Journal

    In fact, if women were truly wired better for this, men would not have been able to do anything about it.

    By and large, men are physically more powerful -- by a very large margin. Over the vast majority of history, that physical power has been both a key factor in survival, making the male indispensable to the household, and consequently a means to dominate the family unit that could not be excised -- at the same time, it isn't something that depends upon superior cognitive function.

    It is only (very) recently that females have become broadly able to support a household without benefit of a male presence. If women are to dominate due to any particular cognitive advantage, they've only just entered the race and it'll most likely be some time yet before we see the results, both due to cultural inertia and learning curves.

    There's no telling what women may be capable of as yet in terms of exceeding male performance; they've barely had a few decades to try things on, and they're still being held back by religion, chauvinism, and the divisive backwards ride that sexual-role focused feminism took them on.

  • Re:Equality (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ahodgson (74077) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:00PM (#45589183)

    No ... "social justice" (what the cool kids are calling communism these days) requires equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity. Everyone must be equal! Or else "the system" is not working properly.

  • Re:Equality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by x0ra (1249540) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:19PM (#45589419)
    Then women are the one advantaged. They get more pardon, reduced sentencing and easier parole. I don't even start on domestic issues and divorce where they are more than likely to be seen as the victim, get alimony and child care...
  • Re:Oh noooos! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icebike (68054) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:22PM (#45589463)

    The reason why so few girls are in IT and business is neither their inability nor their lack of interest.

    So, in one sentence, you substitute your own pet biases for the scientific findings of TFA, and go right back to
    the fact far fewer women choose IT careers must by a fault of society.

    On the basis of what scientific research do you make such a claim? We are long past the age where women
    are trained from childhood to take certain jobs, accept certain careers, or forego careers. Yet women choose
    not to engage in certain professions in anywhere near a ratio indicative of the composition of society.

    Women, by and large, do not like IT jobs. They don't like being plumbers either. The women I have worked
    with in IT were very good at their jobs, but the women on the candidate list were far sparser than the men.
    I've worked FOR women in IT and I've had women work for me in IT. I've tried to recruit women and found
    most simply were not interested.

    Nobody steers women away from IT. They choose it. And the article explains why. Women's and men's brains are
    as many have suspected, simply wired differently. And this is evident early in childhood, which causes children
    to make choices, and parents to allow those choices.

    You don't have to invent a "social evil" to explain away the simple and obvious preponderance of preference.


  • by waveman (66141) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:23PM (#45589477) Homepage

    This is not true. The differences between the sexes are greater than the average differences between individuals. Some researchers have tried to obfuscate this fact by taking differences one at a time, rather than holistically. When you do a multi-factorial analysis of differences between the sexes versus the average differences between individuals, the sexes are clearly different. This is the case for example with strength and endurance, also with personality traits.

    I am perfectly happy that if, eg a woman wants to be a physicist, then all power to her. However it is not realistic to expect that 50% of people in such fields will be women. This recognition is *not* the same thing as "enforc"ing social roles.

  • by waveman (66141) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:32PM (#45589559) Homepage

    > The difference in genetic makeup between the average male and the average female is LESS than the difference between one individual and another individual.

    No that is a myth based on bad statistics. Sure there are outliers but the average differences between the sexes are much greater than within the sexes when you look across the whole range of eg personality dimensions.

    An example: in WWII it is universally acknowledged that the German soldiers were abut 40% more effective that those from the US. That is, with the same equipment and tactical advantages, you would need more than 40% more US soldiers than Germans to win a battle. The gap to English, French and Italians was even higher.

    Yet, the worst German battalion was worse than the best US battalion. So the extreme of the range within the German army was wider than the average difference between the US and German soldiers. This in spite of the existence of large and consistent differences.

    A lot of people in this thread are unhappy with the truth: while there are individual exceptions **there are large and consistent differences between men and women**.

    The existence of neuroplasticity does not negate this. We also have muscular plasticity - if you do weightlifting you will get stronger. However men are still on average a lot stronger than women.

  • Re:Equality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DriedClexler (814907) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:45PM (#45589663)

    Exactly. It's perfectly acceptable and scientific to posit differences, as long as you can find the goods and bads to all cancel out somehow.

    Anything else can be dismissed without further thought, of course.

  • Re:Equality (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The_Wilschon (782534) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:46PM (#45589677) Homepage
    eq?, eqv?, or equal? ?
  • by Zalbik (308903) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:52PM (#45589727)

    Of course, you both realize, that it could be both

    There may be few women in IT because:
    a) the female brain is wired differently than the male
    b) the women who are interested, are mocked, ostracized, and outcast

    However, I don't believe we should be bending over backwards to ensure the percentages of any group in any field. We should be ensuring that all people have the same opportunities and same encouragement in all fields.

    i.e. Vigorously stamp down on (b). Ignore (a). Don't care about the numbers.

  • Re:Oh noooos! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by digitig (1056110) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:52PM (#45589729)
    Susan Pinker's The Sexual Parodox refers to the observation that as women's rights improve the number of women in traditionally men's professions keeps rising and then goes into reverse, settling at a lower level than the peak (but far higher than in the society with poor women's rights). The effect seems to be tat a desire for "equality" means that women are pushed into jobs they don't want to do because they're assumed to be socialised to the point of being incapable of deciding for themselves (what Pinker calls the "infantilisation of women"). Eventually, women get enough liberty to resist that. So both sides have a measure of truth. Those concerned for women's rights are correct that there can be social factors excluding women from certain professions, but the opponents are right that the search for numerical equality can lead to an overshoot and press individual women into unsuitable jobs. The challenge is to find out which side of that line we're on.
  • Re:Oh noooos! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @07:04PM (#45589835) Journal
    Yes, a male has 1.5X the upper body strength of a female and a hand grip 2X as strong, it's a huge difference. Even a trained female athlete cannot compete with the average male's hand grip. A chimp is smaller than a female human but due to it's slightly different upper body anatomy a full grown male chimp can quite literally rip a man's arm off and beat him to death with it. Fortunately chimp anatomy is not well suited to throwing rocks and spears, at best they can throw their own turds ~20 feet away, even an adult male chimp will never throw a javelin as far or as accurate as a young woman.

    Having said that most people understand that "equality" was, and still is, about freedom from systematic social and legal oppression. Having grown up in the 60's I imagine it's difficult for people under 30 to understand what women were complaining about when burning their bra's in the 70's. I must confess as a young male I was strongly in favour of bra-burning, even though I had little interest in what they were saying.

    The western world owes the civil rights movement a great deal, and it's a great shame that my children's generation, now in their early 30's, generally have a poor understanding of the word "equality" and virtually no idea about the price paid by women and blacks to obtain it in the mid 20th century.
  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex&project-retrograde,com> on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @07:20PM (#45589967) Homepage

    That book throws around statistics, but it offers self selected anecdotal evidence to cite reasons of injustice. If you start out thinking you're up against an entrenched "all boys club" and bring your own venom to the table then cause hostility through over-sensitivity, you're going to have a bad time, mkay? Did you know men and boys pick on each other as a form of bonding? Did you know little girls are even worse at the verbal bullying via hurtful spite filled comments and gossip? Visit any all-girl school and see for yourself. Given the facts about how women treat each other, I find it incredibly disingenuous to present spaces less than mostly male occupied as giving females quicker deaths by thousands of cuts -- Especially given the goddess like preferential treatment the women I know of in tech receive.

    I've seen it time and again. A social justice warrior or feminist will arrive with teeth bared expecting a hostile environment of the mostly male gamedevs -- ignoring that gamedevs and players are different -- ready to strike at any perceived injustice: "Only 20% of the award winners are female?! That's sexist." Uh, yeah, 20% of the submissions were by females. Odd thing, that algebraic equality... 1 = 1; 20 == 20. However, now that accusations have been made, folks aren't going to be reacting very nicely -- least of all the females among us who see such shit stirrers as exactly that: Drama queens, deserving of the same sort of poisonous treatment they dish out.

    "We need more women game devs!" [Specifically reach out to women and get more female game devs show up for the gamejam] "Oh it's so awesome you're a girl who gamedevs!" -- ARGH! It sucks that men are treating women differently than themselves. Uh, yeah, because that's what we did to decrease the rarity and the boys see girls as different than themselves. You really can't win for losing. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Now we just say: Fuck 'em. Doesn't change the fact that with equal m/f ratio among new attendees most girls quit our dev groups AFTER being welcomed and accepted into the group because the risk / reward for game making is shit -- Lots of work, little to no chance of making a popular game. The guys just happen to care less about the lack of social status or massive effort required to sate their love for developing intricate novelties than gals do. Those women that do are cherished for their different perspectives, and sought out for advice on character design realism... Because most men are best at "writing what they know" and don't have female brains. Like gamedev, IT and CS are largely thankless shite work too.

    "Unlocking the Clubhouse" -- Interesting selection of careers. Why not try "Unlocking the Clubhouse" when it comes to the other thankless risky male dominated jobs, like Janitors or Coal Miners -- Oh, those are clubhouses no one wants to be in? Gee. Go fucking figure.

  • Re:Equality (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @08:32PM (#45590493)

    You have been watching too much Bill O'Reilly. I say this, because he uses the same *exact* mis-representative definition of "social justice".

    Social justice is not in any way shape or form about equality of outcome, it's about acknowledging that the system isn't fair (that's OK, it can't be fair in a free society), but more importantly taking measures that reflect that the system isn't fair.

    Let's come up with an illustrative example:

    Let's say that Bill Gates has a child and so do I. The children are the same age. One day, they both independently have two different "million dollar ideas." Bill Gates' child obviously has a clear advantage. He essentially has infinite funding and support to make it happen.

    My child other hand will have to work is ASS OFF. He will have to apply for loans, appeal to investors, possibly have to make counter productive deals to make any headway. Even something as simple as filing a patent costs a small fortune (I know, I've done it). All things being equal, this is simply not fair. And that's OK. It doesn't have to be fair.

    Here's where "social justice" comes in. The concept is simply saying "Hey, here's a kid whose working hard, has a good idea, let's try to find to give him a hand".

    No guaranteed outcomes, not even equality of opportunity. In this example, my kid could still fail. And if he does, there is no one to blame but himself. I can live with that. No one asked for equality of opportunity, just help for those willing to work hard and earn it. This generally benefits society because my kids "million dollar idea" might be something that completely revolutionizes society. And that something may not ever see the light of day without a little support.

    Th perfect *real world* example of this type of thing is JK Rowling. She lived in poverty when she was younger, needed support from the system to keep her on her feet. Now because of that support, she was able to creates works which have created more wealth than she could have dreamed. She alone is worth over 1 billion dollars. She creates new jobs and millions of dollars for thousands of people all around the world. She got kids to read *thick, non-picture books* with wonderful stories. And all of this was possible because of a small amount of "social justice" to help her out in her time of need.

    Helping the less fortunate stay on there feet is not communism, it's an investment in a person and their ability to rise above their current circumstances.

    There will certainly be abuses. There will be people who take and don't give back. And this should be prevented. That should be an argument for means testing, not an argument against helping those who truly need it.

    I feel sorry that you are so misinformed.

  • Re:Oh noooos! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @09:44PM (#45590957)

    Sorry, but I cannot feel anything but utterly patronized by your comment.

    The reason you feel patronised by TapeCutter's comment is because he's right.

    This is the cognitive dissonance caused by hearing something that disagrees with your world view... The problem is you cant seem to handle that your world view is quite wrong.

  • by epyT-R (613989) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @09:45PM (#45590965)

    By and large, men are physically more powerful

    Maybe so, but even if they weren't, all else being equal, they'd still be the majority of the inventors/innovators/creators recorded through history, and if men had brutally repressed them, we wouldn't be sitting here with computers and the internet, would we?

    It is only (very) recently that females have become broadly able to support a household without benefit of a male presence. If women are to dominate due to any particular cognitive advantage, they've only just entered the race and it'll most likely be some time yet before we see the results, both due to cultural inertia and learning curves.

    Recently? All women have accomplished is the replacement of the would be man in her life with the state, separating him and/or the rest of us from our wallets to support "her body, her right, her choice" at our expense. This is not empowerment. This is privilege.

    We've had 50+ years of that 'cultural inertia', and we're seeing a lot more miley cyruses, paris hiltons, hilary clintons, and kim kardashians, than we are einsteins, newtons, galileos, hawkings, bachs, van gohs, picassos, etc. We have had all these STEM incentives for women for what? 20 years now? So where are the Grays? Women seem content to stick with 'soft' liberal arts degrees, or, if they're the 'empowered, hear me roar' type, law. Again, if women were truly more predisposed to the great leaps of understanding and intuition that supposedly come from cross-hemisphere communication, coupled with the last 50+ years of feminism, we'd've seen a lot more of them by now, especially if they have such strong neurological advantages.

    There's no telling what women may be capable of as yet in terms of exceeding male performance; they've barely had a few decades to try things on, and they're still being held back by religion, chauvinism, and the divisive backwards ride that sexual-role focused feminism took them on.

    These days, culturally, and state policy wise, I see a lot more chauvinism coming back on men than the other way around. Examples include the "no funds/interest from girls, no boys team" mandates of title IX, and the broadening of definitions of rape and abuse, most recently expanded by VAWA. Universities routinely pass judgment on men based solely on the girl's take on any sexual encounters, no proof required. Even if he's found innocent, he's still not welcomed back on campus. It's been this way at least since the early 1990s and it's getting much worse.

    Biology will not be denied. The genders are not simply social constructs you can strip away and replace. Attempts at this have ended in the destruction of stable families where, nominally at least, sane behaviors and mannerisms for both genders were passed from both parents to the children, regardless of gender. I find it interesting that feminists are so willing to acknowledge biology when it might imply an advantage over men, but when it doesn't, the disadvantage must have to be due to oppression. Core fallacies like these are what make articles like this little more than fluff propaganda pieces.

  • Re:Oh noooos! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nephandus (2953269) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:00PM (#45591067)
    Yeah, just forget any and all prices paid constantly to this day by men for "society". It's our "privilege" and, if we don't serve, our shame. Registering for selective service is required for a male to get voting "rights". Women get it for being human. Funny implication there. So many things follow an identical pattern, and it's getting worse. The pussy pass is ancient, but, recently, it's gotten massive upgrades.
  • Re:Equality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epyT-R (613989) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @10:28PM (#45591277)

    Then women are the ones who have the privilege, not men. This is true both in the letter of the law, and the precedent set by its enforcement.

    1. women get lighter sentences for crime.
    2. women are assumed to be victims in 'abuse' cases whether they are or not..
    3. if men call 911 because their wives are throwing knives at them, he is arrested and brought to jail. look up 'mandatory arrest.'
    4. women pay less into social security yet retire sooner.
    5. women don't have to sign up for the selective service in order to vote.
    6. women are given access to public money (scholarships) for education just because they are women.
    7. Title IX. Enough said.
    8. VAWA. Enough said.

Never trust an operating system.