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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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  • by For a Free Internet (1594621) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:47PM (#45588193)

    And the poisonous ideologies invented to justify it, and the pervasive violence employed to enforce it. For women's liberation through socialist revolution! Abolish the family!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:18PM (#45588611)

      ...and kill all the intolerant people, too!

  • 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!?!?!?!?!?

    • 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:Oh noooos! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bondsbw (888959) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:24PM (#45588715)

        I'm curious whether this difference is caused by by genetics.

        Boys and girls at a young age also learn to dress differently, that doesn't mean it's genetic. Our brains are environmentally influenced to some degree; do we know how much that was found by this study is environmental vs. genetic?

        • 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.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by cayenne8 (626475)

          I'm curious whether this difference is caused by by genetics.

          Of course it does...it comes with having a dick and wanting to get laid.

          This part of the article:

          The observations suggest that male brains are structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action...

          Leads me to think this.....the male perception of wanting to get laid and seeing good looking females, that brain structure leads him to coordinated action on what he must do, how to act or what to tell the potential sex pa

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

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @08:12PM (#45590381)
          I have had gender dysphoria my entire life. It is literally part of my very earliest memories. I was raised by the same parents as my two hyper-masculine brothers (one older, one younger). Like them, I was taught to dress as a boy my entire life. Unlike them, I hated it, and would frequently hide in my mom's closet and dress up in her clothes and wonder why they wouldn't let me dress like that all the time. There is no childhood trauma, or history of neglect or abuse, or distant, unaffectionate parents, or anything else to account for this. There was absolutely nothing in my environment that would have persuaded me to feel female. I just do. I have recently started taking estradiol, and like magic, my brain has started feeling better. And yet, I have a perfectly functional penis with which I have fathered three children. I'd say my brothers and I are definitely wired differently. It's not all about socialization.
      • 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.

      • They're interested (Score:5, Informative)

        by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:41PM (#45588905) Homepage Journal

        See the book "Unlocking the Clubhouse" for how high-achieving girls fascinated by computers suffer a death by a thousand cuts and switch fields despite their preference.

        • 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
          AND
          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.

        • by VortexCortex (1117377) <`VortexCortex' ` ... -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.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

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

      Reminds me of that Pop-psychology of Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus - granted that was a load of BS by an utter fraud, he did indicate men and women approach things from different angles. I wonder how cross-cultural this study is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:53PM (#45588293)

    female brains are designed to facilitate communication between analytical and intuitive processing modes

    Ah, this must explain why most programmers are women.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You apparently haven't used many programs.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:56PM (#45588329) Homepage Journal

    ..is 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 @05:07PM (#45588473)

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

    • Depend on which difference we are talking about. Some actually are, others are not.
    • by mellon (7048) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:23PM (#45588699) Homepage

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

      • by Velex (120469)

        One thing one could hope for out of these studies is some kind of diagnostic to identify transgendered individuals. Right now it's a matter of "well, I feel this way and my psych says it's ok!"

        I have a feeling there may be such a thing... some day. Perhaps it would be possible to make a diagnostic before adolescence, which would have ideal outcomes both for socialization as the correct mental sex (for trans men and trans women) and for skin-deep appearance (for trans women at least, trans men tend to disa

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by waveman (66141)

      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

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Prune (557140)
      This idea is disproved by the same argument that was applied to discredit the idea that genetic variation between individuals of a population group with close genealogy (i.e. a human race) is greater than variation between groups. Edwards showed that, while allele variations on any given genetic locus are greater within a racial group than among groups, these variations are correlated and it only takes several loci taken together to form clear clustering. See Edwards, A. W. F. (2003). "Human genetic diversi
  • 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.
    • Re:Great.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:06PM (#45588465)

      What really gets me is this part, quoted from a neuroscientist:

      We know that there is no such thing as 'hard wiring' when it comes to brain connections. Connections can change throughout life, in response to experience and learning.

      So the brain connections men and women develop from their experiences happen to reflect the roles we tend to nudge men and women into.

      Hmmm.

      • What really gets me is this part, quoted from a neuroscientist:

        We know that there is no such thing as 'hard wiring' when it comes to brain connections. Connections can change throughout life, in response to experience and learning.

        So the brain connections men and women develop from their experiences happen to reflect the roles we tend to nudge men and women into.

        Hmmm.

        It can be both, and it wouldn't surprise me if genetics and environment both play a significant factor in this type of neural development. There may even be environmental feedback that amplifies the genetic tendencies. Divides in STEM etc. may be partially due to genetics as well as other factors [wikipedia.org].

    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      Not that I agree with the idea of predetermined castes based on genders, I'd just like to point out that some of the most lucrative STEM fields such as biology, chemistry and medicine are currently at least 50/50 and sometimes more than that in favor of women. It's only a few very specific fields such as maths, computer science and physics where females are still underrepresented. At my own university, the ratio of male to female in medicine especially is staggering; it's a complete flip from what it was a
      • At this rate, I wouldn't even be surprised if we ended up having to worry about not enough men attending university in the coming years.

        Obligatory XKCD [xkcd.com]

    • by Flammon (4726)

      Here's some insight from Walter E. Williams. You should watch the whole video but to keep things on topic, here's the part where he talks about male/female discrimination.

      http://youtu.be/ENL-Jv8GVkk?t=28m52s [youtu.be]

    • by fermion (181285)
      Typically speaking, communication between the hemispheres is one indication of genius. It means that one can integrate more knowledge. Part of this is based on the myth that the 'right' and 'left' hemisphere have different tasks, like one side is creative and the other analytical. But nevertheless there is an idea that 'Einsteins', had well linked hemispheres.

      In any case, there is controversy whether anything other than the total number of neurons matter. What is pretty clear is that we develop an ove

    • by ancientt (569920)

      Good point. There are predictable physiological differences between genders and races and age groups. Understanding the differences is important in medicine and science and should be studied. Unfortunately the differences are also often misused as an excuse for people to mistreat each other.

      But if there is a difference that is relevant to your business, is it reasonable to expect people to ignore it?

    • Men and women are equal.
      - The IRS
    • by argStyopa (232550)

      Look, it's unreasonable to simply say "men do this, women do this" and try to justify it with (usually) an elementary-school understanding of biochemistry.

      HOWEVER....
      to suggest that the hormonal change which RADICALLY alters otogeny (either developing testes and the subsequent hormonal consequences, or continuing on to developing ovaries) which then results in relatively consistent changes in brain structure, sexual attraction, body chemistry, etc. along one of two tracks DON'T have any impact on brain capa

  • 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.
  • Different wiring for different sexes does not in itself imply genetic predetermination but might as well be a consequence of differences in what challenges grown ups are likely to present to the child. ... Oh! I see Heidi Johansen-Berg says something to that effect as well in the last paragraph - good!
  • Spatial skills for men, verbal dexterity for women. Got it, thanks. But tell men what sex feels like for a woman and women what it feels like for a man. Only then can we bridge the divide between the genders.
  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @05:21PM (#45588665) Homepage Journal

    The problem when discussing gender differences is that there is no stereotypical male or stereotypical female.

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

    Trying to create more "gender ghettos" is the wrong response. Here at the UW there are many women engineers and scientists, and not in the fields old fogies think they "should" be in.

    We are all individuals. How we use what we have differs, but that doesn't make it "better".

    It's like a study on Mergers and Aquisitions reported today saying boards with only one female member were less likely to do a merger than boards with all male members - the problem is that mergers are usually a bad idea for shareholder value in the first place.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by waveman (66141)

      > 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

  • Did we need a study for this?
  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:27PM (#45589525) Homepage Journal

    No one who is married needs to be told that men and women are wired differently.

    For example, my wife seems to have a problem with my spending all my free-time playing Battlefield 4 and Need for Speed Rivals. She thinks family dinners and holiday celebrations and our anniversary should take precedence over a week of double-XP.

    Clearly, her priorities are way out of whack. Yet, somehow it seems to work. Or at least it did until I stopped showering last Tuesday and she started insisting I sleep in the basement. But the joke's on her because that's where my gaming rig is set up.

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