Wednesday, November 01, 2006

BRAIN BATTLE

I was reading an article this morning in the infamous Red Eye paper about the differences in brain chemistry between men and women. I know enough about science to realize the idea that there is a chemical/biological difference probably has some credence to it. However, I also know enough about psychology to fully understand the nurture vs. nature idea and firmly believe that much of human behavior falls under the nurture category. I think a lot of scientists do as well.

The article focused primarily on a book written by Dr. Louise Brizendine entitled “The Female Brain”. It seems that Dr. Brizendine looked at many of the commonly identified differences between the sexes and tried to explain them scientifically. A noble pursuit I am sure and undoubtedly a very lucrative topic for a book. Much of what was discussed in the article was in the vein of the differences in empathic and communicative abilities of men and women. Naturally, women tend to be better at both of these things. Dr. Brizendine found chemical backing behind these common beliefs. She even let the reader know that 10% of both men and women exhibit the characteristics most commonly associated with the opposite sex, which tells me that nurture certainly plays a large part in the process and she conceded to it as well. Apparently, the hormone levels and sizes of different parts of the brain in men and women explain much of the differences in capacity to communicate and empathize.

Times like this I wish I were reading the book or a scientific journal rather than the stupid Red Eye. I want to know what parts of the brain and what hormones she is talking about. Maybe the average Red Eye reader doesn’t but I do. Maybe they do too, I don’t know. Anyway on the next page there seemed to be many people who completely disagreed with Dr. Brizendine’s point of view. The one I thought was completely off base was her assertion about sex. Dr. Brizendine claims that, on average, men think about sex once every minute and women think about it once a day. Her reasoning for this seemed to be because men have double the brain space and processing power devoted to thinking about sex in their brains. Women’s brains are apparently wired so that they express their sexuality through dressing up and attracting male attention.

Problem one, last I knew double meant times two. If the man has double the brainpower to think of sex, wouldn’t it follow that if the man thinks about sex once a minute that the woman would think about it every two minutes? Or maybe there is some exponential variant in conjunction with brainpower that means double the brainpower equals 1440 times the frequency of thought. I don’t know. All I really know is if women are supposed to think about sex once a day I know some incredibly sexually obsessed women. Granted I know a few who may think of it even less than once a day but they are more than compensated for by those I know who think about it endlessly. Now, sure women like to dress well and get male attention, but don’t men do that too? What was the whole Metrosexual thing about? Maybe I know strange men but they obsess about their appearance and worry if women aren’t looking at them a whole bunch.

Anyway, I guess my point is that I thought this lady’s book looked like a bunch of hooey. I think she is in it for the controversy, which will undoubtedly lead to money and, very likely, more book deals. Best of luck to her.

I forgot my iPod at home today so there will be no musical interlude today. Don’t cry they will be back tomorrow.

15 comments:

Lizza said...

I'm no psychologist, but I agree that the book seems like hogwash. :-)

Mom said...

As you know, this is a topic on which my sister and I frequently argue. Remember the time she tried to tell Zach (her son) that she couldn't help him build Legos because she was a girl and "girls aren't good at that sort of thing"? Fortunately, you stepped in and showed them both that girls can to build with Legos!

Last I checked, it was widely believed (in scientific communities as well as others) that there are greater variations in behavior within each sex (or gender) than between the sexes/genders. I think this may also be true for patterns of hormones and brain chemistry too. It's all a matter of continua (continuums?)

Of course there are differences; only complete nincompoops would claim otherwise. But there are so many factors that come into play both inside a person and in the form of external influences on a person, that only a complete nincompoop would try to explain everything by saying "boys and girls are just different."

Unfortunately, there are a lot of nincompoops in the world, and many of them seem to find ways to profit from writing simplistic books.

Mood Indigo said...

first off - I love that your mom comments on your blog. My dad reads mine, but hasn't figured out how to comment. Or to use the blog I set up for him. Sigh.

Anyway - I just started Middlesex - have you read it? It's a novel but being about a hermaphrodite definitely touches on the nature vs. nurture debate. It's incredible well written as well - has me laughing out loud and cringing at times...

BionicBuddha said...

I agree with your thoughts on the book...perhaps popular media could shoulder some responsiblity for why men feel they should look like Brad Pitt and women feel they need to look like Nicole Ritchie. Either way, it seems unhealthy and maybe it's one reason why both sexes seem to be preoccupied by physical appearances. Also it follows the whole nature vs. nurture debate ;)

ShadowFalcon said...

Men - simple creatures confused by women cos they are complicated

Women - complicated creatures confused by men cos they are simple

Mom said...

mood indigo -- Natalie's Dad reads her blog too, but tends not to comment (except to occasionally identify a song). I, on the other hand, simply don't know how to be quiet.

:-)

csmc said...

Oooh! I hate this debate in the scientific and social atmosphere but love that you are blogging about it and discussing. I have always found that the assumption that women only think about sex once a day is completely due to sexism. I mean I wouldn't really feel very in the mood either if I lived in a society where my sexual individuality was stripped from me and I was seen w/ no sexual drive of my own.

I would be very curious to read a comparison of North American females and women from other more sex positive countries. Urgh that stuff gets under my skin.

That being said thanks as always for an interesting post! Love it! :)

Wobbly*Bits said...

I'm sure there is, as you say, some credence to the idea that men and women's brains function differently, but for the most part I find that to be a bunch of crap. I think a lot of it has to do with how we're conditioned or what society tells us or our parents.

Like you, I know women who think about sex constantly, or men who hardly ever do. Books like this that make such sweeping generalizations are suspicious to me. I have a hard time believing these things are true across the board, even if someone finds 10,000 cases where it does fit.

High Desert Diva said...

Interesting post. I took one of those silly on-line personality tests with a kajillion questions. I score much higher in the male tendencies than the female ones.

I really believed that most of one's personality came from the "nurture" school of thought. Since having my daughter, however, I've been surprised to just how much of her personality is "nature". She exhibited certain personality traits since the day of her birth. I'm also adopted, so as far as my personality goes, I'm only able to see the "nurture" point of view, when it comes to my own personality traits.

High Desert Diva said...

Oops! Sorry for all the typpos...very UN-left brained of me ;p

High Desert Diva said...

*typos

Sorry. I'll be leaving now... :(

dave e wo said...

i don't read that paper.

that train of thought... it...

what room does that leave for us conflicted folk?

With Love, Fat Girl said...

Finally, it's happened: you have been linked! Ta dah!

Paula said...

Nature vs Nurture? Mmm! Is purple red or blue? How do you tease out the red from the blue? We probably need to try but from the basis that this is complex not simple.

Maybe the fact (if it is) that 10% of people exhibit characteristics of the "other" sex means not that 'nurture" must be the prime causative factor but that anatomically, biochemically and neurologically (let alone psychologically), male and female are not exclusive categories.

Mmm! For that matter, are physical and psychological exclusive categories? Paula
PS: I love that your mum comments on your blog, too!

luella said...

In response to the artilce posted about the female brain, there were couple of piece of information that stuck out from the book most to me...1.It states that it is biologically proven that fetuses start as female- and that they physically do not turn out into male until two weeks later 2. Habits of female sexuality- it stated that there are times when a woman doesn't want to be married, or look at her love relationship as being so; but is actually very interested in having a simple hayday of mindboggling sex for a few months with someone and then will want no attachment afterwards. Some things to think about...