Hidden Talents and Brain Maps
© 2001 Stephen Holland --- sholland@softwaves.net

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8. Men vs Women Differences, and Feminine Intuition

A --- HOW men's and women's brains are different

Evidence from neuropsychology, especially clinical evidence of what happens to people after strokes and brain injuries, gives fairly logical explantions about natural differences between talents of men and women.

1. Experts vs. Generalists

Why are women not more important in history as geniuses? The usual assumption is that women have not had access to education and have not had the opportunity to excel. This is true to an extent, but not the cause. There is a real difference in brain design -- women tend to have more balanced brains, whereas men tend to have more specialized brains. To understand this section, it is important to have read the previous section on "balanced" brains.

left brain mapRight brain map
A very important observation of stroke and injury victims is that "men who have had unilateral brain damage [left or right side only] tend to show more profound deficits in functions associated with the side of lesion than do women with similar lesions." (Lezak 1983).

Translated this means that women tend to have talents distributed over larger areas. For example, men tend to have language concentrated in the left brain, and may lose all language ability with a damaged left brain, whereas women temd to have language talents spread over both hemispheres.

These observations are based on averages of many people. Every person is different. Some women have very specialized brains and become absent-minded experts, and some men have balanced brains and become good balanced thinkers amd multi-taskers.

The following graph shows an overlap of talents, and you could be anywhere on the bell curve of the population.

These are only tendencies. Where do you fit?
Men with more specialized brains Women with more balanced
Advantages More likely to become geniuses and experts Better at managing, generalist thinking, and "intuitive" thinking (ie. aware of many aspects of a situation).
Disadvantages More likely to become absent-minded experts, and be poor managers Less likely to excel as experts
Careers where this tendency is a real advantage Musician, Craftsmen, Specialist in any field, and any career using spatial sense President, CEO, Manager, Supervisor, Mother, Nurse, Secretary, Lawyer, Cook, Teacher

Examples are easy to find.
  • Hospitals are almost "run" by nurses. Specialist male doctors ask the generalist nurses what is happening with their patients.
  • Secretaries are exceedingly important at keeping most organizations operating smoothly, thereby making the CEO and specialists successful.
  • Most men do not seem very adept at being house-husbands, which involves keeping track of many things happening at the same time.

2. "Feminine Intuition" is Real

(a) Men tend to be very narrow focused so they miss other details around them. What they pay attention to is usually what they are good at.
  • A man who likes cars will walk down the street thinking about the cars parked along the road -- their make, model, history, horsepower, body rust, paint job, dollar value, etc.
(b) Women with their multiple-focus brains will notice and think about many things.
  • The old man on the steps looks lonely and hungry, and may have lost his job, and his shoes are untied..
  • The traffic lights all are painted a dull shade of yellow that does not match the yellow of the light
  • The person in front is carrying books so may be going to the library that is a block away
  • The woman in the car is sitting away from the driver and frowning so they may have had an argument.
  • A terrier dog is running across the lawn ....and may run out in front of the car with the unhappy couple...who may not notice the dog and run over it...and the dog may belong to the old man... and he will suddenly jump up and trip on his shoelaces...but the light is yellow so it may turn red and stop the cars in time before the dog is run over.
She might suddenly call the dog to get its attention... which makes him stop running, and none of the accidents will happen. No one gives her credit for preventing the accident, but her husband wonders why she is yelling and why she didn't notice the Jaquar XKE in mint condition they just passed. She smiles at him, not in criticism but with understanding of his maleness, and respect for his special knowledge... yet she quietly stops to comb down the patch of wind-blown hair sticking up from his head and wishes he had worn a different shirt that matched the color of her sweater.

3. Women talk, men grunt

Women have a reputation for talking because, on the average, more of the female brain is devoted to language. Of course, some men also have strong language areas, and may become teachers, lawyers, and writers, but the tendency is for women to have stronger language development.

In contrast, the right brains of men tend to be more like their animal ancestors, with skills useful for hunting and warfare ( talents needed today for driving their SUV through commuter traffic).

Often when couples get together, the women use their strong language and generalist skills to talk in the kitchen, prepare food, and manage the party, while the pack of men in the living room grunt and scream right-brain animal sounds as they watch someone make a goal on TV sports.

The men will also be treating the TV Remote as if it were a spear, pointing it at the TV, searching for prey (programs) as if they were deer hiding in the trees, and always looking for something better on the next mountain (channel).

B --- WHY men and women's brains are different.

Human brains evolved differently for cave-men and cave-women.

Rather than just have people laugh at sex differences with jokes about "dumb blonds" or "boys toys" which involve ridicule, I would prefer to understand how male and female brains evolved very logically, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. I see ignorance about these male-female brain differences as the main cause of marriage problems.

Early humans developed some unusual traits for good reasons. As the jungles of eastern Africa changed to grasslands during a long drying spell, jungle apes designed for trees were at a disadvantage in catching food. Evolution favored walking upright which allowed more use of hands and arms for using tools.

1. Cave-MEN evolved their animal right-brain talents, such a visual spatial, into advanced abilities in hunting, fighting, design, inventing, using tools and operating equipment.
The left brain language tends to be less developed, ranging from grunts and shrugs to dyslexia.

Hunting led to many brain developments for humans, such as
  • Tool use led to more advancement in brain design. --
    A sense of time
    was very useful in planning tools for future hunting trips.
    Creative visual-spatial ability
    allowed imagining a finished spear point when looking at a chunk of flint, and the path of an imaginary spear flying through empty space to hit an animal in specific vital points if thrown at a high or low angle and at different speeds, before he threw his new spear.
  • Logical thinking solved problems of losing the spear head by notching and tying it to a shaft.
  • Language use could easily have developed to help with hunting. Pointing the hand or spear at an elephant and grunting a sound to match would associate the grunt with the object as a name.
However, cave-MEN developed specialized traits over millions of years that were perfect for hunters, and which ancient CAVE-WOMEN probably took for granted.

However, MODERN-WOMEN, often don't appreciate the following special features of hunters that are still so important for the self-respect of many men. To criticize these traits is to criticize a husband's natural instincts and "manhood"
  1. Limited language skills. For a hunter who was often alone during the hunt, language for most males didn't need to progress much beyond grunts when thinking about something when alone, shrugs as a way of quietly communicating to fellow hunters tracking a prey, and yells when the spear hits the goal...as demonstrated by men watching sports on TV today.
  2. Risk-taking. Men hunting for dangerous animals had to take dangerous risks, and even the hunt itself was a gamble about finding game. The fear center in the brain decreased. Some people get a pleasure high from adrenaline, so fear emotions are replaced by pleasure emotions. This seems to be more common in men than women.
  3. Tribalism. The tribe is highly important for any social animals, especially to men defending a fmaily or village. Tribal thinking in the brain attaches emotions to groups of people about who are "the good guys" and "the bad guys." This goes for both war and sports...the words "kill them" used routinely by men watching their favorite team/tribe in a competitive sport.
  4. War. War is a spin-off of hunting skills and tribalism. War is like a hunt because it often brought home valuables like loot, land, women or slaves. The thrills and risks of danger of war were similar to attacking a mammoth or bear.
  5. Bragging. Men would naturally brag to the world about their own hunting skills when sitting around with other hunters at the fire, or when coming home to the family and neighbors. Bragging was good in the hunting world because the stories taught the young men how to act, and brave men brought back more food for their families. Boys would want to apprentice under the best hunters, and the boys learned who were the best hunters by how much the hunters bragged. Modern men usually brag also about ownng the best car / house/ boat / TV set / computer / stamp collection / etc.
  6. Non-sympathetic toward weakness. The cave-man brains would have had little encouragement to develop sympathy for the timid or weak human or animal. A weak or cowardly fellow hunter could lead to failure and starvation. A weak prey would be too easy to kill and not allow bragging about strength or bravery.
  7. Works hard to make lot of money, because he knows that the wife wants a new house / dress / jewelry/ trip / furniture / kitchen remodel / etc. (Romance novels usually follow a standard theme that a woman can't be happy unless she marries a rich husband, and men know that.)
In other words, when the husband...
  • Proudly polishes his fancy car (mammoth tusk) in the driveway in full view of neighbors,
  • Grabs the TV remote (spear)
  • Shrugs or grunts an answer as of to say it's not important
  • Gambles (in moderation)
  • Races his motorcycle or parachutes off cliffs
  • Yells and screams when his team scores a goal
  • Brags about the big contract he achieved at work today
  • Works long hours to make lots of money for his wife
  • Doesn't show much sympathy when little Jimmy skins his knee
...the wife should be proud of catching a "real man."

Modern men who act differently, more like a cave-woman with feminine traits, would not have survived well in a cave-man world.

2. Cave-WOMEN evolved brains (and bodies) for talking and nurturing in a family
  1. Nurturing instinct. Most mammal babies grow fast and become independent within a year. Baby horses can walk within minutes, run within hours, and follow the herd within a day. The important point is that by next Mother's Day most female mammals give last year's baby a cold shoulder, kick him out of the nest, and give birth to the next little one. Little Bambi didn't give mom many clover leaves after getting the boot.
    But as humans evolved larger brains, female humans had a problem -- the larger brain meant larger heads and more labor pains. Women solved the problem by organizing the first labor strike. Early cave-women began minimizing labor pains by having babies more premature with smaller heads and under-developed brains. (Too premature and the baby would die. Not premature enough and the mother would die. Nine months was the compromise agreement after a million years or so of contract negotiations.)
  2. Body talents. To be successful at raising children with larger heads, women needed wide hips for birth. Cave-women also evolved a shoulder design that made it natural to carry a baby while nursing, but in the process their shoulders and arms were not as good for throwing spears (or baseballs, etc.). Cave-men idolized women who would produce lots of children so idolized wide hips and breasts. Also, if their wives were fat, that told their neighbors that the man was a good hunter. The earliest human figurines are called "fat venuses." Roman statues of "beautiful women" showed them as very plump, showing them to be from a rich class with a rich husband.
  3. Management talents. This premature birth meant mom had to become domestic, good at managing a cave. Even at nine months the baby has so much growing to do before it can be kicked out of the nest that mom has to say no to the going on with the husband's "business trip" of a mammoth hunting. And mom has another baby next season, along with other children still hanging around the nest until they get married off. With many things happening in the cave, including cooking the food, disciplining or feeding the children, caring for the old people, talking with all of the people, and sewing up leather clothes, women developed management talents to juggle the many activities and people.
  4. Language talents. Many family members in a cave led to lots of interaction, so women developed good language skills to manage the people and for teaching ideas to the young children. Grandmothers who told stories to their grandchildren about ancestors, legends, history and morality are a main feature of most cultures. (Grandmothers are so important for passing on skills and stories that in one First Nations group on the west coast of Vancouver Island in western Canada, "if there was not a grandmother the young woman would be given traditional medicine to prevent her from having children." -- from the nuuchahnulth.org stories)

C--- The single-focus "bachelor pad" vs. the multiple-focus "woman's touch"

When our daughter was pregnant, we went to a social event with her. I noticed that the women kept discussing "when she was due." When the men met, they asked, "what do you do?"

1. A man's achievements, careers and hobbies define his identity ...whether it's the size of mammoth he caught, or things he has accumulated, or skills he has shown, or size of his boat, or horsepower of his car.. A man living alone fills his house, time and life with what's important to him.

You know "a batchelor lives here" when the house may be a mess, but the man ignores the mess and instead talks about "important things" such as his achievements to impress women with how much a real man he is...
  • HIS complete collection of original Beatles CDs.
  • HIS photographs and books and models of steam locomotives of the British Empire.
  • HIS library of original leather-bound books from Hemingway.
  • HIS wall full of high powered stereo equipment with 26 speakers around the house
  • HIS monster computer system with 32 Gigabytes of Ram and a 12 Terabyte hard drive
  • HIS opinon on .....
However the apartment may be a mess -- with dirty dishes or floor, no curtains on windows, lack of planning of a color scheme, unmatched furniture or kitchen utensils, no flowers in vases, behind on rent payments, dirty dishes left over from breakfast, the meal pizza delivered to the door, and his favorite loud music playing so you can't talk.
When the neighbours knock on the door wanting him to turn the music down...he turns the music up instead. Turning the music down is to show cowardice in the face of an enemy, and would not show off his stereo equipment power.

2. A "woman's touch" in a home means that she has taken care of many intuitive details, especially relating to human relationships and making the house feel like a home, a pleasant "cave" for her family to live in.

You know "a woman lives here" when you see the following "feel good" aspects
  • Family pictures are on the walls
  • Things are generally neat and clean and sanitary
  • The curtains on the windows match and are nicely done
  • The furnishings and decorations are probably a similar style
  • There are fresh flowers, real not plastic, on the table.
  • The music is background music so it doesn't interfere with conversation
  • Food is to be served in an attractive way on the dining table.

D --- Some myths about creativity and "left-right brain"

1. Myth: Women are more "right-brained"

Reality = WOMEN on the average tend to be more "left-brained" than men.
A commonly voiced myth, usually spoken or written by women in books for women, is that "women are more right-brained than men." This is wrong. The evidence from strokes and injuries shows that women have more language development over more areas of the brain, as described above. Because language is a left-brain specialty, women tend to be actually more "left-brained" than men, on the average.

Compared to the average male, women tend to have more left brain talents such as talking more, talking more intelligently and logically, and to be better at secretarial skills of keeping track of schedules, organizing file cabinets sequentially, and writing eloquently.

Girls in school tend also to excel at language skills and history with its sequential thinking.

Reality = MEN on the average tend to be right-brained

For example the right-brain spatial area is important to animals for finding food, and for humans operating equipment, designing bridges, fixing car engines, and building houses. Men tend to be better drivers in high-speed situations like racing where right-brain spatial sense is so important. Men are often very impuslive rather than logical, their language in grunts rather than perfect grammar.

Part of the "women are right-brain" myth includes the myth that "left-brained men are more militaristic" and thus cause wars. Yes, men cause almost all wars and military operations, but it is because war is mostly a cave-man and right-brain operation, - planning, tool use, hunting skills, tribalism and visual-spatial, with little sympathy for weakness-- flying airplanes, aiming guns, deciding who is the enemy, establishing territory, sneaking around the woods, and so on.

2. Myth: Women have a strong right brain because of their strong emotions

Reality = Emotions are not exclusive to women.
The temporal lobe is the main location of memories. Language sounds and words on the left side. Music sounds and images on the right side.

The front of the temporal lobes combine emotions to memories. As someone said, "emotions tell us how important our memories are.

With strong left brain / language abilities, women will tend to put strong emotional attachments to language. This makes them very aware of emotional inuendos and meanings to what people say.

3. Myth: Women are more "creative"

Reality = Women will tend to be more creative in their instinctual talent areas, such as language, people and relationships.
Creativity itself has nothing to do with male vs. female, it has to do with what talents or parts of the cortex are most wired to the creative "yes" patch in the frontal lobe.

If there are strong connections between the creative frontal lobe and music sounds, then the person will tend to be strong at imagining new patterns of music sounds, and have a career as a composer.

However, because women tend to have stronger left-brain language development, they will naturally tend to have stronger creative connections to language and people talents.
  • Creative planning for events of all kinds, (parties, conventions), buinsess operation, nopn-profit organizations, organizing people in any situation, managerial
  • Creative writing, especially about people and relationships, romance stories
  • Creative storytelling, a classic grandmother role in most cultures
  • Creative acting, combining women's talents for language,. people awareness, and intuition.
  • Creative "cave" interior decorating, moving the furniture or mammoth bones around and repainting
  • Creative ideas about other people when talking with other women (the source of the "gossip" idea) and imagining romance or matchmaking

Men will men will tend to have more creativity with standard animal visual-spatial talents in the right-brain.

These are very important for human tool-using activities, such as hand tools, construction, engineering, invention, architecture, operating equipment, weapoins, strategic thinking, as explained above,

Stephen Holland --- sholland@softwaves.net