Sunday, September 05, 2010

myths about the female brain

Women's brains make them better at multi-tasking.

One of the most popular factoids about the ladybrain (something even I, with my limited neuroscience expertise, thought I Knew) is that the corpus callosum, which connects the brain's two hemispheres, is thicker in women than in men. This supposedly allows more "cross-talk," which in turn allegedly makes women better at doing several things at once, like feeling and talking, cooking a steak and tossing a salad (one scientist's example), or nurturing a family while also keeping a home spotless and being perfectly coiffed. However, at least where language processing is concerned, the ladybrain actually shows no more cross-talk than the dudebrain. And, more damningly, women's corpora callosa (Latin: still good for something after all these years) aren't even bigger than men's. According to Fine, early studies simply overgeneralized from small sample sizes.

Women are "wired to empathize."

In her book The Female Brain, Louann Brizendine claims women are especially good at "emotional mirroring" and "experienc[ing] the pain of another person." And the idea that women's brains make them more "intuitive" than men crops up everywhere from LiveScience to Cosmo. But Fine points out that one of the studies Brizendine used to claim that women are more empathetic than men actually only involved women, while another actually showed both men and women responding empathetically. And when Fine followed up on Brizendine's assertion that women's supposed empathy advantage might be caused by a greater number of "mirror neurons," the very neuroscientist whom Brizendine cited said, "to the contrary, I have looked at many of my studies and have not found evidence for better mirror neuron functioning in females."

sincerely, saraagh elise ♥

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