Mind & Spirit

Men vs. women: Who's smarter?

Author: Canadian Living

Mind & Spirit

Men vs. women: Who's smarter?

Are women better then men at multitasking but not as good at reading a map? There's no doubt that men and women have differences in behaviour. Here we'll look at some of those differences and discuss the theories surrounding them. A good place to start is with the brain.

The human brain contains some 10,000 - 15,000 million nerve cells, called neurons, and one million billion synapses (the connections between nerve cells). But the way in which the brain functions is still, to an extent, a medical mystery, so we can't say with certainty how much the physical differences between people's brains affect or contribute to their behaviour.

The brain – where women are different
Women have slightly smaller brains than men (they weigh about 4oz/100g less) but, as we know, size isn't everything. Elephants, for instance, have much larger brains than humans, but nobody believes they have more intellect. And though women's brains are smaller than men's, they both have a very similar ratio of brain weight to body weight.
Women also have 4 per cent fewer brain cells than men, but this doesn't mean they use them less! There are other male/female differences too!

The frontal lobe of the brain plays a major part in making judgements, planning future actions, and in language. Women have far more cells here than men.

The hemispheres
It is believed that these two halves of the brain probably work differently. The left side helps us think analytically, while the right side helps us look at things as a whole,  involving value judgements and emotion. Men are more likely to be "left-brain dominant" while women are thought to use both hemispheres more equally.

The corpus callosum transfers information between both halves of the brain. Women have a bigger corpus callosum than men, which may account for the fact that women score better on tests of thought fluency and speech.

The limbic system affects our emotions and is, on the whole, bigger in women. Together with a female brain's greater ability to transfer information between its two sides, these facts may help account for women's greater emotional sensitivity. The bigger limbic system may also mean that women feel negative emotions more sharply, opening them up to a greater risk of depression.

Grey matter and white matter
Processing information goes on in the grey matter, while white matter connects the different parts of our brain, enabling us to carry out various tasks. Women tend to have far more white matter than men, while men are endowed with far more grey matter. Could any or all of these differences above be an explanation for the popular theory that women are better at "multitasking" than men?

The hypothalamus controls the endocrine system that produces many of the hormones in the body. The functions it regulates include sexual function, sleep, water content, and body temperature. In men the hypothalamus is about twice as big and contains twice as many cells as it does in women.

Page 1 of 2 - on page 2: which sex is more intelligent?

Excerpted from Women's Health For Life, copyright 2009 Donnica Moore, MD and DK Publishing. Used by permission of DK Publishing.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher. Measuring intelligence
Despite the physical differences between the male and female brain, there seems to be little, if any, difference between them as far as overall intelligence is concerned. The average IQ (intelligence quotient) score for men and for women is very similar, but that doesn't mean we're all the same. In fact, far more men than women get very high or very low scores.

That means there are probably more very clever men around than there are very clever women, but probably there are also more men than women at the bottom of the class.

Another problem is, though, that while "average" scores tell us about the average ability of men and women in a whole population, they can't tell us how well individuals do, or the range of their results. Nor is measuring intelligence that straightforward. The most common tests include the IQ test and the SAT test. There has been huge debate as to whether such tests disadvantage women by using situations that men (or boys) are more familiar with than women (or girls). For example, a question that asks about the relative speeds of two cars might be easier for a man or boy to answer than a woman or girl.

Horses for courses?
Research has shown that, on the whole, men perform better than women at visual-spatial tests, so they are good at understanding the things we see and putting them in context – for instance, the way a car engine is put together. Men also tend to be better at tests involving maths. Women do better at tests involving language and words, as well as verbal reasoning. They also score better on some memory tests.

It is increasingly believed that men greatly outnumber women in top academic posts in the sciences due to institutionalized discrimination. Now that this has been recognized, greater numbers of women are rising to top posts.

Do you want to learn more about the female brain? Read about how it really works here!

Page 2 of 2

Excerpted from Women's Health For Life, copyright 2009 Donnica Moore, MD and DK Publishing. Used by permission of DK Publishing.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
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Mind & Spirit

Men vs. women: Who's smarter?