“The Female Brain” - a book on the differences in men and women’s brains.

San Francisco neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine has a new book out about how a woman’s brain is different from a man’s and the implications these differences hold:

Women have come a long way toward equality over the past 50 years, but the Yale-trained Brizendine, 53, says her research indicates that human brains are still wired for Stone Age necessities.

Male and female brains are different in architecture and chemical composition, asserts Brizendine. The sooner women—and those who love them—accept and appreciate how those neurological differences shape female behavior, the better we can all get along.

Start with why women prefer to talk about their feelings, while men prefer to meditate on sex.

“Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road,” she writes. Men, however, “have O’Hare Airport as a hub for processing thoughts about sex, where women have the airfield nearby that lands small and private planes.”

Untangling the brain’s biological instincts from the influences of everyday life has been the driving passion of Brizendine’s life—and forms the core of her book. “The Female Brain” weaves together more than 1,000 scientific studies from the fields of genetics, molecular neuroscience, fetal and pediatric endocrinology, and neurohormonal development. It is also significantly based on her own clinical work at the Women’s and Teen Girls’ Mood and Hormone Clinic, which she founded at UCSF 12 years ago. It is the only psychiatric facility in the country with such a comprehensive focus.

Sounds like this would make for an excellent read, particularly for us guys who are always complaining that we never seem to be able to grasp what the hell the women in our lives are thinking. The book doesn’t argue that one sex’s brain is superior to the others, just different in how they are wired and what they bring to the table. It can’t hurt to have a better understanding of the differences when trying to figure out how to make a long-term relationship work.

The article goes on to list a handful of facts at the end:

A few neurological differences between women and men from Louann Brizendine’s “The Female Brain”:

Thoughts about sex enter women’s brains once every couple of days; for men, thoughts about sex occur every minute.

Women use 20,000 words per day; men use 7,000 per day.

Women excel at knowing what people are feeling; men have difficulty spotting an emotion unless someone cries or threatens bodily harm.

Women remember fights that a man insists never happened.

Women over 50 are more likely to initiate divorce.

About the only one of those I might contest is the sex one as I have to wonder if there’s an age limit on it. Sure, when I was a younger man I can say that thoughts about sex came into my head quite often—don’t know if it was once a minute, but it was substantial—but these days I can go a couple of days without really thinking about sex. Or at least it seems that way. Perhaps I’m just getting to the point where I don’t remember thinking about sex so often. I’ve become desensitized to sex-thoughts or something.

*Shudder!* What a horrible concept!

15 thoughts on ““The Female Brain” - a book on the differences in men and women’s brains.

  1. Les, I haven’t read the book itself yet, but it sounds as though she’s got it about right. The only problem I have with books of this nature is that people tend to read them and conclude that men and women are VERY different, when in fact we’re VERY similar with SOME differences.

    Women excel at knowing what people are feeling; men have difficulty spotting an emotion unless someone cries or threatens bodily harm.

    Some would argue that this is adaptive—cave women (so to speak) who were either pregnant, nursing, or raising young were very dependent on the good graces of men. Low power individuals are generally pretty good at assessing the mood of those in power. Women who did so well survived better and likely passed on the ability to offspring.

    Women remember fights that a man insists never happened.

    This is because fights are high-emotion interactions and women have much better memories for emotional events than do men (left amygdala if I remember correctly). The life lesson here is that men need to understand that for women this is an innate ability (and not intentionally vindictive). For their part, women need to recognize this for what it is and learn to let stuff go that’s really unimportant in the long run.

    Women over 50 are more likely to initiate divorce.

    Yep. Women become much more independent with age and men become much more dependent on their partner.

    On the sex thing, you’re absolutely right, Les. Men do think about it less as they get older and that has a great deal to do with the amount of testosterone pumping through the system (it does decline with age). Women also tend to think about sex a lot more as they get older. So, it usually means that we meet in the middle somewhere and this is good news, isn’t it?? smile It also accounts for research findings that say that men refuse sex just as frequently as women.

  2. Thoughts about sex enter women’s brains once every couple of days; for men, thoughts about sex occur every minute.

    Yeah, when I was younger and wasn’t getting laid. I’m with Les here; I don’t think about it a lot. (Unless you’re taking the sex by length in 1 second intervals and spreading it out over every minute of the day). The busier I am, the less I care about sex. But then, I don’t have a strong sex drive either – my g/f wants it more than I do, and she’s on antidepressants smile.

    Women excel at knowing what people are feeling; men have difficulty spotting an emotion unless someone cries or threatens bodily harm.

    I hope that’s hyperbole. I had a female friend who insisted that as we got into a relationship I would “get better at reading people’s emotions”. I insisted I already knew what women were feeling, I just didn’t care. Don’t get me wrong, I’m held up by most of my friends whenever they have problems, so between that and analytical skills above my peers, I’d guess I am a rarity. I know a lot of men who keep quiet and deliberately ignore them though, see below.

    Women remember fights that a man insists never happened.

    Men I notice are quick to try and forget those fights because they don’t see them as important on the same scale. There’s been a lot of discussion in years gone by about how mixed communication methods (specifically, literal messages versus metamessages) can cause interpersonal conflict. I’d imagine there’s a distinct difference in the way men and women interpret information. If that is the case, it’s a matter of whether or not we’ll even recognize it as a fight, or that the subject matter was worth fighting about (ensuring that it doesn’t get ignored) which goes back to women being wired more for emotional comprehension, I think.

    I’ll definitely be adding this to my “to read” list.

  3. While I have read these differences before, it seems from your fragment that she concentrates on emotion vs sex.  If this is so, it is a pity.  The trouble with this concentration it seems to feed the ‘all men are rapists’ school of thought.  Of course, it may be that just happens to be the fragment you have.

    A good book is ‘Why women can’t read maps, and men don’t listen’ by Barbara and Allan Pease.  It appears that woman have parts of the brain dedicated to language, hence the idea they talk a lot- because the have the capacity to use language.  Men don’t and a brain scan of a man using language shows that it is all over the place, using what ever neurons are handy at the time.  Likewise (he said knowing this is going to be argumentative territory) men have better special awareness (useful for hunting) which is where the whole ‘women can’t park’ thing comes in- me can judge the distances and gaps better. Men have better ‘point vision’ and can judge ranges (to the woolly mammoth) better, but women have wide angle vision, to spot predators closing on the ‘nest’.  Interestingly men use language more precisely than women, which is why it important to say to a teenage boy ‘Will you…’ not ‘Can you…’; they don’t always spot that it is a request, not a query into ability, where grown men (ok, I use the term loosely) know from experience of having been nagged what it means.

    Men can rotate an object in their head, why women lacking spatial ability to same degree have to turn the map to match direction of travel.  When a road atlas was produced in the UK with pairs of maps, the second a ‘South-North’ axis of it’s twin, virtually all the buyers were women. The few men bought them out of novelty value.

    On the other hand women can differentiate sounds better than men, and have better colour sight, and can see more shades.  This is why DIY stores are full of women holding paint tins going “‘Barley dawn’ or ‘Summer cloud’

  4. Shelley: … that men and women are VERY different, when in fact we’re VERY similar with SOME differences.

    Yes but … it’s the little differences that cause most of the problems in relationships – whether they are between a couple or, countries.

    LH: A good book is ‘Why women can’t read maps, and men don’t listen’ by Barbara and Allan Pease.

    I read that last year in my brother’s toilet (it was the toilet book) last xmas (or the one before).
    My crystal-powered sister-in-law must have bought it – he wouldn’t have. smile
    I’ve always found women to be rather fascinating coz of the way they express what they think (as well as the fact they have tits). LOL

  5. I’ve always found women to be rather fascinating coz of the way they express what they think

    Me, I’m just trying to get a coping strategy.

    (as well as the fact they have tits).

    just as well as…

  6. Sounds like this would make for an excellent read, particularly for us guys who are always complaining that we never seem to be able to grasp what the hell the women in our lives are thinking

    Shit, Les, I’m pretty sure that’s all of us.

  7. LH: Me, I’m just trying to get a coping strategy.

    It’s a long time ago since I actually shared space with a women but from memory, a smile, a ‘yes dear’ worked well enough ‘to allow’ me to do what I wanted.
    LOL  Maybe I fucked up – one of us always left … and I managed to stay single.

    Elwed: I read this as “copulating strategy

  8. a ‘yes dear’ worked well enough ‘to allow’ me to do what I wanted.

    Sounds like this would make for an excellent read, particularly for us guys who are always complaining that we never seem to be able to grasp what the hell the women in our lives are thinking

    Awww, c’mon, guys. . . really it isn’t that bad.

    Women and men’s brains are SLIGHTLY different. Women have higher development (more neuronal connections) in the areas associated with emotion and emotional memory (hippocampus/left amygdala). That means that we remember anything emotionally charged much better than most men (arguments, our first date, wedding day, etc) and we’re highly tuned in to both our own and other’s emotional stuff.

    It isn’t because it is unimportant to you, but simply because we’re hard-wired to be especially attuned to it.

    We’ve also got estrogen which increases care-taking behavior and desires. (And also accounts for your teen daughter’s behavior and for the fact that we tend to divorce more when we’re older and estrogen decline).

    LH is absolutely correct about men’s spatial skills in general. Men generally are better at that stuff.

    Yes but … it’s the little differences that cause most of the problems in relationships – whether they are between a couple or, countries.

    I agree that little differences can cause big problems when you don’t understand what they are or what they mean.

    But I strongly dislike the “men are from mars and women are from venus” position. It suggests that men and women are worlds apart and that the two can’t be reconciled. It plays up stereotypes (and over-generalizations) and it reduces attempts to meet in the middle. It is just too fatalistic.

  9. Differences between men and women have been analyzed to death, especially in the US.  The differences between men and women (husband and wife) are there, but of no more significance in a relationship than the differences in thinking between two friends of the same sex.

    I focus on my marriage as a partnership, and don’t sweat the ‘venus and mars’ bullshit.  I don’t ask my wife for permission to do something; if it has a great effect on our wellbeing we’ll discuss it, if not I assume the latitude I need to make an ‘executive’ decision grin

    Approach your spouse/partner as a friend _and_ a lover, and the rest will fall in place.  It really is as simple as that.  Put more trust in yourself, and less in the Dr. Phil’s of this world.

    For a website of skeptics, there are an awful lot of you that seem to mindlessly subscribe to the church of overanalyzing and oversimplification.

  10. The bit i find difficult is women want to talk about problems- they don nessecarily want solutions.

    Yes, you’re right, LH. They do this, and it annoys the hell out of me and I’m a woman. Men like to cut to the quick—you’re upset? Here’s a solution for you and that’s it.

    Women frequently just want someone to listen. My solution to this has been to stop the woman mid-sentence and nicely ask, “Okay, lets just be clear here. Are you looking for a solution or do you just want to vent? I’m good with either one, but just let me know what you need.” Then I know what’s going on. Try asking that. She’ll tell you.

    Me: Do you want to do A or B?
    Her: Yes

    or even

    Her: You choose (i.e. guess what I want and then choose that option)

    Yep. this too. But that’s both care-taking and socialization. Women are both hard-wired and raised to put other’s needs first and frequently don’t have a good handle on how to get what they really want.

    This also drives me crazy—I usually try something like, “I’d probably prefer something different than you, so you choose this time and I’ll choose next.”

  11. KKop writes…

    Approach your spouse/partner as a friend _and_ a lover, and the rest will fall in place.

    Not always. I certainly take that approach, but that doesn’t mean that having an understanding of how my partner is likely to perceive things differently than I do wouldn’t be of help in the relationship. If I have a greater understanding then I’m better prepared to adjust my own approach to smooth things over when there’s a conflict.

    For a website of skeptics, there are an awful lot of you that seem to mindlessly subscribe to the church of overanalyzing and oversimplification.

    Being skeptical doesn’t mean one avoids learning new things or new approaches to a problem. Trying to gain a better understanding is not the same as over analyzing either.

  12. This makes me wonder, maybe I don’t have as many neural connections in my hippocampus/left amygdala.

    I don’t always remember events that came with a strong emotional moment.  I forget first dates, or anniversaries…I’m horrible!  However, I connect so many memories to the sense of smell or to music.

    Also, I admit I think about sex more than every couple of days. 

    I had an ex who used to get very frustrated with me because I would forget fights we had, and I was always forgetting anniversaries of stuff.  Good thing I have an I-Paq now and I can load up the important dates.

    The only problem I ever have with books and studies like this are the people that take it all in and apply it to everyone.  I think all humans are wired differently, sure there may be more similarities between the sexes, but there are also vast differences.

    Anyway, I just really felt the urge to chime in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.