August 6, 2006

Louann Brizendine's Female Brain

Louann Brizendine's latest book, The Female Brain, looks very interesting. Description:
Every brain begins as a female brain. It only becomes male eight weeks after conception, when excess testosterone shrinks the communications center, reduces the hearing cortex, and makes the part of the brain that processes sex twice as large.

Louann Brizendine, M.D. is a pioneering neuropsychiatrist who brings together the latest findings to show how the unique structure of the female brain determines how women think, what they value, how they communicate, and who they’ll love. Brizendine reveals the neurological explanations behind why

• A woman uses about 20,000 words per day while a man uses about 7,000

• A woman remembers fights that a man insists never happened

• A teen girl is so obsessed with her looks and talking on the phone

• Thoughts about sex enter a woman’s brain once every couple of days but enter a man’s brain about once every minute

• A woman knows what people are feeling, while a man can’t spot an emotion unless somebody cries or threatens bodily harm

• A woman over 50 is more likely to initiate divorce than a man

Women will come away from this book knowing that they have a lean, mean communicating machine. Men will develop a serious case of brain envy.


Anne Corwin said...

Hmm, I'm wondering how books like this account for the existence of non-typical females in their appraisal of brain biology and its influence on behavior and tendency.

While I understand that certain observations about gender differences in cognition and communication may indeed be valid on large scale / statistical levels, I hope that those who do this research and seek to apply it scientifically and / or socially realize that individuals may deviate quite strongly from the statistical norms identified.

The examples you gave from the book seem like blatant stereotyping to me: as a woman who was never a phone or looks-obsessed teenager, I am rather wary of these sorts of oversimplifications of what it "means" to be female.

Though I definitely see the value in research of this nature, I also think that more research on exceptions needs to be done so as to avoid the promotion of certain forms of profiling or "quota" systems in education and in the workplace.

If any company hired me on the basis that they thought I'd be great at social networking and multitasking due to my chromosomal configuration, they'd be sorely disappointed, and meanwhile the things I actually am good at would be squandered.

Mark Plus said...

A woman knows what people are feeling, while a man can’t spot an emotion unless somebody cries or threatens bodily harm

Hm, then women must find me especially hard to "read" emotionally. A number of them over the years have told me that I seem "cold" to them, a reaction which has had negative consequences for my psychosexual development. To explain what I mean by way of a creative analogy, I compare watching adult videos with watching science fiction: In both porn and sci-fi, I can see men doing the kinds of things I haven't gotten to do in real life.

Anne Corwin said...

Wow, what a coincidence -- Mark, I just found your blog through a random series of links and made a comment. I actually have a really hard time believing that most women can accurately sense the emotions of others -- rather, I suspect that people tend to project their own emotions and make assumptions based on that projection.

In the neurotypical population, these assumptions may end up being accurate in a sufficient number of cases so as to lend some degree of statistical significance. But it doesn't indicate some sort of universally accurate "emotion detector" -- it's more of a signal interpreter that is sensitive to a particular variety of signals.

Very few people -- male or female -- I've known have been able to read my emotions accurately -- I've often been accused of looking hostile, nervous, or sad when I'm perfectly happy and / or just thinking hard about something. However, people who are either on the autism spectrum themselves or who have children on the spectrum tend to be a bit better about interpreting my actions and such, which makes me wonder if perhaps there are just different signal sets that different people are attuned to.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Louann Brizendine's recent book, I find it interesting that even in "Minority Report" there is a subtle theme of female brain superiority. Consider that Agatha's prognostications are more accurate than the other two males'. She is described as the "more talented" of the three pre-cogs, several times. Her scientist creator is interestingly enough also a female.