Everyone has heard the phrase “men are from Mars, women are from Venus,” popularized by a book of the same title. I mean, it makes sense – men and women seem to be so different in so many ways. Sure, they share a lot of the same biology by virtue of the fact that they’re both humans (with some differences thanks to those X and Y chromosomes). In so many ways, though, it can seem like they’re entirely different species.
There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding the idea of what tasks or abilities are better suited to men and which are better suited to women. Now, obviously, everyone knows that it’s an individual thing – certain people are more gifted in certain fields, and it has nothing to do with their gender. Likewise, just because someone is gifted in a field typically assigned to their gender doesn’t make them any less talented or impressive.
We have to admit, though – it can be kind of fun to learn about differences between genders that might explain certain behaviours you may have noticed and questioned.
Here are 15 surprising things you may not have known about the male brain – and it may just explain a few lingering questions you had.
15. Having a clear pecking order helps with aggression
Most people know that male animals compete with one another to determine who is the alpha, who is the most desirable partner, etc. Different species have different dances or rituals or calls that help prove they’re the Number One in a given group or territory. However, did you know that male humans do the same thing, in a way? And it’s all because of how their brains are hardwired. Apparently, having an uncertain hierarchy can give men anxiety – and having a clear, established hierarchy, like what you find in the military, can actually help curb male aggression. That’s because they’re not crazily producing testosterone trying to gear up for a battle to establish dominance. The concern over a pecking order starts to develop in men when they’re still children, and definitely thrives in adulthood when all that testosterone is flooding their system.
14. Men’s hormones are affected when their partner is pregnant
There’s a lot said about ‘pregnancy brain,’ something that women who are expecting are often said to have. People blame a pregnant woman’s forgetfulness or distraction on the fact that she has a cocktail of new hormones pumping through her body – and it turns out, guys are affected too (although obviously not as much as the woman actually carrying the child is). When he’s anticipating becoming a father, a little switch in a man’s brain flicks and his prolactin production goes up while his testosterone drops slightly, a switch up that’s supposed to prime his brain for paternal behaviour. Obviously, women go through a whole slew of changes, both mental and physical, when it comes to having a child, but it’s kind of interesting to know that a man’s biology also includes a step designed to prime his brain to be a good father and ensure the survival of his offspring.
13. They feel less pressured to compete for status as they get older
Everyone knows that young men are kind of a handful, and part of the reason behind that is that their brains are wired to compete for status and to compete for mates in their younger years. It’s a throwback to when the fittest survived and men would have to compete for just about everything. When a man is older, his brain no longer transmits the urge to compete quite as, well, urgently. This is partially due to the fact that testosterone production in men declines gradually as he ages, and high testosterone is associated with a skill at competition. Men with lower testosterone are often better at cooperating, which means they’ll focus on building bonds and helping strengthen their community as they age, rather than competing for the top spot.
12. They’re hard-wired to protect
The part of a man’s brain associated with the need to protect and defend one’s turf, a throwback to earlier caveman days, is larger than the same area in women. That’s because back in an earlier time, it was the man’s job to defend his territory and ensure the safety of his family and self – so obviously his brain would be wired to help him achieve that. In the modern day, men no longer need to protect their partner from fierce animals or every little storm and natural disaster, as they would have had to long ago, so their protective nature is often not expressed as regularly. However, if you’ve ever seen your man react in a way you never anticipated when there’s some type of threat facing the two of you, now you know it’s not just part of his personality, it’s actually something in his brain that leads him to that instinct to protect.
11. Their brains want them to check out women
We know, we know – the image of a man drooling over a woman who walks by is totally cheesy and has been portrayed in so many television shows and movies that we’re a little bored of it by this point. However, it’s such a pervasive thing in our culture because, well, all men do it – and there’s a reason for it. Men have higher testosterone production than women, obviously, and one of the things that testosterone does to the brain is impair the impulse-control region. That’s right – it means men have a harder time controlling their impulses, including their impulse to check out a gorgeous woman’s curves when she walks by him on the street. Testosterone is also responsible for getting that libido revving, so obviously, it works hand in hand – a guy gets the urge to check out a beautiful woman, and he has trouble suppressing that impulse, all thanks to testosterone.
10. There’s a reason they try to fix things rather than talk about them
While it may seem stereotypical, it doesn’t mean it isn’t true – while women may be more inclined to empathize or discuss a problem when it’s presented to them, men tend to immediately jump into ‘fix it’ mode and find a concrete solution to the issue. Now, that isn’t because men aren’t empathetic – they definitely are, and the empathy fires up in their brain just the same way it does for female brains. However, quite quickly after, in male brains, the region responsible for that whole ‘fix it!’ impulse takes over. So, while women might dwell in that empathetic state for a while, men are trying to find out what the best fix is rather than trying to initiate a big heart to heart.
9. Men have bigger brains
Now, before you start making any crazy claims, know this – just because men have bigger brains it doesn’t mean that they’re automatically smarter than women. That’s not how it works. It’s just a simple biological thing. While people come in all shapes and sizes, in general, men are larger than women. So, it really just makes sense that their brains would be, on average, ten percent larger than the average female brain. The average guy has more body mass, more muscle mass, and more brain mass – it’s as simple as that. The literal size of your brain really doesn’t have much to do with your level of intelligence at all. Men like to think that they must be smarter because their brains are bigger, but that’s another story…
8. In general, men are more left-brain dominant
Everyone has heard of the differences between the left brain and the right brain – one side is more associated with analytical skills and numbers and quantifiable things like that, while the other side is associated with creativity and communication and such. Most people have qualities from both sides of the spectrum, and there are definitely more creative men and more analytical women out there, but in general men tend to be more left-brain dominant. That’s part of the reason that many men are focused on finding solutions to problems, or thinking about things in terms of tasks to be accomplished, whereas women try to understand problems in a more communicative way. They’re approaching things from a more logical standpoint whereas women are more intuitive and look at the emotional side of things.
7. Men are often better at math
So, in addition to having bigger brains in general, men also have bigger inferior-parietal lobules than women do. What exactly does that mean? Well, it’s the area of the brain that is associated with mathematical ability. Now, this obviously doesn’t mean that all men are amazing at math and all women are terrible at math – that depends on a whole bunch of varying factors. However, it is a little quirk of the brain that is interesting to know about. So, the next time you hear a guy complaining about just not being that great at math, tell him his inferior-parietal lobule suggests differently. Perhaps that’s what gave male students the advantage when it came to furiously completing those math equations during Mad Minutes in elementary school?
6. Men are better able to visualize things spatially
When it comes to male and female brains, male brains have a thinner parietal region. What on earth does that mean? Well, that area of the brain is what’s responsible for spatial perceptions, and having a thinner one means it’s easier to visualize things spatially. So, it’s not all those hours of video games that made men able to visualize 3D objects without blinking an eye – it’s actually their slightly thinner parietal region. Who knew? Of course, like with the many other brain quirks, there are plenty of women out there who have fantastic spatial skills and plenty of men who would have trouble picturing anything more complex than a simple cube, but it is one general feature of the brain that differs between the sexes.
5. Men are more likely to suffer from neurological disorders
So, men are better at math and spatial things, are quicker to jump to solutions…there are surely some downsides to the male brain too, right? Well, yes. It turns out that men are actually more likely to suffer from neurological disorders than women are – that includes everything from dyslexia to autism, ADHD, and Tourette’s Syndrome. Now, obviously these diseases affect both genders, and there are a lot of other factors in play to consider, but it’s still a noteworthy stat and something interesting to know. While there are certain diseases that don’t really change based on gender, and certain hereditary conditions that you’d likely get no matter what gender you were, there are many, many diseases that are more likely in one gender, so it’s something to be aware of.
4. Men use their gray matter more
As most people who know even a little bit about the human brain will know, it is comprised of two kinds of tissue – gray matter, and white matter. We won’t go into all the details about what differentiates the two, because really only someone trained in neuroscience or neurosurgery could even begin to scratch the surface of the complex organ, but to oversimplify things, the grey matter is where information is processed while the white matter is where networks and links between things are created. So, it further adds fuel to the fire that men are more analytical and good at simple solutions while women are more intuitive and reactive. I mean, it would be more interesting if male brains had an entirely different type of matter, but still – it’s cool to know which gender tends to prioritize which one.
3. Men are more prone to loneliness
The brain is constantly responding to stimuli in the body, from messages transmitted through the nerves to hormones flooding through it. That’s why so many mental health illnesses have to do with your mood, in a way – depression, anxiety, etc. When it comes to feeling a little bit lonely, it turns out that men are more likely to succumb to that grey cloud than women are. That’s because, thanks to their brain wiring, they’re less likely (in general) to reach out to others than women. Now, a lot of this depends on the type of person you are, and if you’re an extrovert or an introvert, but nonetheless – something to consider. Older men in particular are prone to loneliness, so make sure to take that into consideration next time you turn down someone’s invitation to a dinner party!
2. The male brain shrinks faster than the female brain
Again, we won’t even attempt to go into the complexities of how a brain changes over time. When you’re younger, your brain is constantly developing as you’re learning incredible amounts of things, from how to speak to how to do simple things like walking and crawling. And when you’re older, many people are affected by various neurological diseases or conditions that can have a real impact on their lives. However, in general, the brain shrinks a little bit with age – and it turns out that, despite having slightly larger brains to begin with (or perhaps because of that), the male brain actually tends to shrink a little bit faster than the female brain. Who knew? So, next time you’re chatting with an older guy and he forgets something, perhaps that’s just a sign that the shrinking has commenced?
1. Women are better at multi-tasking
Okay, okay, we know – the stereotype that women are amazing at multi-tasking while men can really only adequately focus on one thing at a time has been around forever. However, it turns out, there’s a bit of scientific evidence behind that. And it all comes down to that gray matter/white matter split, it turns out. You see, since women have more white matter, the tissue associated with networks and links and processes like that, they’re more comfortable jumping from task to task. Men, on the other hand, prefer to analyze and process a bit more in depth and focus on one thing at a time before moving on to the next item on their to do list. Neither approach is wrong – it’s just a little quirk that proves male and female brains are just a teeny bit different.
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