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In Relationships, Women Are the Stronger
When a man and a woman talk, he will tend
to interrupt her more than she will interrupt him. Theres
probably not a woman alive who would be surprised by that fact.
Something you read in most books on human relations is that a
good general policy when interacting with people is to try not
to interrupt them. Women are better at it than men.
Anat Rafaeli, of the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem, sent teams of observers to 600 convenience stores
and observed over 11,000 interactions between the clerk and a
customer. Female clerks smiled more, made more eye contact, and
thanked people more than male clerks. In other words, the women
practiced better human relations.
Men and women, ranging in age from 17 to
80, were given a questionnaire that asked each respondent what
kinds of things he or she talked about when talking to someone
of their same sex. Women spend more time than men talking about
relationships and emotional issues. So not only are women generally
better at human relations, they are more interested in
Women have a biological advantage when
it comes to relationships. To be good at relating, you would
need the ability to perceive well. If you can see and hear well,
you are better equipped to perceive the feelings of other people.
This would help you relate to them. And as I pointed out in the
women visually notice more detail and hear changes in tone better
To be good at relating, another extremely
useful strength would be the ability to articulate your own feelings.
And here again, women have a genetic advantage. Lets take
a look at some of the research.
Using what is called the PONS test (the
Profile of Nonverbal Sensitivity test), Robert Rosenthal and
his colleagues at Harvard University found women to be consistently
better at knowing what emotional situation theyre seeing
when they view the short film clips that make up the test.
In the 220 two-second film clips, the experimental
subjects see a persons face only, body only, or face and
body both. The woman is saying something, but the actual content
of what shes saying has been obliterated, while still retaining
the tone of her voice and the rhythm of her speech.
After observing each film clip, the viewers
are shown two written descriptions of the situation. The subject
is asked to choose which description fits the segment they observed.
Women did better than men.
There were some men who scored as well
as the average woman. These were usually men working in theater
or arts where selection for nonverbal sensitivity plays an important
role (pardon the pun). But these exceptional men only
did as well as the average woman.
At the time of the original experiment,
the results were explained with the Socialization Theory: Women
are nonverbally more sensitive than men because of their upbringing.
But recent research shows the experiment in a whole new light.
Cecil Naylor of the Bowman-Gray School
of Medicine gave experimental subjects a task, and then, using
a radioactive tracer, watched to see what parts of the subjects
brain was active during that task. For example, in one task the
subject listened to words, one after the other, and when he or
she heard a word that was four letters long, they raised a finger.
During this task, the womens brains were active all over,
and the mens brain activity was compartmentalized.
Another task was singing Row Row Row
Your Boat. Places on both sides of womens brains showed
activity, but for men, only one side of the brain was active.
During an oral spelling test, women and
men did equally well. But during the test, the mens brains
showed an intense activity in two discrete areas: Wernickes
area (in the left temporal lobe), and Brocas area (in the
left frontal lobe). Wernickes is known to play an important
role in language comprehension and language creation. This is
the place where language is assembled for outgo and understood
when it is inflowed. And Brocas area seems to play a part
in controlling the mouth, tongue, face, jaw and throat.
In women, Naylor found blood flowed heavy,
not only to those two areas (Wernickes and Brocas
in the left hemisphere), but also to the right hemisphere, in
the same spot as Wernickes but on the opposite side, an
area known to be involved in a particular aspect of language:
emotional expression and emotional comprehension.
In men, when the communication is ready
to be spoken, only Brocas area is active. In women, says
Naylor, almost every area of the cortex, left and right
hemisphere, has some unique relationship with Brocas during
the task, as if there were many independent things going on between
Brocas and lots of different regions.
Women have more going on in their brains
when communicating. They use more of their brains when talking
to another person than men do. And they have a richer experience
of the emotional reality of the relationship. And emotion is
the foundation of closeness, bonding, affection, and love in
Women are the big, strong sex when it comes
These findings might also help explain
womens intuition. Since she is perceiving more
of whats going on nonverbal communication, small
changes in skin color, facial expressions, body movements, and
tone of voice and her brain is more active, shes
perceiving things outside the mans range of perception.
It would look to a man as though she were psychic.
The Corpus Callosum
There are parts of the corpus callosum
(the bundle of nerve fibers that connect the right and left hemispheres
of the brain) that are up to 23% wider in women than in men.
There are also thicker connections between the two hemispheres
in other parts of womens brains. This is especially significant
because mens brains are bigger than womens. Women
have more gray matter too (the cells that actually perform thinking).
Were looking at a structural difference
in the brains of women and men, a difference that helps explain
some common complaints of married couples, like why women seem
to be more proficient at communicating their feelings. Emotions
are processed in the right hemisphere and language is in the
left hemisphere (Ill explain that in more detail in a moment).
More connections between hemispheres make it easier for women
to articulate what they feel.
To add to mens handicap in relating,
their brains are more neatly compartmentalized than a womens.
If you give a man an abstract problem to work on, he will tend
to use the right side of his brain. A woman, on the other hand,
will use both sides.
Even in tests on children, it has been
found that while a boy is engaged in some abstract problem (like
trying to figure out what three dimensional objects can be made
out of a flat piece of paper) the electrical activity of his
brain is concentrated in his right hemisphere. In girls, again,
the activity was in both hemispheres.
When the abstract problem was shown only
to their left eye, the boys performed better on the test than
when they saw it with both eyes (the left eye goes to the right
hemisphere of the brain).
Girls got the same score with either eye.
Were boys taught to use only one
side of their brains? Were girls taught to use both sides?
For the hardcore Strictly-Socialization Theorists, they must
But the evidence against that conclusion
keeps mounting. For example, there is a malfunction of hormone
production called Turners syndrome that gives us a unique
look at the effect of hormones on the brain. Turners syndrome
happens when girls are missing an X chromosome. In normal girls,
their ovaries produce a small amount of male hormone, but girls
with Turners syndrome have no ovaries and no testicles,
so they have no testosterone whatsoever. When these girls are
given the same brain-activity tests mentioned above, they show
an even greater degree of uncompartmentalized electrical brain
activity and blood flow (more than normal girls).
Studies of men who were underexposed to
male hormones in the womb (less than normal males) show brain
activity more like a womans (less compartmentalized).
While the brain is developing in the womb,
sex hormones create what are called their organizational
effects (the hormones permanently alter brain function).
Then at puberty, hormones create their activational effects
(affecting ongoing processes like aggressiveness, menstruation,
voice deepening, muscle growth, hair growth, sex organ development,
Doreen Kimura (professor of psychology,
and the chief researcher at the University of Western Ontario)
tested women seven to ten days before the onset of menstruation
(when they had high levels of estrogen and progesterone), and
also 3 to 5 days after menstruation, when their hormone levels
were low. She tested half the women in the first phase and the
other half in the second phase so the results wouldnt be
influenced by learning.
The women performed better at articulation,
manual dexterity and verbal fluency when estrogen and progesterone
were high. And they scored better on spatial tests in the low
This shows, not a difference in the sexes,
but a difference in hormones. It just happens that this
usually translates into a difference in the sexes.
Kimura and her colleagues also found that
the parts of the brain related to grammar, spelling and writing
are located close together in womens brains, but are spread
out in men (some in the front of the brain, the rest in the back
of the brain). This makes a difference because the closer brain
parts are to each other, the faster and more efficient their
The Two Hemispheres
Your brain is divided into two halves,
and each half specializes. The right hemisphere handles spatial
orientation and music, recognizes faces, and deals with emotions.
The left handles language. Most people have heard this much.
But heres something most people dont know: This information
came mainly from studies of war injuries. The problem with that
is that it was all done on men. It was simply assumed
that a brain is a brain is a brain, whether it was a mans
or a womans.
Men with injuries to their left hemisphere
are unable to speak, but they can sing. Men with injuries to
their right hemisphere are unable to recognize the faces of their
own wife and children. They get lost in their own house, unable
to find their way around. They can talk, but its an eerie
monotone, completely devoid of emotion.
But that only applies to men.
At his research center in Maryland, psychologist
Herbert Landsel studied epileptics who had part of their brain
removed. He found that the same surgeries dont impair women
as much as men. Even with the removal of significant portions
of their right hemisphere, women can still get around the house
and recognize faces.
With the same surgery to the left hemisphere,
men are three times more likely to suffer a language problem
Research at the University Hospital in
Western Ontario found the same thing with brain damage from strokes
and tumors: Women dont lose as many abilities from the
loss of the same brain area. Both men and women suffer the loss
of some ability from brain damage, but the loss shows
The brains of men and women are organized
differently in a definite, measurable way.
A womans score on vocabulary tests
goes down whether her brain injury is in the left or right hemisphere.
But a mans vocabulary score is only affected by
an injury to the left hemisphere.
Experiment: Hook up electrodes to monitor
brain activity, and then temporarily put a persons left
hemisphere to sleep. Then ask the person a logic question
the kind of question that requires significant language processing
When researchers do this experiment, heres
what they see: If the person is a man, hell have very little
brain activity in his right hemisphere (the only side of his
brain thats awake), and he wont be able to come up
with an answer. If the person is a woman, she will have significant
activity in her right hemisphere and she will come up
with an answer.
Men favor their right ear when listening,
women listen equally with both ears.
A woman once told me, Men dont
try hard enough. They just need to try harder. Yeah, that
must be it. All men are lazy.
I dont think so. Well have
to come up with a better explanation than that. The truth is,
there is a significant amount of evidence that a womans
brain is organized differently than a mans, and that this
different organization has an impact.
Sandra Witelson (neuropsychologist) showed
emotionally-charged photographs to men and women. She showed
the photographs to either the left visual field (connected to
the right hemisphere) or the right visual field (connected to
the left hemisphere). Women recognized the emotional content
of the pictures no matter what visual field they saw it with.
But men (as you might be able to predict) only recognized the
emotional content when the picture was shown to the left visual
According to marketing research at the
University of Chicago, women are more comprehensive when they
evaluate a product. They take more factors into consideration
when making a decision. Advertisers have learned that if you
want an ad to appeal to women, you have to give them several
selling points, but if you want it to appeal to men, you should
focus on only one good reason why the thing is worth buying.
Weve seen that the brains of men
and women are differently organized with regard to language and
expressing feelings. But this doesnt prove anything. It
is possible that socialization could affect the way the brain
grows. And socialization for sure can affect skills like language
ability. So maybe adult brains are organized differently,
but that doesnt prove that those differences are determined
by biology. So far, it might all be explained well enough by
Lets look a little earlier, then,
to a time before socialization has gotten such a strong foothold.
Researchers have found the following: infant
girls are more sensitive to touch than infant boys; girls have
a better sense of smell, smile more, are more patient and less
easily annoyed than boys; girls begin speaking earlier than boys,
enunciate more clearly, and develop a larger vocabulary.
Language problems are much more common
in boys than in girls. Boys who stutter outnumber girls who stutter
five to one. Autism occurs in four times more boys than girls.
Boys with aphasia (an extreme difficulty learning to talk) outnumber
girls five to one. Over 75% of those with reading difficulties
There are four times more boys who are
emotionally disturbed than there are girls.
Witelson did an experiment on two hundred
normal boys and girls between the ages of six and fourteen. Each
child was blindfolded, and an object was placed in each hand.
Then the researchers took the objects out of the childs
hands and put them in a pile of similar objects, and took the
Asked to find the two objects they were
just holding, the girls had no trouble finding the correct objects.
The boys, however, were better at correctly identifying the object
that had been in their left hand than they were at finding the
objects in their right hand. Signals from the left hand go to
the right hemisphere which is known to specialize (in males)
in spatial information (like transferring physical sensations
into visual information).
There are several possible explanations
for the results of this experiment. It could be that girls
brains arent as specialized as boys, so they can
process spatial information with either hemisphere. Or maybe
the information travels between hemispheres more readily in girls.
Or perhaps the girls dont process kinesthetic information
in the same way the boys do. Maybe a combination of these.
Any way you look at it, the experiment
shows a difference in the way these children processed the information.
Even at a young age boys and girls are using their brains in
Experiments have shown that parents treat
different sexed children differently. Maybe it is the parents
response to the childs interests.
These differences between the sexes are
caused by the different levels of hormones each sex produces.
As a fetus and in adulthood, males produce more testosterone.
Females produce more estrogen. As a fetus, this causes the brain
to change, and as adults, it keeps certain differences intact.
Beginning in the 1940s and extending
to the 1960s, millions of women were given diethylstilbestrol
(DES) to prevent miscarriages. DES is an artificial estrogen.
Doctors stopped prescribing it when they found the drug had serious
side-effects. Many studies have been done on the children who
were exposed to DES in the womb. One of the things they found
is that children male or female who had been exposed
to extra estrogen in the womb were more group-oriented and more
interested in communication and relationships than normal children
of the same sex and age.
What About Interest?
The differences between women and men start
in the womb and are produced by hormones. After children are
born, masculine or feminine behavior is also affected by the
childs parents expectations and the role models theyre
exposed to. But as weve seen, the differences were there
to start with, and there are some differences that cannot be
eliminated, no matter how children are raised.
A friend of mind told me the following
story: Her son was playing his new Nintendo game, when her daughter
came by and asked if she could play. He said, You wouldnt
want to play it. Its about war. The daughter went
to Mom and complained. Mom, of course, was outraged (as any politically
correct woman would be), so she marched into the living room
and scolded her son and said, Girls should be able to play
war games if they want to.
At this point in the story, I asked her,
Did she want to?
The woman said, Yes. But then
she said, Well, for a short time, and then she went in
the other room to play with her jewelry. She doesnt actually
like to play the game.
This kind of thing is going on all over
the country. It happened to me when I was a kid, too. Well-meaning
parents are trying to keep their children from sexual discrimination
either as the discriminatee or the discriminator. And
thats wonderful. The thing to watch out for is blinding
children to reality. It doesnt matter how good the doctrine
is, its always better to see reality than to miss reality
because you cant perceive outside the limits of your doctrine.
And thats exactly whats happening.
Women and men all over this country are
running into difficulties in their relationships because they
have been given false data: Namely, that there are no intrinsic
differences between the sexes, and if there are any differences,
they are learned and can be unlearned. It isnt true. And
when you try to make something go right using faulty information
as your guiding light, youre bound to run aground ... and
in this case, youre likely to be mystified about why it
seems so difficult to understand your mate. Its like someone
built a lighthouse on the wrong part of the coast. When you try
to steer your ship by it, you end up on the rocks.
Andro-genital syndrome (AGS) is a condition
caused by too many androgens (male hormones) before or shortly
after a girl is born. The girls genitals are partially
masculinized, but this is often corrected with surgery. The changes
to the girls brains, however, cannot be altered by surgery
or any other procedure. They show no interest in playing with
dolls as children. But their normal sisters (who do not have
AGS), raised in the same socializing environment, are
interested in playing with dolls.
An interest in dolls, and if we can extend
that into an interest in relationships, or at least an interest
in motherhood, is not lain on from outside. It comes from within,
and apparently cannot be lain on from outside. You can
affect, through socialization, the behavior of playing with dolls,
but you cannot create interest in it through socialization. The
interest is either there or it isnt. Ask any parent.
There are differences between the sexes
in animals, of course, and they are also caused by hormones.
Two Oxford anatomists Pauline Field and Jefferey Raisman
decided to see if there were brain structure differences
between male and female rats. There are. Female rats have more
synapses connecting two parts of their hypothalamus than male
rats do, the right hemisphere of a male rats brain is measurably
thicker than a females, and the females left hemisphere
is thicker than the males.
When they deprive a developing male rat
of male hormones, his brain ends up looking like a female rats
Give a normal female rat a shot of testosterone,
and she will start marking her territory with urine (something
only males normally do). The same experiment done on dogs gets
the same result. Testosterone-injected female dogs even lift
one leg to pee.
Rats injected with estrogen are less nervous
and less likely to engage in conflict with other rats. Among
mammals, birds, lizards, and even fish, when you inject the animal
with estrogen, it becomes less aggressive. This holds true whether
the animal is male or female.
Female rats with pups lick them and keep
them clean, catch them when they wander away and bring them back
to the nest, defend the pups against attack by other animals,
and of course, nurse the pups. Virgin female rats do none of
these things. But when scientists give virgin female rats a shot
of estrogen and progesterone, the virgins begin to take care
of any pups in their vicinity in the same way as mother rats
(except for the nursing).
Heres an interesting experiment.
Two researchers (Heidi Swanson and Richard Schuster) gave pairs
of rats a task that required them to cooperate with each other.
If they were able to cooperate and accomplish the task, they
were rewarded with sugar water. Rats love sugar water.
They tested four kinds of pairs: pairs
of females, pairs of males, pairs of castrated males, and pairs
of castrated males who were given testosterone supplements.
The females cooperated and accomplished
the task easily. So did the castrated males. The normal males
and the castrates with the testosterone supplements learned more
slowly, and some were unable to cooperate at all. They were too
busy trying to dominate each other.
Our Closest Relatives
Chimpanzees are our closest genetic relatives.
As a matter of fact, judging by the amount of DNA that matches
exactly, chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than
they are to their next-nearest relative, gorillas.
In the Arnhem colony (of chimpanzees) in
the Netherlands, chimps have been observed for many years. The
males often fight. Every female of that colony has been observed
to play a peacekeeping role between males. The females will get
two males who are angrily ignoring each other to interact peacefully
again. They are facilitating relationships. When fights break
out and the males begin arming themselves with rocks (which they
throw with a fair amount of accuracy and damage), the females
gently pry open their fingers and remove the rocks. When a male
grabs another rock, the female gently but firmly takes it from
his hand again.
All over the world chimps have been observed.
Adult males spend most of their time alone, and females spend
most of their time in the company of others. Females seem more
interested in relationships than males do.
Facing the Facts
Whether we look at behavior or brain structure
of adult or young human beings, or we look at animals, the evidence
points to a difference between males and females; a biological,
It is time to face the facts: Women are
better at communicating than men, and more interested in doing
so. It is inborn. Women are genetically superior communicators.
Therefore, women are more competent at relating.
When a woman asks her mate to open a jar,
she is acknowledging one of the mans superiorities
in this case, he has more muscles in his arms and hands than
she does. Men should understand that when he has any problem
with a relationship, he ought to ask his mate to help him open
the jar. Women are better at dealing with relationships,
communication, and emotions very real and important parts
of every mans life.
And if a woman expects her mate to handle
relationship issues as well as she can, isnt it like a
man asking a woman to open a jar? What would you think about
a man who insisted his wife open her fair share of
jars? Yet this is what many women do. Why many women
ask, do I always have to be responsible for making
sure we stay in good communication? Maybe its because
if you waited for him to even notice your relationship had a
problem, it would be too late to do anything to save it!
Weve talked about one important
difference between men and women. In the next section, well
look at another big one.