India Uncut

This blog has moved to its own domain. Please visit for the all-new India Uncut and bookmark it. The new site has much more content and some new sections, and you can read about them here and here. You can subscribe to full RSS feeds of all the sections from here. This blogspot site will no longer be updated, except in case of emergencies, if the main site suffers a prolonged outage. Thanks - Amit.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Emotions v Sex (or why female brains are different from male ones)

Louann Brizendine, a UCSF neuropsychiatrist, is quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle:
Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road. [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.
This is from Brizendine's book, The Female Brain. (A few days ago, I'd linked to another article on the subject of innate differences between male and female brians.) These differences are hardly surprising. It's commonly accepted that male and female bodies evolved differently in prehistoric times; how, then, could such evolution have bypassed the brain? Differences do not equate to inequality, needless to say, though I find myself wishing I had more female traits. This testosterone just screws me up, it messes with my life.

Anyway, a few conclusions that Brizendine has reached are reproduced at the bottom of the article:
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.
On all these counts, you gotta envy them chicas. I mean, what're we going to do with Math? Count minutes?

Update: Falstaff writes in to point me to a post on Language Log by Mark Liberman, where Liberman contests Brizendine's data, while agreeing that "[t]here certainly are psychological and neurological differences between men and women, sometimes big ones." As long as these observations have no bearing on policy -- and they emphatically shouldn't -- I don't see what the fuss is about.

Update 2: Reader Arvind Gopu emails to point me to a nice post on Thinking Meat Blog that discusses the two articles I linked to. The writer says something similar to what I wrote in the update above:
I’m uncomfortable with the idea of saying that workplaces should accommodate employees who are mothers because women, according to Brizendine, “are wired to take care of children, and they want that time and need that time.” There are plenty of things that people are wired to want to do, and that in no way obligates anyone else to help them do them. [My emphasis.]
Exactly. Description doesn't imply prescription, as Steven Pinker would have put it.
amit varma, 4:03 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

I recommend: