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Just How Different are Men and Women?

  • Dave Burchett Contributing Writer
  • 2006 21 Oct
Just How Different are Men and Women?

Recently reader Texmom good-naturedly (I hope) encouraged me to get out from under the table and be more aggressive in my response to spiritual player hater Sam Harris. I found that resting comfortably under the table was a nice place to be after writing about Rosie O'DonnellJerry FalwellSam Harris, Madonna, and Victoria Osteen in recent days. But none of those topics are as frightening as today's subject. I am going to write about the female brain. As usual when I address topics like this one I must post the following disclaimer.

Warning: The following post may (or, sadly, may not) contain humor. This blog was produced in a program where irony and satire are processed. May contain sarcasm fragments. If you are allergic to humor or attempts at humor please avoid this product.

This potentially incendiary topic came up as I rummaged through the Healthy Living section of the Dallas Morning News. Writer Leslie Van Wassenhove began the piece with this question.

* True or false: At birth, the female brain is more mature than the male brain.

According to neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, it's true: A girl has a literal head start over members of the opposite sex. In fact, her noggin will develop faster than that of a boy by one to two years, as Dr. Brizendine explains in The Female Brain (Morgan Road Books). This is just the first of many differences she describes that stem from the structure and development of the male and female minds. Dr. Brizendine traces the neurohormonal disparities between men and women from conception through post-menopause, offering evidence on why women may perceive and react to situations differently than do men.

Women may perceive and react to situations differently than do men? May? Are you kidding me? At any rate, I took the following quiz from that article and recorded my answers in parenthesis. I also added some reactions to the actual answers in italics.

How brain-savvy are you? Test yourself to see how much of The Female Brain you know:

1. Men have more brain cells than women. (, true...wait, uhh, no comment. Okay, False)

Answer: False; women have just as many brain cells, but they are packed more tightly into their smaller skulls. That clears up some of the issues. Women's brain cells have less room to wander off and do stupid stuff. That is a clear advantage for the feminine mind.

2. Women have more neurons than men in the brain centers for language. ( doubt)

Answer: True; as a result, women are naturally more talkative than men, using approximately 20,000 words per day compared with the 7,000 uttered by their male counterparts. Even these numbers do not truly represent the disparity in the vocabulary between men and women. Using myself as the lab rat, I calculated that of my 7,000 uttered words nearly 5,000 of them were baseball and football fantasy league words, lyrics to classic rock and roll songs, meaningless words from Monty Python skits, and lines from movies like Airplane and Dodgeball. Another 1900 plus entries were work related. So I calculate that I enter the verbal fray with my bride armed with about 67 actual usable words.

3. During the three months after birth, girls' skills in eye contact increase by more than 400 percent, while boys' skills do not increase at all. (Sounds true)

Answer: True; girls are not exposed to the testosterone surge in utero that shrinks the neurological centers for communication, observation and processing of emotion in boys, so girls are better equipped from birth to develop skills that use those parts of the brain. See...we can't help it that the testosterone tsunami shrinks our communication, observation and processing skills. Those guttural grunts are actually quite articulate given the handicaps we must overcome.

4. Women can't develop the desire to have a child just by holding someone else's baby. (False)

Answer: False; infants produce pheromones that cause the female brain to produce oxytocin, a hormone that can create that desire. I have witnessed this phenomenom. Now I am observing that holding an infant causes both the female and male brain to develop the desire for your grown children to start producing grandbabies. Eligible sons...are you reading this?

5. Pregnancy causes a woman's brain to grow. (False)

Answer: False; the brain shrinks in the last three months of pregnancy but returns to normal by six months after a woman gives birth. No comment.

6. Women tend to value a man's appearance over his material resources and social status. (False)

Answer: False; in a study of 10,000 individuals in 37 countries, women in every culture looked for social and financial independence more than visual appeal in a mate. I have found that to be true. Woman are not nearly as shallow as men on the appearance issue in their mates. I am perplexed by my bride's decision to pair with me. I missed the cut on the visual appeal and financial independence markers. What was she thinking?

7. Hugging, especially for women, releases neurochemicals that can increase trust in the hugger. (False)

Answer: True; after a hug lasting at least 20 seconds, the brain produces oxytocin that turns on the trust response and dulls more critical judgment. Interesting. Joni, if you are reading this please skip to number 8. Thank you, dear.

I think I learned something important here. When I hug my wife she often gives me the dismissive pat after 10 seconds or so. I thought she was just being a bit impatient. Now I realize that she was protecting her critical judgment. I will hold the embrace in the future to rev up that trust response and dull her critical judgment. How sad I am just learning this after 30 years.

8. Breast-feeding can make women absent-minded. (False)

Answer: True; breast-feeding can extend and intensify the mental fogginess that many women experience after giving birth. I still contend the mental fogginess can be traced directly to sleeping 4 hours a week.

So I got six out of eight correct. Much better than I would have predicted. And what is the value of this little exercise? Not much. It is fun. I think it is important to realize and value the differences in the minds of men and women. But for me the application about how our minds are wired is gender neutral. There are many references to the mind in the New Testament Scriptures. Here is the answer key for all of the statements to follow.


Romans 8:5-7 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God's laws, and it never will. NLT

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is; his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV

Ephesians 4:23-24 be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. NIV

Phillipians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. NIV

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. NIV

I Peter 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. NIV

And the grand finale comes from the mind of Jesus.

Matthew 22:36-38 Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." NIV

I am fascinated by the difference in the minds of men and women. But I am challenged by the differences in the minds of those who seek the mind of Christ and those who do not. I want my mind to be different. Like Jesus.

That is an ambitious little project that should keep me busy for the rest of my days because I have a long, long way to go. And that is true. Final answer.

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Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of  When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and  Bring ’em Back Alive – A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. He invites replies by linking through