The Confidence Code by Katty Kay

The Confidence Code by Katty Kay

Author:Katty Kay
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub
ISBN: 9780062230645
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 2014-03-27T22:00:00+00:00

It Matters Where the Matter Is

The very suggestion that male and female brains might be built and function in unique ways has long been a taboo subject, largely because among women, it was generally thought that any difference would be used against us. That’s because for decades, for centuries actually, differences (real or imagined) were used against us. Based on no evidence at all, women were deemed to have an unbearable lightness of thinking. And it’s still a subject that can produce tremors. As recently as 2006, Larry Summers, then the president of Harvard, found himself embroiled in controversy after suggesting, based on his reading of research, that there may be innate differences between men and women when it comes to achievement in science. Eventually, the lingering anger over those remarks led to his resignation.

So let’s clear the air: Male and female brains are vastly more alike than they are different. You couldn’t stare at a scan of two random brains, and clearly identify male versus female. In terms of intellectual output, the differences are negligible. That doesn’t mean there are no differences though—there are, and some of those differences in structure and matter and chemistry may encourage unique patterns of thinking and behavior, patterns that can clearly affect confidence.

In terms of sheer size, men do have women beat. Their brains are indeed larger and heavier relative to their body size. Does that mean male brains are better? No. IQ tests are basically equal for the two sexes, though in some measures men tend to score higher on math and spatial skills, and women routinely outpace men on language arts.

One Harvard study found distinct differences in the distribution of our brain matter, which suggests vastly different methods of processing information. Women tend to have the bulk of their brain cell matter in the frontal cortex, the home to reasoning, and some in the limbic cortex, an emotional center. Men have less than half of all their brain cell matter in their frontal cortex. Theirs tends to be spread throughout the brain.

There are actually two types of brain matter, gray and white. Men have more of the gray stuff, useful for isolated problems, and women have more white matter, which is critical for integrating information. It’s almost as though evolution designed our brains to reach equally complicated destinations on completely different roads, neurologist Fernando Miranda, an expert on learning disorders, told us.

For Jay Lombard, the Genomind neurologist, the most compelling evidence that there are material differences in male and female brains comes from a series of studies involving DTI (diffusion tensor imaging) technology. These scans are seen as increasingly useful for studying function, because they can map the connectivity of our brains. Essentially, DTIs can study the integrity of our white matter, the essential tissue that fosters connections. A handful of studies have found that women tend to have better functioning white matter, and in some important places, like the corpus callosum, the central highway between left and right brain. Dr. Lombard thinks it might explain why women work with both sides of their brains more easily.


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