The differences between women and men are not only well-documented, but frequently at the heart of jokes, anecdotes, and good-natured (and not so good-natured) ribbing. Experts have discovered that there are actually differences in the way women’s and men’s brains are structured and in the way they react to events and stimuli. So the next time your wife, boyfriend, or parent starts telling you how you should have done something differently, then refer back to these big differences between men’s and women’s brains.
Human relationships. Women tend to communicate more effectively than men, focusing on how to create a solution that works for the group, talking through issues, and utilizes non-verbal cues such as tone, emotion, and empathy whereas men tend to be more task-oriented, less talkative, and more isolated. Men have a more difficult time understanding emotions that are not explicitly verbalized, while women tend to intuit emotions and emotional cues.
These differences explain why men and women sometimes have difficulty communicating and why men-to-men friendships look different from friendships among women.
Left brain vs. both hemispheres. Men tend to process better in the left hemisphere of the brain while women tend to process equally well between the two hemispheres. This difference explains why men are generally stronger with left-brain activities and approach problem-solving from a task-oriented perspective while women typically solve problems more creatively and are more aware of feelings while communicating.
Mathematical abilities. An area of the brain called the inferior-parietal lobule (IPL) is typically significantly larger in men, especially on the left side, than in women. This section of the brain is thought to control mental mathematical ability, and probably explains why men frequently perform higher in mathematical tasks than do women. Interestingly, this is the same area of Einstein’s brain that was discovered to be abnormally large. The IPL also processes sensory information, and the larger right side in women allows them to focus on, “specific stimuli, such as a baby crying in the night.”
Reaction to stress. Men tend to have a “fight or flight” response to stress situations while women seem to approach these situations with a “tend and befriend” strategy. Psychologist Shelley E. Taylor coined the phrase “tend and befriend” after recognizing that during times of stress women take care of themselves and their children (tending) and form strong group bonds (befriending). The reason for these different reactions to stress is rooted in hormones. The hormone oxytocin is released during stress in everyone. However, estrogen tends to enhance oxytocin resulting in calming and nurturing feelings whereas testosterone, which men produce in high levels during stress, reduces the effects of oxytocin.
Language. Two sections of the brain responsible for language were found to be larger in women than in men, indicating one reason that women typically excel in language-based subjects and in language-associated thinking. Additionally, men typically only process language in their dominant hemisphere, whereas women process language in both hemispheres. This difference offers a bit of protection in case of a stroke. Women may be able to recover more fully from a stroke affecting the language areas in the brain while men may not have this same advantage.