Boys and Girls Are Different
Boys and Girls Are Different
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Scientists have discovered about 100 gender differences in the brain -
8 generalized sections are detailed below
(This is summarized from many, many sources, with none cited –
with apologies to our English teachers)
As we do more and more work on differentiation and meeting the needs of high-ability students we also look at the obvious - boys and girls actually have different brains, learning styles and emotional needs which impact how they learn.
We also need to consider that many of our male students are being raised only by mothers (or other women relatives) and do not have consistent and good male role models in their lives - and raising boysis not always the same as raising men. That makes it even more important that we understand genuine biological sex differences as well as we can. Below are differences in the brain.
The content that follows has been abbreviated and generalized.
1. Being Female Begins at Birth, Being Male Begins at About 8 Weeks
All human life begins when two specific cells, ovum and a sperm, combine.
As the new person grows there are no obvious differences for eight weeks, and then the embryo either becomes a male as the hormones that determine sex are activated or it does not. If there are two “X” chromosomes, the development continues to the default, which is female. If there is a “y” chromosome, it will activate genes that activate hormones that change the embryo into a male. Male is a changed state from the normal progression into embryo
2. Grey Matter and White Matter are Distributed Differently
Human brains contain grey matter and white matter. Grey matter is localized in the brain processes information. White matter connects the grey matter processing centers. Males have seven times more grey matter than females, and females have ten times more white matter. One result of this is that boys tend to become anchored to single tasks, while girls may transition from task-to-task more easily. It’s why boys are typically better sequential-taskers and girls are better “multi-taskers”.
3. Blood Flow is Different in the Emotional Memory Centers
The greater amount of white matter in girls also causes a greater flow of blood into areas such as the cingulate gyrus, which triggers cycles of thought about remembering emotional events in the past (which is much rarer in males than females) and which fuels genuine emotions in the present.
Males reflect on emotions very differently. They are more likely to revisit an emotional memory briefly, analyze it intellectually- somewhat - and then move onto the next task, frequently something active and usually unrelated to the emotional memory at all.
4. Hormonal and Neurochemical Distribution is Different
The distribution of neurochemicals and hormones is different in male and female brains as well. The obvious difference is the amount of estrogen and testosterone between male and female bodies, but there are also significant differences in the levels of serotonin, melatonin, and oxytocin.
Testosterone, for example, can make it physically uncomfortable to sit still for long periods of time, because it drives a male body to develop strength and endurance, which is not satisfied by being passive, and it drives a response into action / reaction mode, which makes boys impulsive. However, there is evidence that higher levels of estrogen at points across the monthly female cycle can make females more impulsive and reactive at those times as well.
The release of oxytocin is stimulated by touch and creates emotional bonds between people, and it occurs in higher levels in girls than in boys. Differences in melatonin affect the circadian rhythms and change who sleep works. Serotonin contributes to feeling happy – and women tend to produce only about half of what men produce.
5. There are Structural Differences in Girls’ and Boys’ Brains
The brain itself is different in girls and boys. The hippocampus, the memory center of the brain, is larger in girls than in boys and has more neural connections which allow for more sensory input in a given time (bandwidth, so to speak) and can process subtle emotional signals better than boys. Girls will be more aware of what it going on (“sensorial information”) in their environment from all of the senses and will remember it longer than boys, and will be able to describe it in more detail.
But boys get much more information visually than from the other senses. Boys have visual centers which see motion and small details, whereas girls see differences between colors more distinctly – in fact almost ten percent of males can’t see discern the color red, but the incidence of color blindness is only one-half of one percent for women.
6. Perceptions of Space and Motion
Boys are typically concrete, spatial thinkers who respond to what they see (grey matter is “information and action processing”) and may disregard other sensory inputs as distracting - such as when they stop listening when they are in visual "search and scan' mode - in order to increase their ability to focus on visual input. (Grown men do this, too)
Boys will tend to interpret the world as being in motion and having objects moving through it, while girls see a much more static and permanent world.
To boys, the universe is Newtonian in motion, and therefore ballistics (in the literal meaning of the word) define both objects and people – things move along arcs until they hit something. They will throw anything just to see how it works - they can't help it.
(The male brain is designed to test and practice this from very early childhood, if you haven't noticed....)
Girls tend to see a Newtonian world where an object at rest will remain at rest. The natural state of the physical world favors discernment of momentum for boys, and inertia for girls.
However when exposed to new things in their environment, it is the boys who tend to touch, and girls who tend to observe what happens.
7. Verbal and Language Skills are Distributed Differently
Girls also have verbal centers across both hemispheres of the brain, while boys have their verbal centers only in the left hemisphere, and boys also have a lot fewer connections between verbal centers and emotional and memory centers. Girls also have more verbal centers in their brains.
Because of this, girls will use more words than boys, talk about a larger range of things than boys, and will talk more often than boys. They will also typically be better at combining words. Girls begin school with higher verbal skills than boys and they also gain language skills faster than boys as they get older, which increases the differences.
In 2015 the difference between male and female verbal SAT scores was less than 1%. But math scores on the SAT favored males by 6%, and in the writing component girls outscored boys by about 3%.
Another example: girls are better in comprehension in areas where there is language complexity, but boys are more able to visualize 3-dimensional objects as a whole when actually viewed from a new angle.
8. Physical Aggression is Far More Likely in Boys.
Boys display more (much more) real physical aggression (actual contact with another person) than girls from a very early age, and maintain a higher level through adulthood.
Girls present more "relational aggression" - which is hurting others emotionally through communicative media, social groups, or exclusion.
Sadly, our socio/political culture pushes an agenda that boys and girls are not functionally different in mental and brain functions - or different in anything for that matter. It's simply not true and it isn't helpful to our profession. But both boys and girls deserve to learn and grow - and understanding real differences between the sexes can help.