Brain Size in Men and Women

rybMen might seem like they’re from Mars and women from Venus, but our brains are, in fact, far more similar than we once thought. Daphna Joel, a behavioral neuroscientist at Tel Aviv University, compared the gray and white matter of 1400 brain MRI images of men and women and found that while there were some gender distinctions, there was more overlap than disparity. While men tend to have larger amygdalas, an area associated with emotion, the difference is small and highly influenced by the environment (cue nature vs. nurture). And although the left hippocampus, an area associated with memory, is generally larger in men, the data showed significant overlap between the sexes in every region of the brain. Less than 8 percent of the subjects’ brains had all male or all female structures.

Despite the overwhelming overlap between men and women’s brains, the minor differences have long been used to reinforce gender-expectations. But the belief that the sexes innately behave differently is for the most part, a myth. “There is no sense talking about male nature and female nature,” said Joel. “No one person has all the male characteristics and another person all the female characteristics.”

The findings have important implications including debunking the benefits of single-sex education based on supposed innate gender differences, and perhaps even our definition of gender as a social category.

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This article is a part of the Relationships 2016 issue of Whole Life Times.