The Essential Difference: The Male and Female Brain
Baron-Cohen, Simon, Phi Kappa Phi Forum
The field of sex differences in psychology is not new, though today it enjoys greater academic freedom than in past decades. The 1960s and 70s, while socially liberating, also made an open-minded debate about any possible role of biology contributing to psychological sex differences impossible. Those who explored the role of biology--even while acknowledging the importance of culture--found themselves accused of oppression and of defending an essentialism that perpetuated inequalities between the sexes. It was not a climate in which scientists could ask questions about mechanisms in nature. Today, the pendulum has settled sensibly in the middle of the nature-nurture debate, and scientists who care deeply about ending inequality and oppression can at the same time also talk freely about biological differences between the male and female brain and mind.
A new theory, known as the empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory, claims that the female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy and that the male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems. "Empathizing" means the drive to identify another person's emotions and thoughts and to respond to those with an appropriate emotion. The empathizer intuitively figures out how people are feeling and thus how to treat them with care and sensitivity. "Systemizing" means the drive to analyze and explore a system, to extract underlying rules that govern the behavior of a system, and to construct systems. The systemizer intuitively figures out how things work, or what the underlying rules are that control a system. Systems can be as varied as a pond, a vehicle, a computer, a plant, a library catalogue, a musical instrument, a math equation, or even an army unit. They all operate on inputs and deliver outputs, …
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Publication information: Article title: The Essential Difference: The Male and Female Brain. Contributors: Baron-Cohen, Simon - Author. Magazine title: Phi Kappa Phi Forum. Volume: 85. Issue: 1 Publication date: Spring 2005. Page number: 23+. © 2008 Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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