Re: Men and women are different
"It is time to face up to a very simple fact. Men and women are not the same. They do not think the same way. Much of this is determined by the amount of testosterone they are exposed to during development before birth. Women have testosterone, just not as much as men. It varies quite a lot. This has a direct impact on how the brain develops. It is a very powerful neurochemical."It’s worth considering the import of this further. The default human brain is female. Normally the brain of a male fœtus is created by changes wrought by testosterone in the final weeks before birth. As such, there are things that can go “wrong” and it is this that creates brains that are on the autism spectrum.
I put wrong in scare quotes because from my POV as a mild Asperger “sufferer”, I’m happy with what I am. I subscribe to my psychologist friend’s prescription for a contented life, the Popeye Principal. “I yam what I yam”. For descriptions of autism in positive terms, rather than the usual negative terms, see Simon Baron-Cohen’s writings.
Some female fœtuses also undergo the brain transformation that male fœtuses and some of those can also land them in the autism spectrum. Some male fœtuses do not receive the androgens required for possessing a male brain. Thus there is a variety of possible brain types though the different types shade into each other.
The female brain has on average a much thicker corpus collosum than the male brain. This organ connects the two hemispheres of the brain so females have the advantage over males integrating the differing functions that the left and right hemispheres are responsible for. Neurotypical (NT) brains of both types have more than one area of brain tissue active while processing emotions. Aspies have either only one area active, or much diminished activities in other areas when compared to NTs. That area in both aspies and NTs is activated when doing logical stuff such as mathematics.
Fairly obviously if you are restricted to using logic and reasoning to and lack the emotional processing ability, you are going to perceive the world in a very different way to NTs. Full-on Aspergers makes life extremely difficult. My oldest son is one such. Milder Aspergers such as myself and my younger son manage to get by pretty well because we can deduce NT reactions in most situations.
A “cartoon” that illustrates this is where the wife asks: “Does this dress make me look fat?” The typical aspie response is: “Yes!” if it does. Most of us learn pretty quickly that’s the wrong response unless you want to give your wife the shits. In more complex social interactions, the amount of reasoning required to work out the required NT response becomes too much. It’s this that makes the typical aspie more stressed than typical NTs.
Difficulties arise from not understanding that these brain differences profoundly affect how we perceive the world and behave in social interactions. Telling an aspie all he/she needs to do is “get in touch with your emotions” is quite futile. The aspie is in touch with them. It’s just that the part of the brain that’s generating them is not the specialist machinery NTs possess and consequently very often aspies cannot convey their feelings in words. As Mark Twain noted, you cannot educate iron into gold. And this goes for the other brain-types as well. Telling someone to become superb at mathematics when their brain is oriented toward interpreting the world by dancing, or raising children is equally futile.
There was some interesting research done many years ago that showed performance in the STEM subjects could be improved by several methods, including segregating male and female students. Performance in non-STEM subjects showed no changes as a result of using those methods.
Rita Carter’s Mapping the Mind is an accessible though somewhat dated account of these and many other issues related to the human brain.