Are Men and Women Really Wired Differently?

According to John Gray’s book from the 1990s, men are from Mars, and women are from Venus. In other words, we’re so different, we may as well be aliens from different planets.

While the physical differences are obvious, the question as to whether men and women have different natural skills and talents has raged on for decades.

In a study on personality differences in 2001, it was found that women consistently thought of themselves as warmer, friendlier and more anxious and sensitive to their feelings than did men. Men, on the other hand, consistently saw themselves as more assertive and open to new ideas.

These results have been repeated in later studies, including one in which participants were asked to rate someone they knew, instead of doing self-evaluation.

In a 2013 study using brain imaging, it was found that men’s brains seem to be wired to have better motor skills, while women’s seemed focussed on combining both logical and intuitive thinking. These results are interesting, because they fly in the face of previous ideas that men are logical, while women are emotional.

Research suggests that gender differences begin very early on in life; whether because of nature or nurture, it’s not clear. In a 2013 study on 3-year-old twins, boys were rated as more active, while the girls were rated as shyer, and having more control over their attention and behaviour.

Neuroscientist Daphna Joel says that while she has found a few differences in men and women’s brains, generally “there is no sense in talking about male nature and female nature,” Joel says. “There is no one person that has all the male characteristics and another person that has all the female characteristics. Or if they exist they are really, really rare to find,” she continues.

In other words, human brains are so different and unique to each person, that it’s hard to generalise based on gender alone.

Instead, it’s important to acknowledge that while there may be a few differences in how our brains work, the similarities between men and women far outweigh the differences. So, maybe we are from the same planet after all – or at least neighbouring planets.