This Week’s Mtg: Do Men & Women Think Differently?

This sure-to-be-lively discussion will touch on neuroscience, sociology, psychology, relationships, and who knows what else.   Like our upcoming topic on racism, we’ll need to be extra careful to respect other people’s’ varying experiences and points of view, and be willing to examine where our own assumptions come from.

People naturally resist the notion of inherent, hard-wired differences between men and women.  Such opinions seem to fly in the face of our ideas of equality.  They also seem a little too…deterministic.  We don’t want to excuse bad behavior or enshrine discriminatory stereotypes.

Still, there do appear to be some differences between men’s and women’s brains and the ways they perceive and ponder the world.  It’s just not clear (to anyone yet) how significant those difference are or what they mean in practice.   In recent years there has been a rash of books and articles on the differences between men’s and women’s brains that claim those differences – not culturally determined differences — drive much of the variance in M/F psychologies that we see every day.  They cite differences in brain structure and neurochemicals, especially certain hormones.   In turn, these views have spurred a counter reaction from scientists and others who believe the differences are exaggerated.

Ultimately though, maybe for our purposes it doesn’t matter if the cutting edge of science is focusing on “nature or nurture.”  We can discuss both, since they both matter.    On Thursday,  I’ll do a very brief and sketchily-informed review of the claims for M/F brain differences.   Then I’ll open it up for debate over these age-old question of what the other gender is thinking, and why.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  1. In your personal experience, do men and women think differently?
  2. Are those differences related to how M/W handle emotions, aggression/anger, stress, interpersonal relationships, analytic thinking?
  3. Do you see those differences as varying by:  Age or generation?  By educational level, by region, by family background?
  4. Are you sure these differences are real, and not just the result of stereotyping?
  5. What might explain these differences, if they are real?
    —  Nurture:  Culture, socialization, discrimination?
    —   Nature: Genes, brain structures, hormonal differences?
    —   Both together: Obviously, but how??
  6. In your experience, do different cultures have the same M/F differences in  thinking?  Why?
  7. Lastly: How resistant is all of this to change as America moves through the 21st century?  For example:
    —  How could “male thinking” (assuming it exists) evolve in a more knowledge-based society where aggression may pay fewer dividends?
    —  How might female thinking (same assumption) evolve if they are less dependent on men?

LINKS FOR BACKGROUND:

Remember to be on good behavior!  See you there.

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