Friday, July 25, 2008

The Male/Female Brain Conundrum

Tomorrow we leave for a family reunion in this idyllic setting: the Michigan woods. To my husband, this simply means: wake up on Saturday morning and go to Michigan. To me, it means endless lists, arrangements, decisions--and all for one day. For example, we have five pets. Four of them can stay home and be tended by our nice neighbor--but one (our hyper dog) needs to be boarded so that he doesn't tear apart the house when we're gone. I need to make sure they all have proper food and that the windows are open the right amount and no doors will slam shut and lock them into a room with no food or litter box.

I have other lists, too, that look like this: BOYS' PACKING; NECESSITIES; DIRECTIONS TO HOTEL and BACKPACK SUPPLIES; FINAL CHECKLIST; etc. Why do I make all these lists and agonize over them? Well, for one thing, if I didn't, no one would--I live in a house full of men.

I attended a lecture two years ago about the current research into the brain--primarily the differences in the way males and females learn and process information. Because the structure of the female brain is actually more complex than the structure of the male's, women are able to consider more possibilities in a given situation--hence the lists. Men's brains are streamlined. They make decisions. They say things like, "Here's how it is: period." Women, at least women like me, agonize over decisions forever because they can't always see which option is the best.

Ironically, this is one of the things experts say makes girls and boys of equal intelligence perform differently on multiple-choice tests. Boys will read the options, decide the answer is A, and mark A. Girls will read them, narrow it down to A and C, and then waste time worrying over which is correct.

It's not surprising, then, that women often take control of things like trips or parties, because they'll look aghast at their husbands and say, "But you're not considering this! Or this!" and the husbands will look back with bleak expressions, thinking "Here we go again."

It's biology that does this to us; knowing that, I made my lists of options and then gave them to my male family. "I came up with seven possibilities for our lodging," I said. "They all have different advantages. You decide."

And they did--in about one minute.


Jody said...

Yep. My husband doesn't make lists; I do. I have a huge one for our one day/night trip tomorrow & a bigger one for a 3 day trip coming up.

Julia Buckley said...

And he probably things you're nuts, right? Does he ever use words like "obsessive?" :)

Clair Dickson said...

I let my hubby take care of his own stuff-- if he forgets something, that's his problem. He can take care of himself.

Julia Buckley said...

That's a good policy--but what about the shared responsibilities?

©Hotbutton Press said...

And what about the kids?

The best analogy I ever heard for brains is that men's brains are waffles (all those cute little compartments;) and women's are a bowl of spaghetti.

Anonymous said...

My dad, now 77, was (is?) a big list maker. Wouldn't leave the house without one. I don't remember my mom making a list except for a grocery list. I used to make lists, but not so much any more. My life is a lot simpler and it's only me. But I'm a *big* note-taker in meetings and often jot down 'to do' items in the margins so I don't forget something I've committed to do.

Julia Buckley said...

Great analogy! I'll have to share that one with my husband.

Jwhit, my dad is a big list maker, too, and a very organized person (he's an engineer). He said he got into the habit of being precise in college. BUT our lecturer pointed out that there are always exceptions to the brain structure rule. IN GENERAL men tend to streamline their thinking to the point that they don't focus on small details.

©Hotbutton Press said...

Because they don't notice small details, they can leave crumbs on counters and everywhere else with reckless abandon... and then wonder why women nag! Can you tell how things are at MY house? LOL.

Julia Buckley said...

No kidding! I know that song.