Men Only Use Half Their Brains?

You know we really shouldn’t believe everything we read, women especially as we have different sized brains. Oh and men only listen with half of their brain so obviously they don’t take everything in….or maybe they only need to use half a brain as their brains are bigger…

There is such a lot of rot out there about gender differences. It’s hard to know what to believe isn’t it? How research gets funded and then reported is not much different from how anything else gets out there, unfortunately. Someone, or a board of someones, either decided to fund it, or publish it, or not. And that decision is governed by what is popular, what sells, what their readers like, what funding is currently available, who is providing the funding and so on.

And the sad fact is, that research that shows there are big brain differences ‘twixt men and women gets lots of publicity and (relatively) lots more funding.

And studies that show there aren’t really any significant differences between genders gets less attention and less funding.

Research tends to reflect societal norms and expectations. And, interestingly, it seems so does how we answer research questions. (Ie women tell researchers they have talked too much or talked the most in a meeting; men tell researchers women did most of the talking in the same meeting, researchers have independently observed that men did most of the talking! We have a societal norm or expectation or bias that women talk a lot (too much?) and that’s is reflected in our answers .

Men and Brains

Back to men only listening with half of their brains…

In 2000, men and women were asked to lie down in a room and listen to a John Grisham story being read. The men showed more activity on their left brain sides while the women showed activity right across their brains. The media went to town with the men don’t listen theme.

What most reporting failed to mention was that this study used only 10 men and 10 women and no other tests (as far as I am aware) have replicated this experiment. In 2004 when four neuro-scientists carried out  a meta-analysis of 14 studies which had data on 377 women and 442 men they couldn’t find any significant difference; men and women showed similar brain activity when using language in listening and talking.

Brain Research

Our body of knowledge about how the brain works is growing all the time. As society ages there is more and more research on keeping the brain active and research seems to be suggesting that what we do can affect how the brain grows and develops. It seems the brain is like a muscle which grows or atrophies according to how it is used. It is not, it appears, a rigid pattern laid down at birth. Which could mean that the impact of how we live, our experiences and learning, affects how the brain looks and how we behave. Which means that because we expect boys and girls do behave differently, give them different opportunities and experiences, their brains may develop differently too.

It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Always look beyond the headline!

Photo credit: Joanie


Posted on April 1st, 2011 by

6 Responses to “Men Only Use Half Their Brains?”

  1. Celia Jones says:

    Ho Hum. I wonder if Mr Willets has read this brilliant reality.

  2. Toby Buckle says:

    A very interesting article. The media does seem to want to push the line that men and women are in different camps when it comes to thinking and communicating and use “research” to back it up.
    My experience is that often these steriotypes don’t match the reality but there is a percieved value in promoting the difference.

    • Jane says:

      Hi Toby, there are differences in how men and women communicate (taken for actual observations of meetings etc) but most of it is presented sensationally and without understanding. I think both genders suffer from stereotyping! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. RebeccaJane says:

    Can I have the references please

  4. RebeccaJane says:


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