Is it true that boys are better at math while girls are better at languages? Keep watching to find out, because we bring you 10 facts you probably didn’t know about gender and intelligence.
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8. Size doesn’t matter
An average adult brain volume is 1260 cubic centimeters for men and 1130 cubic centimeters for women. You might think that this is proof enough of male superiority, but when it comes to intelligence – size doesn’t matter. Although men’s brains are bigger in size, women have a thicker and more complex brain cortex and larger cortical surface area - which makes up for the smaller size of the brain. A thicker cerebral cortex is associated with intellectual ability, particularly with memory, sensory input, learning, and decision making.
There is one advantage to having a bigger brain though. Even though greater brain size is not positively correlated with higher general intelligence scores, it does give men one advantage – it makes them better at visuo-spatial tasks. For example, men outperform women on spatial tasks such as the ability to identify how a 3-D object would appear if rotated in space. This is explained by the fact that men have evolved greater spatial abilities as a result of certain behaviors, such as hunting, while women have evolved to devote more mental energy to remembering locations of food sources in relation to objects.
7. The role of hormones
Beside the difference in size, male and female brains also have different neurochemical mechanisms. Female hormone estrogen plays a major role in brain development and has a positive impact on learning and memory. Over 70% of studies that examined the effect of estrogen on cognitive functioning found significant beneficial effects on one or more neuropsychological tests. There is also some evidence that estrogen treatments may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in women who are predisposed to develop it for genetic or environmental reasons.
Male hormone testosterone also plays a big role during development and has been shown to help in the construction of neural networks. The same way estrogen improves memory and learning in women, testosterone has been found to enhance memory recall in men. Multiple MRI studies have shown that higher testosterone levels are related to increased brain activation in the amygdala during visual encoding of memories, which is why testosterone replacement in elderly men can improve brain metabolism. On the other hand, too much testosterone has been linked with lower IQ. While testosterone levels are not the sole determining factor of male intelligence, it has been shown that boys with less cognitive ability are more negatively affected by high testosterone levels. The bottom line is that neither estrogen nor testosterone is directly related to the general factor of intelligence, and there are many other variables that influence the complex interactions between hormones and the brain.
6. Left brain vs. right brain
You’ve probably heard that men are naturally right-brained while women are left-brained. However, the idea that men are more rational and logical because they use the left side of their brain more, while women are more creative and intuitive due to their right-brain dominance has been debunked by science. While it’s true that some brain functions occur in one or the other side of the brain, people don’t actually have a stronger left or right side.
So where did this idea that men are more reliant on the left half of their brain while women prefer their right side come from? The theory can be traced back to research done by American neuropsychologist Roger Sperry in the 1960s. Sperry’s research looked at epilepsy patients who had their left and right brains physically removed for therapeutic reasons and proved that different parts of the brain have different functions. However, the research never suggested that the right half was more "emotional" and the left was more "logical." We can blame pop psychologists and women’s magazines authors for peddling that myth. As far as science is concerned, the idea of 'left-dominant' or 'right-dominant' personality types has no basis in reality. In fact, a two-year long research conducted by neuroscientists at the University of Utah who scanned the brains of more than 1,000 men and women ages 7 to 29 found no evidence that the participants had a stronger left or right-sided brain network.
5. Grey matter vs. white matter
Another difference found between male and female brain is the volume of grey and white matter. Grey matter fills about 40% of the whole brain in humans, and consumes 94% of oxygen..