For centuries we have had many stereotypes about sex, race, ethnic background and gender, but are they true? Are a majority of women really bad at math or are men supposed to be tough machines that are supposed to barely feel emotion? Do these things have a biological impact on us or are they just standards our society has made up?
Through recent studies psychologists have found that gender has an influence on human cognitive functions, such as emotions, memory, and perception(Cahill, 2006). This means that Men, Women and everyone in between, brains function in different ways. Men and women seem to have different ways that they encode memories, emotions, recognize faces, and how they solve certain problems.
This shows that people’s brains are structured in a gender-specific manner(Cosgrove et al., 2007). Some scientists think the reason for this is because of differences in people’s Fractional Anisotropy(FA) values. This is thought to be associated with people’s developing process of axon caliber, myelination and fiber organization in their nerve fiber pathways. Many researchers have found out that FA does have an effect on brain development and aging but it’s a very subtle change(Westlye et al., 2009).
While in the world of neuroscience, many people believe that any observed sex-associated differences in cognition and behavior in humans is due to cultural influences in our society. Even Shah, PhD, now Stanford professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and of Neurobiology said, “They’re innate rather than learned at least in animals so the circuitry involved ought to be developmentally hard-wired into the brain.
These circuits should differ depending on which sex you’re looking at.”(Goldman 2017). In animal research people have found that their research showed that sex-based differences ascribed to people aren’t like how animals work with their gender differences. This was shown in a study where 34 rhesus monkeys were given a basket of toys, the male monkeys preferred toys with wheels than toys that were plushy and the females did the opposite.
Most of the researchers tried to see the results as an explanation to them being the normal way in general animal society but, when they did the same experiment with babies 9 to 17 months olds, an age that children show not that many signs of gender norms, the results showed the opposite (Goldman, 2017). This showed that at one point in time the stereotypes we put in society might have been slightly true but from how brains work now most of those stereotypes are not biological but, apart from our society and how we raise our kids.
Even with other studies on how well adults abilities were women’s reading comprehension and writing ability consistently were extremely better than men’s on average. They also out performed men in fine motor coordination, perceptual speed and how well their long term memory was. While men could juggle more items with work memory. Also men’s visuospatial skills, visualizing with complicated dimensional shapes what’s happening, was exceptionally better than women’s(Goldman, 2017).
Many researchers have realized that the reason for this is the development of children in their early childhood. Even Halpern, a professor emerita of psychology at Claremont McKenna College, said “You see sex differences in spatial-visualization ability in 2- and 3-month-old infants.”(Goldman, 2017) Even though this is an amazing discovery for the biological differences in men and women there are many downsides to either gender.
Women are more likely than men to experience: clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. While men are more likely to become alcoholics or drug-dependent. Not only that, but men also are 40 percent more likely to develop schizophrenia, 10 times more likely than females to have some type of dyslexia ,and four more times likely to be diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum(Goldman, 2017). Scientists have tried to find out what causes these statistics and with the help of brain imaging studies we have found many things physically different with the brain between the two main genders.
For men their total brain size is generally bigger than a woman’s and this is also the case for a man’s amygdala which is the part of the brain that is associated with experiencing emotions and the re-election of those experiences. Women though have big hippocampuses which is a big part of learning and memorization. This shows how subtly different the same species can be and the bigger understanding of what the difference is between gender and sex (Goldman, 2017).
To go even deeper into this topic in the early 2000s Larry Cahill, Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior School of Biological Sciences at the University of California, scanned the brains of men and women to view the emotions of people while watching aversive films (Goldman, 2017). These films were supposed to cause a strong negative emotion in the amygdala which is an almond shaped part of the brain that is found in each brain hemisphere. The activity was normal in brains when they were viewing the film.
The only difference was only womens left amygdala was active at that time and for men it was their right. Since then it has been confirmed from other professors also doing this study that this is true (Goldman, 2017). Many researchers thought these were “alarm bells” because we still don’t have a full understanding of what the difference and purpose is between the amygdalas. Since the finding of this it has baffled researchers and has brung up the question: is there any more we don’t know about what happens to the human brain and how your gender can affect how your brain works?
So in 2014 the University of Pennsylvania researchers got 428 males and 521 females and imaged their brains. They found that the female brains were consistently more coordinated in activities between hemispheres, when the male brains were more coordinated within local brain regions.
This helped prove what many smaller studies tried to prove which is that’s the corpus callosum, the white matter that crosses and connects the hemisphere, is much bigger in women than men’s (Goldman, 2017). After all this research there’s still the big question: why are there these differences and what has caused them? Many researchers have a theory but, it’s not sure if the theory is completely right or not. Many think that it has to do with hormones, like testosterone and estrogen. They think that these hormones not only help shape our bodies, but help shape our brains.
We have now seen what the biological part of gender is but, what about the stereotypes? Do they affect the way we think and how we may live our lives? Do they really have a bigger impact then we might think compared to the biological side of gender? Through human history stereotypes have caused many problems for people. Research shows that these stereotypes can cause inter group hostility and give many toxic prejudices around sex, race, age and multiple other social groups (Shpancer, 2018).
An few examples of some of these stereotypes are: a majority of women in our society are perceived as weak when there plenty of very strong women, but because of these stereotypes they still will but perceived as weak in men’s eyes or a majority of men are seen in our society that they can’t do hair or makeup and if they do the are perceived as “not a real man”. These people who don’t fit in these norms face doubt, ridicule, or shund for failing to comply with these stereotypes (Shpancer, 2018).
From these horrible stereotypes some people have thought of a middle of the biological side of gender and the stereotypical side of gender. They think that biology can shape society and our society can shape what biology means. That we have these biological factors of how our brains work, but because of our society it can change how we think (Shpancer, 2018). After thinking about this theory though where do stereotypes come from, when a majority of them from a biological standpoint are wrong.
Well according to the social role theory, many of these stereotypes are from disagreeing distribution between men and women into are to main roles in our society: the home and work (Eagly, 1987, 1997; Koenig and Eagly, 2014). This has caused for centuries a gender division in labor and this has existed in a lot of other cultures not just ours. In the labor world there are 2 different types of work concepts.
One is the stereotypical way that men are characterized as, taking charge and being in control while the other one is how women in the workforce are characterized as, communal and want to build a relationship in the workplace. These concepts were introduced by Allie Bakanas the fundamental ways of human behaviors (Eagly, 2019). These ways of thinking that men are the aggressive go gets that get what they want while women are the community that is loving and caring are what most research’s like Allie Bakanas think these main stereotypes came from.
These researchers actually thought that this stemmed from a social perception that’s considered fundamental to gender stereotypes (Eagly, 2019). In this day in age most people think that gender stereotypes involve more about people’s traits and attributes. Researchers find most of their answers about stereotypes are from responses to questionnaires asking about the description of men or women while using a bi-polar adjective scale. They might also give a person certain traits or characteristics and ask the person which of the characteristics do you think go to a woman and which to a man ( McCauley and Stitt, 1978).
Researchers have also tried other studies of gender stereotypes by using people’s reaction time measure associations between a stereotyped trait and a gender group (Greenwald and Banaji, 1995). In the world labor in the 1967, 36% of US households who were married were made up male providers that worked outside of the home. While females were mostly the caregivers working in the home. This has changed a lot since then , now only 19% of the US households still have these rolls (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017).
Nowadays more women have increasingly pursued more traditional male careers and there are a majority more women in roles of power and authority now. An example that proves this is threat today’s women hold about 40% of management positions in the US (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). Also more men are trying to take on a family caretaker role and the average number of hours a father spends with their child in a week has increased from 2.5 to 8 hours in the last 40 years (Pew Research Center, 2018).
The role of parenting has also changed for men. Most men in this day in age perceive parenting as an extremely important role in society. Even though it’s amazing that these roles are getting more diversity there’s still a long way for us to go. Sociological researchers have found that even though there are a lot more women in more competitive jobs they are still underrepresented in these jobs, while they are over represented in more social jobs that require interpersonal skills (Cortes and Pan, 2017).
They have also found out that even though men’s home/family responsibilities have increased, a majority of the time women continue to have a disproportionate amount of work and women have a greater childcare requirements when it comes to the kids (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016). Researchers have also found that there is a major conflict in findings with people’s self-characterization, especially when it comes to women’s self views at theiragency. Findings by Andrea Abele in 2003, a researcher at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, self perceived agency depends on their career successes.
There has been some indication of this for a long time, but it’s still not 100% sure if this theory is true. Recently though a recent analysis had found that women’s self perceptions on community has decreased over time, but perceptions on agency has been pretty stable since the 1990s Donnelly and Twenge, 2017).
This increase in the workforce for women has become a general domain for them. Changes like this show implications that our society is changing and this can impact their expectations, aspirations, and actual experiences. This has caused the results of women to become more attentive than men in the workplace and switch “gender roles” and these roles might become the new way of life for humans.