Terrain of the Brain

Why do women generalize and men specialize?

My last post on the multi-thinking abilities of most women was viewed as anti-man by some readers.  I’d like to make it clear that the post wasn’t intended to offend the male gender, but merely to point out that most (but not all) women’s brains are wired to think more than one thought simultaneously.  To be fair, though, today I’m going to bring attention to the fact that most (but not all) men are better at specializing in something than most (but not all) women.

As with many guys, my boyfriend really likes older, classic cars.  And he just doesn’t like them; he’s a semi-expert in them.  Whenever we’re driving on the road somewhere, he’s always able to point out a classic car’s model, make, year, manufacturer’s details, you name it.  With me, on the other hand, I just see a classic car from the ’50s, and it beats me what specific type of car it may be.  I look at a car as part of a larger category–cars or (even worse according to my boyfriend) as a means of transportation.  I see the forest for the trees while he sees the trees.

There’s an explanation for men often specializing in a single subject while women tend to do better in generalizing.  Men are wired to have their talents concentrated in one area of the brain in contrast to women whose talents are spread out over different areas.  To put it simply, men’s brains are more specialized and women’s brains are more balanced.   According to some, this promotes the argument that men are better at specializing as doctors and women are better at generalizing as nurses, that men are better at becoming experts seeing things in a specific field and women are better at becoming managers overseeing things in general.

Not meaning to ruffle any feathers, but there are always exceptions to the general rule.  There are a number of men who are multi-thinking generalists just as there are a number of women who are single-minded specialists.  Male nurses and female doctors do exist.  Let’s face it–gender characteristics don’t necessarily apply to everyone.  Whether men and women follow the majority or the minority of their gender, why can’t we just compromise and say that their ways of thinking make humankind better as a whole?

Why, indeed.


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