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Jewish World Review Oct. 10, 2003 / 14 Tishrei, 5764

Tom Purcell

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Men and women and brains | Michael Gurian has a radical idea: that men and women are different.

In his book, "What Could He Be Thinking? How a Man's Mind Really Works," Gurian, a therapist and social philosopher, cites decades of neurobiological research to demonstrate his point. (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR. )

See, based on radioactive imaging and magnetic imaging, science is able to show that the male and female brain work very differently, which is why men and women are very different.

Take listening. One brain imaging study shows that men listen with only one side of their brain, whereas women use both. With all that interconnectedness going on, it's no wonder women remember everything we said from the moment they met us, whereas we can't remember what were we supposed to pick up at the store.

Another brain study shows that women can listen to two separate conversations at the same time, whereas men can barely follow one, particularly when it involves feelings or the spring sale at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

The male brain takes in less sensory detail than a woman's. That's why we don't notice dust, which apparently involves some kind of fine particles that settle on furniture. Men don't care about the inside of the house. We wired for larger spaces, such as the garage, the driveway, the yard.

Gulian concedes that the way humans are raised and nurtured does affect how we think and act, but the majority of what we are is driven by the way our brains are built. Emotions are a good example. The female brain secretes lots of oxytocin, a hormone that enhances the ability to feel emotions at a complex level, whereas we are driven by testosterone, which simplifies our emotions, particularly when they involve cocktail waitresses.

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Despite scientific evidence that men and women are different, there has been a long push to pretend otherwise - to make men more like women. For more than 40 years, says Gurian, liberated women have been brought up to believe that it is men who have to change and men who must respond to the female way of doing things. And, boy, have women been successful.

Whereas male biological programming makes a man more interested in the outside of his house, today's metrosexual males are obsessed with their hair, their clothes and whether or not they should go with a mauve or taupe interior.

Whereas the basic wiring in men's brains direct us to be competitive and to demonstrate self worth by performing and providing for our families, most television shows portray fathers as bumbling idiots. Today's "progressive" fathers are cackling at baby showers and are the first to clap when junior does number two.

While men are embracing their more feminine sides, it is women who are doing all the things men used to. On television, it is the women who get into fistfights and demonstrate their self worth by mowing down the competition.

But Gulian tells us there's a much better way.

Instead of foisting preconceived notions on either sex about what we want men or women to be, why don't we use science to understand what we truly are. Gulian believes we're at a turning point as humans. We have a real opportunity to break free of the ideological shackles that confuse and complicate and hold us down.

Men, it's not a bad thing if our wives or girlfriends want to talk about the day's events. It's a show of affection. If we learned to listen more to what women are really saying, we'd be amazed at the level of thought and concern and consideration they put into most everything they do, and how it usually is a reflection of their love for us.

And, ladies, don't get upset when we mindlessly flip through the channels or do any of a million other mindless things that men do to relax. That's how we relieve stress so we can go out and perform and show our love to you. Hey, it's science.

But don't ask me, ask Michael Gurian. He's the one using neurobiological research to break new ground - to show that men and women are different.

I told you his idea is radical.

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© 2002, Tom Purcell