Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Sexual Paradox

According to The Sexual Paradox by Susan Pinker, the differences between men and women are endless. Men make up 90% of Scrabble champions. How's that? Although women have higher verbal skills, men win, not only at chess, but also at Scrabble. This is the thing. In Scrabble you don't have to spend time attaching meaning to the words. But women have a thicker corpus callosum, and more connections between one side of the brain and the other. So they always commit some of their energy to attaching meaning to words. This is how women are wired. (Oh wait. I don't attach meaning to all my Scrabble words either.)

Anyway, when the male is busy playing Scrabble, with all those letters lined up, his brain is relatively free from the frantic activity which is going on in the female brain, namely attaching meaning to potntial words. How often have you seen a man play Scrabble and he asks the meaning of a word? Nope. Just the score. Men are good at probability, spatial organization and so on, in any case.

So, this is the truth. Men are, on average, better than women, on average, at Scrabble, chess and games which involve risk-taking of any kind. This means that men also contribute 90% of all Darwin Award winners.

Should men lead in decision-making? That depends on whether he is a Scrabble champion or a Darwin Award contestant. But wait, every man has a little of each in him. Men do not make better decisions, but they take greater risks. Their decisions impact more on those around them, but they tend to consider the concerns of those around them less than women do.

In some areas, the risk-taking of a small percentage of men is a great benefit to the human race. Men are, on average, more isolating, systematizing and context independent than women. On the whole, this provides big gains in a few areas, but big losses in other areas. In the family, this means that the man does not always make decisions based on the good of the entire family given the whole context.

When I say, on average, this means that while men and women have the same IQ, on average, there are more men than women who succeed as mathematicians and musicians (these men are not scrambling to make other people's decisions for them) and more men who have ADHD, Down's, Aspergers, dyslexia, and so on. Men are more fragile than women. Women should thank their lucky stars.

This is a brief introduction to the gender differences from Susan Pinker - in my own words and not a book review but a light summary of some relevant ideas.

Sometimes I see men as carrying basketsful of words that women want to have access to. I want to participate in attaching meanings to those words too. We all want to be part of the meaning making activity of being human. Some women feel like the woman who is like the dog who picks up the crumbs under the table. Some women want to pick up a few words found dropped by the wayside. Excuse me, sir, you didn't really need that word, did you? Can I have it? And then, when it has a meaning attached to it, I will give it back to you.


Wayne Leman said...

Very interesting, Suzanne. I think I have observed a fair amount of what Susan Pinker has described. On the other hand, I'm one of that smaller percentage of men who does want to know what words mean. And my wife always beats me at Scrabble. We still complement each other, but most of the time not because we are male and female.

Thanks for this interesting post.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, well I was a little tongue in cheek there but Pinker did say something to this effect. I am sure that men want to know what words mean. But perhaps many women cannot access words as easily without knowing what they mean. Something like that. Maybe the same for you.

However, the differences are not really that great. They have been much exaggerated.