In her challenging new book, “The Male Brain,” Louann Brizendine, M.D. seeks to understand men from a neurological point-of-view. She looks to the understanding of men’s brains to understand the differences between men and women from looking at the brain and hormonal differences between the sexes.
Dr. Brizendine first takes a look at the evolving boy’s brain, and how infant boys and girls differ in information processing through early development. She says that boys’ brains are wired to process information visually, as well as track and chase moving objects through action.
Biologically based, boys tend to focus less on eye contact with their parents in the bonding process than do girls. By the time they’re six months old, girls are bonding by mutual gazing. Girls are “inclined to look long and hard at faces,” whereas boys are looking away at faces to focus on more-visually stimulating objects.
As a result, women tend to be more effective at reading their partner’s faces later in life, and tend be more intuitively oriented towards understanding their mate’s facial expressions than men do.
In play time, boys will choose competitive play, whereas girls choose cooperative play and activities. Boys use play and competition to achieve “victory”, as they are setting and shaping social hierarchy early. It’s really interesting to see cutural messages enhance and develop what is developing neurologically for boys.
Dopamine levels in a boy’s brain – the neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for addiction – is enhanced with rough-and-tumble play, or simulating violence and fighting. Physical and social dominance, achieved by watching other boys and engaging in this play fighting, is a very important developmental activity to negotiate for young boys at this stage (up to age 6). The social determinations made here will affect a boy’s social standing later, in the teen years.