Thoughts on Believability and “The Male Brain”

Usually, when I think something is too good to be true, it is.

For example, when a guy tells me he wants me to be his future wife having met me within the last thirty-six hours, I usually tell at least one friend that I’m sure it’s “too good to be true” before eagerly reciprocating the sentiment and finding myself devastated two-to-three days later when his undatability surfaces. (See? I may exercise poor judgment–but at least I do it self-consciously.)

Similarly, I got really excited when I first read about this new book, “The Male Brain” by Louann Brizendine.

According to that CNN exerpt, at least, it basically reinforces everything anyone’s ever thought about the differences between male and female behavior: men think more about sex, are visually driven and less sensitive to the nonverbal cues that make women receptive to other people’s emotions. Also, Brizendine cites evidence that, despite their perpetually wandering eyes, men are even more prone to commit deeply to a partner than women are–which reinforces my observations about friends’ long-term relationships in which the guys are sure and the women aren’t.

I’d like to claim that I’m always right, but I’m not. Often, I readily believe things–bad research as well as pre-emptive claims of affection–that a more skeptically minded person wouldn’t.

And I was really happy to readily believe everything that Dr. Brizendine wrote. Until, to my dismay, I had to go and stumble on this Salon piece tearing it apart–and now I feel obligated to readily believe that instead.

Basically the Salon hit piece claims that most of her data is based on 30-odd couples in Newfoundland studied, dubiously, more than ten years ago. It also brings up that certain facts included in the author’s previous book, “The Female Brain,” were so erroneous as to have to be removed from later editions.

Which is too bad. Because I know the “male brain” science stuff can be seen as excusing behavior that’s not ever excusable (aka, as the Salon piece suggests, Tiger Woods couldn’t help but sleep with every pair of breasts on which he laid eyes). But it is also kind of comforting to think that guys’ preoccupation with sex and inability to read emotions isn’t just the female imagination at work.

And I don’t think it is. I don’t think it’s random or false that men are more visual: just think about how many couples you see in which the woman is good-looking and the man isn’t, and how many you see in which it’s the opposite. To think that there’s science behind that phenomenon doesn’t make it any less annoying.

I also think there might be something to this other notion Brezendine writes about that men do actually experience intense emotional responses–even more intense than women–despite the fact that they generally don’t show them. I’ve always been wary of mistaking the male inability to express feelings for an inability to have them.

I’m not sure Brezendine’s research is completely reliable, but on this one I think it’s prudent to give her the benefit of the doubt.


Filed under Huffington Post, Love Life

4 responses to “Thoughts on Believability and “The Male Brain”

  1. Emotionally Responisble Ladybits

    I like the idea of turning to science for these things. What’s more comforting than a spreadsheet of reasons why I can’t communicate properly men. It’s not me, it’s something bigger, and dang it, as long as there is somewhere else to point a finger of blame other than back at myself I’m pointing there first.

    • I agree, ladybits! Lord knows we’ve got enough to beat ourselves up about. I’m happy to let science validate why men can’t understand us šŸ™‚

  2. EP

    Okay, so I just read the Salon piece, and I think it’s right on. That author points out that there’s nothing wrong with investigating differences between the male and female brain – evolutionarily it certainly makes sense that there’d be plenty, and that these differences would affect behavior. But… I think the larger point is that there are social reasons why men act the way they do and double standards for men and women that are socially constructed, that is, not natural, but conventional, and it’s a huge mistake to use science to justify the proliferation of stereotypes or of bad behavior.

    Science, too is developed within a framework and much of it rhetorical, not objective, when reported. So it’s always best to be skeptical of “scientific” results that really just back up the status quo as if there might not be other explanations.

    • As always, really smart point EP. It’s certainly true that science can be valid at the same time that it can be misconstrued. This woman’s research does seem kinda sketchy…but that doesn’t mean there’s not some truth behind a lot of the points she makes.

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