Though we often hear that there are some significant differences in behaviors and thought patterns between men and women, the truth is much more complicated. Often, researchers will overstate and statistically smooth the differences found between men and women to increase their likelihood of getting published. Moreover, preconceived biases can affect the way researchers analyze and interpret the data, leading to a higher potential for false conclusions (Rippon et al., 2021). Additionally, when differences are found, we must ask ourselves: how many are directly related to neurobiological differences in brain architecture and function between these two sexes, and how many are due to culture and socialization?
There is evidence to suggest that males, on average, have larger grey matter tracts in portions of the brain related to visuospatial reasoning and motor control, while females have denser collections of nervous tissue in brain areas important for memory, facial recognition, and verbal processing (Zhang et al., 2020). Sex differences are also seen in the prevalence of neuropsychiatric conditions. Autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and intellectual disabilities occur at a significantly higher rate in men, while depression, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s disease occur more frequently in women (Green et al., 2018; Mielke, 2018).
The architectural, cognitive, and behavioral sex differences seen between men and women likely occur due to differing hormones, genetic, and epigenetic compositions during development (Pletzer, 2015). What is so interesting about this field of study is the interplay between these biological and social factors. While we don’t fully understand how much of our biology is dependent on social factors, it is safe to assume that both play a role in the sex differences we see play out on a daily basis.