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The science of the sexes

I have to laugh every time scientists come up with another study about the intellect and emotions of animals. "Pet dogs show signs of empathy when owners are sad," they say. Shocker. And "Animals show signs of deductive reasoning." Y'think? I never would've figured out why my horse was pawing at the empty water trough while staring at my house, without that study.

Pam Burke

But nothing makes me laugh more than scientific studies which conclude that men don't understand women. Every time I read about these, all I can think is: "Gads, I hope my tax dollars weren't spent on this. I'd rather they tried proving the age-old myth that people have a hard time seeing in the dark."

Men don't understand women? Really? Men don't understand women even when it's spelled out for them in a story with moving pictures.

I once came home from a weekend trip to find that my husband had watched the chick-flick "What Women Want" all on his own. I thought I was completely shocked to hear this, but no, the complete shock came when I realized that he didn't understand the movie and seemed almost physically incapable of understanding an explanation.

He kept insisting that the movie was about how women want men to act like women — despite my pointing out that the movie was all about how the guy could hear what women think. "And then he acted like a chick," he said.

But everything went right for him when he actually listened to the women, I said. "And the guy kept doing chick stuff," he insisted.

Remember the end, when he couldn't hear their thoughts anymore and he ran into problems and the female lead said that he's not listening to her and then he shut his pie-hole and listened for real and understood and good things happened?

"Huh?" he said.

If the director had wanted it to be about the guy acting like a chick, the guy would've sprouted breasts and got a visit from his Aunt Flow, I said.

Husband wasn't so sure about who Aunt Flow was, but he did figure that breasts — well, now that would've been funny.

So the latest big study to hit mainstream news is about how a group of men were shown photos of the eyes of both men and women displaying various emotions, and they were asked to choose between two words — like angry and scared — to describe each emotion.

The 22 men in the study could readily and accurately name the emotion in some eyes but had a harder time with others. You guessed it, they did better with images of men than with images of women. Two times better. In case you're not good at math, that's significant.

In fact, the study, which was led by Boris Schiffer of LWL-University Hospital in Bochum, Germany, and written up in the journal PLOS ONE, showed that the empathy portion of the men's brains didn't function, at all, when looking at the women's photos.

The men weren't even told which photos were of women's eyes; their brains just instinctively recognized gender and shut down. Pretty consistently.

This leads me to a couple possible conclusions that — and I can't believe I'm about to suggest this — are more sympathetic toward men.

I think they should study the responses to those images in other parts of the men's brains, like the part that responds in terror because maybe — and if you tell my husband, I'll deny it and suggest that you are a liar, liar, pants on fire — men are so afraid of women or of getting the answer wrong they completely blank out on empathy and all the blood that would've gone there rushes to the fight or flight brain area.

The response is similar to what most of us do when we're asked to give a speech and the fear center of the brain twitches with the urge to run away, screaming, but all the thinking areas of the brain go numb.

Or maybe (and more likely) the reaction is stronger in the libido portion of the men's brains. They are guys.

Perhaps in the split second that the men instinctively recognize the femaleness of the eyes, they immediately have libido-based responses to the emotional cues expressed.

Their brains were saying: "Oh, she's angry. Maybe we'll have makeup sex!" "Hmm, this woman is perplexed, probably wondering when she should let me steal third base." "Aw, this woman is sleepy. She obviously wants us to go to bed together."

I'm not saying it's right. I'm just saying that there might be a logical reason for the men's poor empathy responses. And that perhaps women, regular woman, should perform a study on why men don't recognize obvious displays of emotion in women. And then treat the worst cases with electroshock therapy.

That's all I'm saying.

(Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but you scientists are from the seventh planet out from http://viewnorth40.wordpress.com.)

 

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