As
humans, we are anatomically designed to have similar overall body structure. We
are all made up of myriads of different types of cells that eventually come
together to construct various kinds of tissues, which in the end, make up a
number of organ systems.  Simply said, we
are almost identical –  our body operates
the same way, in which they survive merely based on the five vital organs,
which are the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs (Rettner, 2016). Even so,
are we all really identical to one another? Notwithstanding the evidence, there
is in fact a growing consensus among all behavioural discipline that the
difference in the two genders contributes to a number of dissimilarities in
human. Given the research hypothesis, “There
are differences between male and female brains,” this paper seeks to particularly argue whether the statement
should be accepted.

Over
the past years, there have been a list of researchers who had presented studies
in regards of the sex differences in human brains. According to Zillmer, Spiers
and Culbertson (2008), the literatures that exist today mainly depict
morphological and functional differences. However, Zaidi (2010), on the other
hand, reported an addition of two more types of brain variation (i.e.
biochemical differences, and differences in brain maturation and age) in respect
of the different genders. Nevertheless, with hindsight, it is understandable to
infer that the incompatibility of the sources was due to their time gap.

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Some
of the findings that have been commonly addressed by scholars include the brain
size, in which female brains are said to be profoundly smaller and lighter as
compared to male brains (Zaidi, 2010; Zillmer et al., 2008). As foreseen, Bayat
and associates (2012), through their anthropometric study, confirmed the
statement. Additionally, when looking into the biochemical variation, one of
the findings reported was that females, as opposed to their counterparts, are
also found to have a larger amount of serotonin receptors (Zaidi, 2010;
Jovanovic, Lundberg, Karlsson, Cerin, Varrone, et al., 2007), a
neurotransmitter that is responsible for several bodily functions, including
mood. This could explain the occurrence of higher cases of serotonin-associated
psychiatric problems, such that which include depression, anxiety and suicide,
in females as compared to males (Albert, 2015; Simkhada, Van Teijlingen, Winter, Fanning, Dhungel et al., 2015; Afifi, 2007).

That
being so, given all the references of the dissimilarities between men and
female brains in many aspects, I would argue that the hypothesis, which read, “There are differences in male and female
brains,” ought to be accepted due
to the evidences from two standpoints; cultural influences towards brain
development, and the brain lateralization theory.

Cultural Experiences

One of
the perspectives that could explain the hypothesis is the cultural experiences.
The word ‘culture’ itself, as explained by Shiraev and Levy (2014), conveys the
meaning of a set of (1) attitudes, which include beliefs, values and
stereotypes, (2) behaviours, that comprise of norms, customs, traditions, and
habits, and (3) symbols, that represent things of which the meaning are
accorded on them by people. Exclusively, they are shared by a large group of individuals,
and are usually being passed down from one generation to the next. For any
culture, there must be some sort of unique life styles and thinking modes that
its people stand upon.

Let us
take the concept of politeness as an instance. Generally, politeness is a
common phenomenon that happens in all culture. Linguistically, politeness
refers to the way an individual being polite to others using language (Keikhaie
& Mozaffari, 2013). People from different sociolinguistics (this includes
sex-gap) developmentally learn to do different things with language (Xia, 2013).
Female linguistic politeness, in accordance to Gu (2013), could be explained by
one of Robin Lakoff’s major features of the ‘female language’, in which she
described extensively in her book Language
and Women’s Place (1973). Linguistic politeness in females is presumably
caused by their upbringing to do so in order to meet the societal requirements.
Consequently, the ‘female language’ points out the super-polite form of
language (Gu, 2013). The following sentences should illustrate the super-polite
form of ‘female language’:

Man: I don’t want to go out with you.

Woman: I’m
sorry, we’ve just met. We should get to know each other better before we
proceed.

From the exemplar,
it could be seen that the female character is much more polite and uses a rather
indirect way of speaking as compared to the male character.

            In today’s context, linguistic
politeness in females could still be seen in almost every culture, for instance
in Islamic women, who would lower down the intonation and pitch of their voice
when communicating with men (Samarah, 2015).

Taking
everything into account, the ‘female language’ described by Lokaff indicated how
females are prevail in their language. As the given exemplar, in order for
females to maintain their linguistic politeness, they have to have an organized
array of vocabulary. This can be supported by few empirical studies, which
found female’s superiority in language abilities (Davison, 2012; Zellmer et
al., 2008). Fascinatingly, Xia (2013)
explained this superiority in terms of evolutionary psychology, where she
highlighted the two sexes’ difference in social status. Males are shown to be
more privileged in the society compared to females in many researches, for
example in their educational opportunity. Thus, in order to have a better
position in the society, women try to improve themselves, which includes in
terms of their language abilities for that is one of the main means of
communication. What’s more, in our effort of relating the exemplar to neurological
aspect, it could be regarded to the speech areas in the brain, in which females
are found to have significantly larger Broca and Wernicke areas, both of which
are responsible for language, specifically speech production and comprehension
respectively (Davison, 2012; Zaidi, 2010; Zellmer et al., 2008).

Upon reflection, it could be deduced that it is due
to the experiences they collect from when they were being brought up, as well
as their constant determination to be seen as an equal to men, women have the
advantage of surpassing male in the language aspect of life, being that they
are better at organizing and uttering their speech.

Brain Lateralization

From
another viewpoint, the hypothesis could be supported using the brain
lateralization theory. As described by Zillmer et al. (2008), the term ‘brain
lateralization’ means that the two hemispheres of our brain are not exactly
alike. Interestingly, each hemisphere of the brain has functional
specialization, whereby some functions have neural networks that are only
confined in one half of the brain, that is, either left or right. Today, brain
laterality between different genders are increasingly studied by scholars and
researchers, and might also be inferred as one of the reasons responsible for
the sex difference in human’s cognitive styles (Proust-Lima, Amieva, Letenneur,
Orgogozo, Jacqmin-Gadda, 2008; Zillmer et al., 2008).

To better
understand the concept of brain laterality, let us take spatial skills as an
example. Conceptually, spatial skill is one’s ability to understand, reason and
remember the spatial relations among objects and/or locations (Pellegrino,
Alderton & Shute, 1984). In many sources, it was revealed that males are generally
superior in visuo-spatial abilities as compared to their female counterparts.
In resultant to that, most of them would have a stronger rightward
lateralization (Tomasi & Volkow, 2011), which can be structurally reflected
in the increased leftward asymmetry of male’s brain (Zillmer et al., 2008).
Silverman, Choi and Peters (2007) corroborated the anatomical evidence through
their study, which assessed the universality of gender-related spatial
abilities. As expected, their male subjects outperformed the females on a
spatial test of three-dimensional mental rotations (3DMR). In addition to that,
Upadhayay and colleague (2014) also supported the evidence when their research
found that the males were better than the females in tests of visuo-spatial
ability, which include the Visual Reaction Time (VRT) test.

Such
occurrence could be explained by an evolutionary theory, namely the
Hunter-Gatherer Theory of Spatial Sex Differences, which was proposed by
Silverman and Eals in 1992 (Silverman et al., 2007). According to the theory, during
the Pleistocene period, males were first and foremost hunters. They were
trained to have the competence for tracking and hunting animals on random and
unfamiliar routes and at the same time must be able to stay oriented with their
location in order to direct themselves home. This is consistent with Jones,
Braithwaite and Healy’s (2003) Male Foraging hypothesis, which was also proposed
based upon the labour divisions in humans. They supported the hypothesis with
several findings, some of which described men to be more accurate than women at
geographical tasks, such as way-finding in forest areas.

Conversely,
despite the superiority men possess in spatial skills, it is unfair to say that
females have a poor ability to perform such skills. Based on the same theory
mentioned above, females, too, have presumably a certain amount of
extraordinary spatial capabilities for according to the labour divisions in the
olden days, they were gatherers (Silverman, Choi & Peters, 2007).
Obviously, females were able to learn and remember the configurations of plants
and vegetables under a short period of time. However while this might be a
strong argument, studies have found that the women’s spatial skills are best in
solely two aspects of the competency, which are incidental memory (which lets
them to memorize objects’ locations using landmark strategy) and peripheral
perception. All in all, in regards of visuo-spatial abilities, males are still
superior to women, which evidently being shown by the leftward asymmetry of
males’ brain due to their exceptional brain laterality of the spatial function.

To
recap, there has been significant amount of researches that demonstrated the
differences between male and female brains, including in terms of its structures,
functions, biochemical differences, as well as maturation. However, of the
reading undertaken to date, there is still a gap in knowing the cultural
impacts on human’s brain in regards of gender differences. It is recommendable that
future researchers and scholars make this paper as a starting point to further
investigate this particular area. In conclusion, the hypothesis, which reads, “There are differences in male and female
brains,” is failed to be
rejected. This paper had supported it with arguments from two viewpoints, which
are cultural experiences, and brain lateralization. 

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