This section is to provide some biological insight into how the male and female brain differ in the processing of stimuli.
Let’s consider hearing.
Women hear in stereo as both ears operate at the same time. Men hear in mono as our ears operate one at a time. This finding was arrived at through the use of an experiment where two similarly sounding words were uttered a quarter of a second apart. The women heard both words while the men only heard one word.
With improvements in brain imaging, it is possible to map out which parts of the human brain are activated when exposed to different kinds of stimuli.
For instance, take how sound is perceived by different parts of the human brain.
Some parts of the brain handle complex or creative tasks while other parts handle basic or rudimentary tasks.
In an experiment involving how human voice is processed by brain, male and female adult participants were exposed to male and female voices and their brain activity was measured.
The results were:
– For males exposed to male voices, the rudimentary brain was activated.
When males heard female voices, the creative brain was activated.
– For females, exposure to either male or female voices only activated the rudimentary brain. Curiously, with the female group, the creative brain was not activated to process human speech.
The implications of these finding are numerous as in real life as we are never exposed to just one sound or one voice. There is a chorus of voices out there!
However, what we interprete depends on which part of the brain is active in a context and how it is loaded. We are cognitive misers – i.e. we take short cuts to lessen the thinking load, else we have to think deeply about everything. However, with the differences in the way our brains are wired between across the sexes, each sex then adopts coping strategies.
For a male:
– when the rudimentary brain is used, concurrently performing multiple but simple tasks seem to be a possibility however, speech may be inhibited to making rudimentary grunting like noises.
An example I like to use is the kind of ‘speech’ a guy who has been woken up in the morning, can muster when his spouse asks him a question or two. Seems to be that grunt like noises prevail.
Once he’s more awake, his creative brain goes to work and his responses are more lucid.
– when the creative brain is active, intense focus on a complex activity is possible provided distractions are minimized else this can disrupt his entire process.
– Having to decipher a female voice and focussing on a complex cognitive activity works out to 2 complex tasks. [and he either gets angry or shuts down or both]
For the female:
– since the rudimentary brain is only required to process speech, the creative brain is freed to attend to other cognitive tasks, unhindered.
Does this help to unravel why women can multi-task? Perhaps, but I suspect that it isn’t the only factor.