It is the brain that sets up the speech differences—the genderlects— of small children, which Deborah Tannen has pointed out. She noted that in studies of the speech of two- to five-year-olds, girls usually make collaborative proposals by starting their sentences with "let's"—as in "Let's play house." Girls, in fact, typically use language to get consensus, influencing others without telling them directly what to do. When Leila hit the playground, she said "Shopping" as a suggestion for how she and her companions might play together. She looked around and waited for a response instead of forging ahead. The same thing happened when another little girl said "Dolly." As has been observed in studies, girls participate jointly in decision making, with minimal stress, conflict, or displays of status. They often express agreement with a partner's suggestions. And when they have ideas of their own, they'll put them in the form of questions, such as "I'll be the teacher, okay?" Their genes and hormones have created a reality in their brains that tells them social connection is at the core of their being.

Boys know how to employ this affiliative speech style, too, but research shows they typically don't use it. Instead, they'll generally use language to command others, get things done, brag, threaten, ignore a partner's suggestion, and override each other's attempts to speak. It was never long after Joseph's arrival on the playground that Leila ended up in tears. At this age boys won't hesitate to take action or grab something they desire. Joseph took Leila's toys whenever he wanted and usually destroyed whatever Leila and the other girls were making. Boys will do this to one another—they are not concerned about the risk of conflict. Competition is part of their makeup. And they routinely ignore comments or commands given by girls.

The testosterone-formed boy brain simply doesn't look for social connection in the same way a girl brain does. In fact, disorders that inhibit people from picking up on social nuance—called autism spectrum disorders and Asperger's syndrome—are eight times more common in boys. Scientists now believe that the typical male brain, with only one dose of X chromosome (there are two X's in a girl), gets flooded with testosterone during development and somehow becomes more easily socially handicapped. Extra testosterone and the genes in people with these disorders may be killing off some of the brain's circuits for emotional and social sensitivity.

Copyright © 2006 by Louann Brizendine

From the book The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.


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