Why Women Worry So Much
By Andrea Thompson, LiveScience Staff Writer 28 September 2007 10:15 am ET
Scientists have known that on the whole, females of all ages tend to worry more and have more intense worries than males. Women also tend to perceive more risk in situations and grow more anxious than men.
Now we know why.
Women are more likely than men to believe that past experiences accurately forecast the future, according to two new studies.
The research, involving both 3- to 6-year-olds and adults of both genders, tested the extent to which participants' thought that worry can be caused by thinking that a bad event that happened in the past could happen again in the future. (This skill, in its simplest form, is critical to social understanding as it is important to making decisions and assessing risk.)
For the first study, subjects listened to six stories that featured characters harmed by another person or animal in the story. Many days later, the character felt worried or changed their behavior when confronted with the same wrongdoer who had hurt them before. (For example, if one little boy stole a toy from another, the child might be worried when he saw that boy again and hide the new toy he was playing with.)
The second study was the same, except that the person or animal the character ran across later only looked similar to the one that had harmed them before.
At the end of each story, the participants were asked to explain why the character was worried or changed their behavior.
Females, both children and adults, were more likely to use uncertainty to explain the character's reaction, that is, they tended to explain the reaction in terms of events that might happen versus those that will happen, the researcher reported. They also tended, more than males, to predict that the characters who encountered the new character who looked similar to the wrongdoer would feel worried because they thought the new character would also do them harm.
The studies, detailed in the Sept./Oct. issue of the journal Child Development, also found that children increasingly made these kinds of past-to-future connections as they got older, which yields insight into their cognitive development.
"These results are significant because they reveal that knowledge about the impact of past-to-future thinking on emotions and behaviors develops during the preschool years," said study author Kristin Lagattuta of the University of California, Davis.
Men and Women Really Do Think Differently
By Bjorn Carey, LiveScience Staff Writer 20 January 2005 02:12 pm ET
Men and women do think differently, at least where the anatomy of the brain is concerned, according to a new study.
The brain is made primarily of two different types of tissue, called gray matter and white matter. This new research reveals that men think more with their gray matter, and women think more with white. Researchers stressed that just because the two sexes think differently, this does not affect intellectual performance.
Psychology professor Richard Haier of the University of California, Irvine led the research along with colleagues from the University of New Mexico. Their findings show that in general, men have nearly 6.5 times the amount of gray matter related to general intelligence compared with women, whereas women have nearly 10 times the amount of white matter related to intelligence compared to men.
"These findings suggest that human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behavior," said Haier, adding that, "by pinpointing these gender-based intelligence areas, the study has the potential to aid research on dementia and other cognitive-impairment diseases in the brain."
The results are detailed in the online version of the journal NeuroImage.
In human brains, gray matter represents information processing centers, whereas white matter works to network these processing centers.
The results from this study may help explain why men and women excel at different types of tasks, said co-author and neuropsychologist Rex Jung of the University of New Mexico. For example, men tend to do better with tasks requiring more localized processing, such as mathematics, Jung said, while women are better at integrating and assimilating information from distributed gray-matter regions of the brain, which aids language skills.
Scientists find it very interesting that while men and women use two very different activity centers and neurological pathways, men and women perform equally well on broad measures of cognitive ability, such as intelligence tests.
This research also gives insight to why different types of head injuries are more disastrous to one sex or the other. For example, in women 84 percent of gray matter regions and 86 percent of white matter regions involved in intellectual performance were located in the frontal lobes, whereas the percentages of these regions in a man's frontal lobes are 45 percent and zero, respectively. This matches up well with clinical data that shows frontal lobe damage in women to be much more destructive than the same type of damage in men.
Both Haier and Jung hope that this research will someday help doctors diagnose brain disorders in men and women earlier, as well as provide help designing more effective and precise treatments for brain damage.