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Cognitive Gender Differences (page 2)

By — Gender Differences Special Edition Contributor
Updated on May 17, 2010

Spatial Skills

If women are stronger in verbal skills, men seem to have some advantage in certain spatial skills. One study found that 3- and 6- month old girls had more responsive left cerebral hemispheres and the same age boys had more responsive right hemispheres [10]. In right-handed individuals, the language center of the brain is focused on the left side while spatial skills are found in the right hemisphere.  Thus, the finding from Shucard & Shucard may help us to understand why a little girl will want to TELL you about something she is excited about, whereas some boys may prefer to SHOW you what they are excited about. A little boy will easily be able to learn to throw a ball and, since he is good at it, he is likely to throw other objects as well. If this is a problem, give him bean bags, soft foam balls, or other throwing toys designed to travel slowly and land softly. Girls may need somewhat more encouragement to throw. You can make a game out of it by helping your daughter to toss her toys into the toy box. 

Mental rotation, the ability to see dimensional objects in your mind and to be able to match the original object with a picture of a rotated view of the same object, is the primary spatial skill at which males are frequently better than females [11, 12]. A similar skill which shows an unmistakable male advantage is spatiotemporal tasks. Here, visual displays are moving similar to those in computer games [11]. If you want your daughter to learn the skills involved with computer games, you might begin by selecting games which involve strategies rather than quick reactions.

Perceptual speed is a visual task where girls have the edge. This task involves matching objects, pictures, and the like [4]. One area in school where this skill is important is in proofreading. Girls are better at finding errors than are boys. You can help your son learn this skill by playing “I spy” or doing puzzles which involve finding the differences in pictures.

Learning Differences

As a result of these and other brain differences, males and females approach the learning process from different viewpoints. Most girls will begin with words, either spoken or written, as their primary source of information. Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to learn better when they can manipulate or view the material. If a teacher begins a lesson by talking or by asking students to read, young boys may be less likely to understand the material. If a teacher begins a lesson by asking students to watch a demonstration or by having the students attempt a skill, some girls may find it difficult to understand what is asked of them. Neither approach is better than the other, just different.  You can help your children get ready for school by giving your son directions for a task and showing your daughter what you want her to do. In both situations, if your child is unsuccessful, point out where the problem lies and help your child develop the skills necessary to do the task.

A student who has trouble remembering or understanding what the teacher says is likely to be identified with an auditory processing problem. However, if a student has trouble retaining information from observing a demonstration, that student is rarely identified with a kinesthetic processing problem. Generally, verbal and auditory skills are identified as most important in the classroom. Students who learn in different ways, usually boys, may be identified as learning disabled even though they can learn very well using other modalities. Families can help all children prepare for school by providing learning opportunities with a variety of approaches.

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