Gender Differences in Language Abilities: Evidence from Brain Imaging (page 2)
Are there gender differences in reading and language abilities?
- Girls begin to talk sooner and more clearly than boys .
- The average 20-month old girl has twice the vocabulary of the average 20-month old boy .
- Boys are much more likely to be diagnosed with stuttering  and handwriting .
- There are no gender differences in vocabulary knowledge, , but females tend to have more advanced spelling and grammar skills .
What kind of research is being conducted to address questions related to gender differences?
Gender Differences Brain Research Findings
- Girls had greater brain activity in three known language areas in comparison to boys when completing reading comprehension or word meaning tasks.
- Inferior frontal gyrus – an area involved in word meanings and other language functions.
- Superior temporal gyrus on both sides of the brain – involved in sounds of words.
- Fusiform gyrus on the left side of the brain – area involved in the spelling of words and their visual identification.
- Boys, as well as girls, use both sides of their brains for language-related activities, but this is more apparent for girls because their language-related brain activity is stronger. Because the right-side brain activity in boys is weaker, the dominance of their left side is more apparent.
- Girls’ language ability was dominated by auditory/listening areas of the brain for accessing and processing information related to spelling and rhyming.
- Boys’ language ability was dominated by visual areas of the brain for accessing and processing information related to spelling and rhyming.
Why do these differences exist?
- Testing Implications: Boys may perform best when tested in the same sensory modality as what was used for learning the information. For example, if the teacher verbally explains something, a boy would do better with a verbal test than a written test.
- Reading Comprehension Implications: Boys may have to learn by seeing, as well as by hearing. This might be facilitated by parents reading picture books with their young boys, or by older boys reading aloud.
- Implications for Single-Sex Classrooms and Schools: Some have suggested that our finding of gender differences of language processing supports single-sex classrooms. Although there are valid social reasons why people might choose a unisex classroom, using our results to support this position is simplistic.
- Kimura, D. (2000). Sex and cognition. Cambridge, MA: A Bradford Book/The MIT Press.
- Howell, P., Davis, S., & Williams, R. (2008). Late childhood stuttering. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 51(3), 669-687.
- Berninger, V. W., Nielsen, K. H., Abbott, R. D., Wijsman, E., & Raskind, W. (2008). Gender differences in severity of writing and reading disabilities. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 151-172.
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