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The Differences Between Men and Women--Part 1: The Brain and Personality Development

By: Guy Lewis, PhD
Posted: June 9, 2008, from the January 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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During the period of one to 18 months, toddlers experience an emotional stage of development referred to by psychologist Erik Erikson as “trust vs. mistrust.” Erikson posed that there are eight stages of development in the course of a lifetime, with specific tasks to be mastered and goals to be obtained emotionally. During the initial stage, the toddler’s challenge is to find the world to be either a trustworthy place or a place that is not trustworthy. What happens in the brain during this and subsequent periods of development is that connections are formed and significance is given to stimuli associated with the cognitive, behavioral and emotional reaction. What many researchers are positing from early studies on child development is that brain circuitry develops at an exponential rate during these formative years. The stimuli that the toddler/infant is exposed to form some lasting impression somewhere in the brain. Of primary significance during this fertile period of psychosocial evolution are the impressions left upon a “blank slate,” whereby the developing person forms their personal relationship with their environmental world around them.

Young girls develop differently than young boys do, and the same is true of young adolescents of each sex. Because of the interplay of hormonal releases and sex characteristics, there is a difference in the amount of “sense making” that boys and girls experience. Generally speaking, the brain of a young girl develops with the natural DNA blueprint that has been handed to her from the numerous generations in her family that came before her; the same is true with boys. The major difference in the developing brain takes place through the way in which neural connections are formed, as well as the strength of these connections, which are determined by environmental factors such as positive or negative reinforcement and psychosocial stressors.

Researchers today in the field of child development are very comfortable stating that at these very early stages of development, little boys and little girls travel on different emotional, cognitive, intrapersonal, interpersonal and social paths. The “wires” that have been soldered together in their brains create meaningful explanations as to why girls have a tendency to take numerous variables into consideration when involved in decision-making, whereas boys tend to use far fewer information-seeking skills to render a decision.

Part II of this series will explore how it is that sociological and stereotypical learning theories further solidify the divergent brain structures, as well as the processing of information that impacts an individual’s sense of self in the world. The final part of this series will discuss how these early developmental stages and socio-environmental processes form the foundation for a person’s visual, kinesthetic and emotional responses to the behaviors of themselves and others. Also discussed will be the expected outcome of a person engaging in a certain behavior and how this potentially can aid business owners in increasing their profit centers.