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naturner nurture brainIn my book and early blogs, I review research on the roots, in nature and nurture, of masculine and feminine differences. One area in nature that I have covered is brain structure. That there are structural differences in male and female brains is confirmed by newer research. In nurture, I have looked at a number of early influences on infants and children.

Some people debate whether nature or nurture shapes us most. I am neither a neuroscientist nor a psychologist. I am simply fascinated with brain science and want to understand better how it influences masculine-feminine differences. I hope some experts will comment – and either set me straight or confirm my lay person’s interpretation of what I have read.

Masculine and feminine differences are surely influenced by norms and expectations. These are communicated to children both directly and indirectly. Examples of direct influences on children are parents telling little boys, “Big boys don’t cry” or little girls, “Be nice and wait your turn.” Indirect influences from our culture include role models and indications of approval and disapproval. When one is encouraged and rewarded to behave a certain way, he or she is more likely to do so. I have learned that repeated behaviors create and deepen neuropaths, making those behaviors into habits or default behaviors. If one continues to behave that way, those neuropaths deepen, which leads to more of the same behavior.

Cultural influences, then, reinforce physiological differences. Perhaps this explains why physiological differences in our brains are greater in adolescents and adults than in children. To me, there is no winner in the nature-nurture debate. Nature and nurture collaborate to create differences in masculine and feminine approaches to life and work.

The goal of DifferenceWORKS is to enable men and women to use both masculine and feminine strengths to be more effective. We are not “hard wired” to be more masculine or more feminine. Influences in nature and nurture set up a preference or a default “set point” on the masculine-feminine continuum. That set point may be altered by many factors, including emotional intelligence and the related ability to understand and manage our reactions and choose the behavior that works best in any given situation. And we – and our brains — can change. We can learn new behaviors and thought patterns. Through neuroplasticity, our brains can reorganize neural connections.

So, experts, please set me straight or share what you know about this!