T Nation

Innate Genetic Differences


Between male and female monkeys. It's probably not that controversial an opinion on this site, but I still have conversations with people who try to claim that all the differences between men and women in terms of verbal/quantitative thinking and anything not strictly related to muscle mass are the result of "society."

I'm sure, as with most things, it's a complex interaction of nature and nurture.

Then again, perhaps it was "society" that influenced the monkeys...


Male monkeys prefer toy cars, females like dolls

Knight Ridder Newspapers
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 12.25.2005

WASHINGTON ? Just like human boys and girls, male monkeys like to play with toy cars while female monkeys prefer dolls, a research project has shown.

This intriguing discovery is one of many signs of deep-rooted behavioral differences between the sexes that scientists are exploring with the latest tools of genetics and neuroscience.

Researchers report significant differences in the structure and functioning of male and female brains ? in humans and in animals ? that show up in different behaviors.

The differences apparently date far back in evolutionary history to the time before humans and monkeys separated from their common ancestor some 25 million years ago, according to Gerianne Alexander, a psychologist at Texas A&M University in College Station, who led the experiment.

"Human evolution has created two different types of brains designed for equally intelligent behavior," Richard Haier, a neuroscientist at the University of California-Irvine, wrote in the journal NeuroImage.

Variety of toys used

In the monkey experiment, researchers put a variety of toys in front of 44 male and 44 female vervets, a breed of small African monkeys, and measured the amount of time they spent with each object.

Like little boys, some male monkeys moved a toy car along the ground. Like little girls, female monkeys closely inspected a doll's bottom. Males also played with balls while females fancied cooking pots. Both were equally interested in neutral objects such as a picture book and a stuffed dog.

People used to think that boys and girls played differently because of the way they were brought up. Now scientists such as Alexander say a creature's genetic inheritance also plays an important role.

"Vervet monkeys, like human beings, show sex differences in toy preferences," Alexander wrote in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. "Sex-related object preference appeared early in human evolution," she said.

Alexander speculated that females of both species prefer dolls because evolution programmed them to care for infants. Males may have evolved toy preferences that involve throwing and moving, skills useful for hunting and finding a mate.

Key tool of modern research

Besides observing behavior from the outside, scientists are using the latest brain-scanning techniques to examine what happens inside people's heads when they're thinking or acting.

PET (positron emission tomography) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imagery) scans light up in regions of the brain that are most active while performing certain tasks. They've become a key tool of modern brain research.

Many studies have shown that men tend to be better at mathematics and spatial reasoning while women outdo men in verbal and language skills.

For example, in a computerized maze-searching experiment, it took females five minutes longer than males to find their way to a goal, according to Scott Mowatt, a psychologist at Wayne State University in Detroit.

But women outperformed men in a test of verbal fluency conducted by Wei-li Chang and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md.

Haier, the University of California-Irvine neuroscientist, reported a striking difference in the structure of male and female brains. Men, he said, have much more gray matter in areas dedicated to general intelligence. Women, on the other hand, have far more white matter in those areas.

Gray matter consists of the clusters of brain cells, or neurons, that process information. White matter refers to the network of specialized cells that support and connect the processing centers. Both are necessary for intelligence.

"Men and women apparently achieve similar IQ results with different brain regions," Haier said.


Very interesting. What about the gay ones? Did they have an innate knack for matching curtains with furniture?


I don't suppose there is any ability for the observed behavior of men and women conducting the studies or the preconceptions of the those conducting the studies to influence the results?

I mean, was the study done well, or is it just "a study"? Anybody can do "a study" to come up with whatever conclusion they want to find. Anybody else can create a flawed study and find who knows what.

In fact, wasn't there a study that showed that 50% of study conclusions were bullshit? I wonder if that study was bullshit itself?


Hahahahahahahahaha! That's hilarious!!!


You don't have to study monkees to figure out that women think with an entirely different part of their brain.

I've been married for 14 years, and I am still amazed at the female thought process, or lack thereof - especially for 5-6 days each month.

Yes, I love you, Jana. Yes, you are the PRETTIEST woman I have ever seen. No - you are not fat.


That explains why I have NEVER felt the urge to spend 3-4 hours at the mall shopping for shoes.


My wife and I have a little undersdtanding. For every hour she requires me to be with her at the mall shopping for anything other than lingerie - she has to spend the same time with me in Best Buy.

So far I haven't had to do very much damn shopping for shoes. Go figure.


I read a book in college called "Brain Sex". I don't remember all of the details, but the gist was that men's brains are influenced by being bathed in testosterone during development. The result was structural differences such that male and female brains functioned in different ways. Men's brains were more compartmentalized - certain areas worked towards different purposes. Women tended to use both hemispheres in decision-making, and therefore made associations between logic and emotion (i.e. love and sex). I read this about 10 years and many beers ago, and I do not remember the details that well, but I recommend it to those interested in this subject.


I probably have a version of this conversation at least once a week.

Interesting stuff.


Pretty damn clear that there are biological differences between men and women and the way they think. Not better or worse just different. Differences are greatly compounded by culture and society of course. But gentetic differences exist. Very few in the field of psychology and/or NBB would argue otherwise.


As a father of three children I have noticed one big difference between me and my wife.


The female mind can only be understood if you understand their three hormonal cycles.

Cycle 1 - Premenstrual

This is the week before their period. Their hormones are in flux, thus called premenstrual syndrome. You know they are in this cycle because they are moody, emotionally irrational, and quite bitchy.

Cycle 2 - Menstrual

This is the week of their period. Their hormones are in flux, thus called "On the Rag". You know they are in this cycle because they are moody, emotionally irrational, and quite bitchy.

Cycle 3 - Postmenstrual

This is the 2 weeks after their period. Their hormones are in flux, thus called "postmenstrual syndrome". You know they are in this cycle because they are moody, emotionally irrational, and quite bitchy.


Of course the male and the female mind are different. Couldn?t be any other way if you think about it...

Meaning, if you combine neo-darwinism with game theory (or at least basic economic common sense) it becomes very clear that male and female mating strategies are different and how and why they are different.

There are other things like different communication strategies, but when it comes to the mating rituals and sex the difference is so obvious that everyone that thinks that this is just cultural indoctrination just chooses to be blind.

Unfortunately most men bought into this and are psychologically neutered and "free" of aggression, which is in direct opposition to their genetic programming, which is why they behave like little boys when they approach women, which is why women simply cannot develop any kind of sexual attraction for them, which is why "nice" "men" allways finish last and the so called "bad boys" get all the women.


Right, in the case of the male monkeys, they duct taped the plastic cars to them, and the female monkeys recieved electric shocks until they picked up the dolls. Come on vroom, where are you going with this?


This proceeds until menopause which causes their hormones to be in constant flux. You know they are in this cycle because they are moody, emotionally irrational, and quite bitchy.

Then postmenopause is reached. You know they are in this cycle because they are moody, emotionally irrational, and quite bitchy.

OK, that's enough misogyny for me.


This wouldn't work for me. My wife likes Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe's, Dick's Sporting Goods etc. as well as shoe/clothes shopping. She'll shop for electronic gadgets, power tools and other assorted guy stuff as much as I would. One of the many reasons I married her.


Isn't it nice how life is too rich to be catched in slogans.


I don't understand how any parent who has both gender kids could read that and not say "DUH!". Boys and girls are completely different creatures. They'll all play with whatever toys you put in front of them, but if you give them a choice they'll naturally gravitate to gender biased toys.

Both my kids played with the same set of Duplo blocks when they were babies. My son was making guns, trucks and towers that he could knock down before he was two. My daughter was more interested in the color patterns but would rather play "tea" with dolls and dishes anyway.


Monkeys aren't stupid.

Let me guess what toy the male brought to the monkeys and what toy the females brought to the monkeys.

For fuck sakes, unless I was forced, I wouldn't be carrying the damned barbie doll to the monkey cage (even if the protocol said I should), would you?

So, unless they were very careful (and they might have been) the monkeys would just reflect our bias. I'm not saying their aren't any differences.

Hey hey, we're the monkeys... people say we like to monkey aroud...


This research sounds like bullshit to me. The female monkeys prefer playing with cooking pots? To a monkey, isn't a cooking pot just a weird looking cylindrical shape? Last time I checked monkeys don't cook with pots...how does that have feminine connotations to a monkey (unless the monkeys have picked that up from human exposure, in which case the research is inherently flawed)?