There is considerable debate in the cognitive psychology community concerning the origins of gender related behaviors. There is compelling evidence that the male brain operates differently than the female brain, however, some researchers say these differences are not significant and differences in gender behaviors are shaped more by social norms than biological determinism. Those who put more stock in our genetic legacy, shaped by millions of years of evolution, point to animal studies – especially among primates – to underscore differences in gender behavior. After all these animals are not shaped by cultural norms. In addition, a number of infant studies especially those involving preferences in shapes and emotional response also reinforces the notion that biological gender does shape they way we think and process information. On the other hand, the feminist movement has pointed out that many limitations traditionally based on women are due to misplaced emphasis on biological differences. There is certainly truth to this argument but it does not negate the role of biology entirely. Instead of attempting to review the extensive literature on both sides of the nature vs. nurture debate about gender behavior I will focus on one fairly definitive study that highlights an important difference between men and women.
This particular study found evidence that on average women tend to retain stronger memories for emotional events than men. The area of the brain which plays a large part in our emotional life is the amygdala. The right amygdala, which is larger in the male brain, is also linked with taking action as well as being linked to negative emotions which may help explain why males tend to respond to emotionally stressful stimuli physically. The left amygdala which is larger in women allows for the recall of details but it also results in more thought rather than action in response to emotionally stressful stimuli which may explain the absence of physical response in women.
The take away is that when a man experiences emotions such as fear and anger the tendency will be to respond physically. What is significant is how a man utilizes the physical energy released by his amygdala. The expression of physicality corresponds to the warrior archetype. In the light, a man uses his physical energy to protect and defend his family, tribe, etc. In the shadow a man uses his physicality to dominate and commit violent acts. Instead of teaching our boys to curb their warrior and act more like a female, we should emphasize and help boys and young men understand the positive aspects of physical energy and how to best utilize it.