Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Tale Of Two Halves

A Tale of Two Halves

Living close to the Kauri Museum at Matakohe, means that I meet quite a few tourists and I often advise them about places to visit. I keep a Northland map handy and I have noticed that many women have a different way to approaching maps compared to men – especially when it comes to looking at locations close to Matakohe itself.

Men generally scan the map quickly and also ask if I have a larger map to see where the location fits in. Women often move the map around and line it up local features if the destination is close by. They are also inclined to write notes. I have read about this sort behaviour and I find it really interesting to observe it first hand.

A recent news report I came across confirms these sexual differences and added extra information on how both sexes react to works of art. Professor Francisco Aylaya, from a Californian university, has published the findings of his research that used magnetic field detectors to see which parts of the brain were being used when men and women were looking at art.

He found that men mostly used a zone on their right side and women used both sides. His study suggests that the right side is used for spatial awareness (seeing the big picture) and the left side focused on contextual relevance (seeing things close at hand and their connection to the surroundings).

Professor Ayala thinks that these differences have evolved to become hard wired ever since mankind became hunter-gatherers. Men tended to go on long hunting expeditions while most women stayed closer to the home base gathering nuts and fruits and dealing with other tribal activities.

When I think about this it makes me wonder what is going on in the left zone of men’s brains and the obvious answer came when I read an email sent to me from, of all people, a very staunchly feminist friend I know. At the top was picture of an old Native American chief with the title “Where did the White man go wrong” and below it was the following text.

“The Indian Chief, 'Two Eagles', was asked by a white government official, "You have observed the white man for 90 years. You've seen his wars and his technological advances. You've seen his progress, and the damage he's done."

The Chief nodded in agreement. The official continued, "Considering all these events, in your opinion, where did the white man go wrong?"

The Chief stared at the government official for over a minute and then calmly replied. "When white man find land, Indians running it, no taxes, no debt, plenty buffalo, plenty beaver, clean water. Women did all the work, Medicine man free. Indian man spend all day hunting and fishing; all night having sex."

Then the chief leaned back and smiled. "Only white man dumb enough to think he could improve system like that."

After reading this, I think perhaps many men need room upstairs for thoughts about women while out hunting and looking at art.