Why Gender Matters p.327

Professor Kim Wallen and his colleagues at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta decided to do this familiar study again, with a little twist: instead of offering human children a choice between dolls and trucks, they gave that choice to monkeys. They gave monkey the opportunity to play with a “boy toy” such as a truck or with a “girl toy” such as a doll.

The basic pattern of results was similar to the pattern seen with human children. The female monkeys slightly prefer to play with dolls rather than trucks. The males substantially prefer to play with trucks rather than dolls.

It is difficult to invoke the social construction of gender to accommodate this finding. You would have to assert that a monkey in authority, maybe a parent, is saying to a young male monkey, Don’t let me catch you playing with a doll! But in fact nothing of the sort happens. Monkeys don’t appear to care whether other monkeys, female or male, are playing with trucks or with dolls. And yet the main effect – the preference of the male to play with a truck rather than with a doll – is clearly present in monkeys, as it is in human children. But the social construction of gender cannot reasonably be invoked to explain this effect in humans, in view of the fact that a similar effect is present in monkeys…

Developmental psychologist Gerianne Alexander found sex differences among monkeys similar to the sex difference we see among human children. In 2003, one year after she published her monkey study. Professor Alexander published her theory explaining why female and male monkeys – as well as female and male humans – might prefer to play with different toys.

Scientists have known for more than thirty years that our visual system is actually two separate systems operating in parallel, beginning at the level of the ganglion cells in the retina and extending back to the visual cortex and visual  association cortex. One system is devoted to answering the question What is it? What’s its color? What’s its texture? The other system is devoted to answering the question Where is it going? And how fast is it moving? These two systems in the brain are often referred to as the “what” and the “where” system.

Professor Alexander was the first to suggest that hardwired sex differences in the visual system may explain finding such as the observed sex difference is the toy preferences of children (as well as monkeys). She conjectured that maybe girls have more resources in the “what” system, while boys have more resources in the “where” system. Girls are more likely to play with a doll rather than with a dull gray truck because the doll has a more interesting color and texture. Boys are more likely to play with the dull gray truck because it has wheels. It moves.

Professor Alexander’s hypothesis helps to make sense of many finding that otherwise are hard to explain. For example, baby girls (three to eight months of age), but not baby boys of the same age, prefer to look at dolls rather than at toy trucks. When researchers show women and men different colors and ask them to name the colors, “women respond faster and more accurately than men.” When researchers test men and women to see how accurately they can target a moving object, men are significantly more accurate than women… Finally researchers in Germany have reported dramatic sex differences in the anatomy of the human visual cortex in adults, with significantly more resources devoted to the “where” system in men that in women, even after adjusting for any overall size difference in the brain.

 

Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.327

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Why Gender Matters p.51

Male chimpanzees are about twenty times as likely to fight as females are, but the fights don’t last more than a few minutes and rarely result in major injury. Two male chimps who fight each other this morning may be grooming each other this afternoon. According to Frans de Waal, a primatologist at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, “Picking a fight can actually be a way for [male chimps] to relate to one another, check each other out, and take a first step toward friendship.” Female chimps rarely fight, but when they do, their friendship is over. The hostility that results can last for years. Serious injury is also more likely to occur when female chimpanzees fight. Female chimps who have fought each other are “vindictive and irreconcilable, according to Dr. de Waal.

In our species these differences are apparent as soon as children can talk. Boys as young as two years of age, given a choice between violent fairy tales and warm and fuzzy fairy tales, usually choose the violent stories. Girls as young as two years of age most often choose the warm and fuzzy stories. In another study psychologists found that five- and seven-year-old girls who like to make up violent stories are more likely to have significant behavior problems than girls who prefer warm, nurturing stories. However, among boys, a preference for making up violent stories is not an indicator of underlying psychiatric problems. A preference for violent stories seems to be normal for five- to seven-year-old boys, while the same preference in five- to seven-year-old girls suggests a psychiatric disorder.

 

Leonard Sax – Why Gender Matters p.51

The Essential Loewald: Defense and Reality p.22

Active support and channeling consist of creating a regressive, primitively structured environment with which the child is able to integrate; this, ideally, should continue in a sliding balance between the maturing bio-psychological structures, functions, and needs, and parental support. In actuality, however, the opportunities and conditions of practical necessity for an imbalance in this relationship, especially in our culture, are legion. Too little or too much, too early or too late support and channeling, and the varieties of conflict between the two parents in their capacity as supporting agents to the child represent a multitude of possibilities for such imbalance. With the increasing complexity of a culture other agents, in addition to parents, gain in importance, and the period of maturation lengthens.

 

Hans Loewald – The Essential Loewald: Defense and Reality p.22

The Essential Loewald: Ego and Reality p.6

 As infant (mouth) and mother (breast) are not identical, or better, not one whole, any longer, a libidinal flow between infant and mother originates, in an urge towards re-establishing the original unity. It is this process in which consists the beginning constitution of a libidinal object. The emancipation from the mother, which entails the tension system between child and mother and the constitution of libidinal forces directed towards her, as well as of libidinal forces on the part of the mother toward the child – this emancipation and tension culminate in the phallic phase of the psychosexual development, lead to the Oedipus situation, and to the emergence of the super-ego.

The development away from primary narcissism, that is, the development of the ego, culminates in the resolution of the Oedipus conflict through the castration complex. The castration threat, directed against the gratification of libidinal urges toward the mother so that she is given up as a libidinal object, is seen as the representative of the demands of reality, and the submission to the castration threat as the decisive step in the establishment of the ego as based on the reality principle.

 

Hans Loewald – The Essential Loewald: Ego and Reality p.6

Relational Child Psychotherapy p.97

In any event, boys start to compare the fact that they have penises with other facts they come to recognize, that girls have vulvas rather than penises, that women grow breasts, get pregnant, give birth to babies, and nurse babies at their breasts. As the cognitive categories of present and absent are created, a boy wonders about his own body. Could he lose his penis and look like a girl? Could he have babies and nurse them? Longing, envy, and fear mix with interest and awe.

 

Neil Altman, Richard Briggs, Jay Frankel, Daniel Gensler, Pasqual Pantone – Relational Child Psychotherapy p.97

Love and Its Place in Nature p.157

Freud insisted that a developing infant must experience frustration if he is ever to perceive an independently existing world. It is from the disappointment that the breast cannot forever magically meet the infant’s wishful lips that the infant begins to differentiate himself from the world. And it is through all the frustrating descendants of this primal frustration that the world comes to have psychological reality for him. A necessary condition of there being a world for this person is that it be a world that is not immediately responsive to his wishes. And so, one might say it is the essence of the world that it could never be better than good enough.

 

Jonathan Lear – Love and Its Place in Nature p.157

Love and Its Place in Nature p.102

One way to get to these contents [of the infantile mind] might be to treat Hans as forming a community of one. The meaning of “widdler” would then be given by what Hans does and would call a “widdler.” The focus on Hans’s actual and potential use will give us Hans’s dispositions to call things “widdler”. But there is a problem which confronts any attempt to determine what this disposition is. Would Hans call an elephant’s trunk a widdler? An anteater’s nose? A large draining cyst? An octopus’s tendril? We have no way of answering these questions. We may see a certain coherence in Hans’s way of going on, but it is not sufficient for us to feel confident that we can go on to use the expression in respect to these problematic cases. More importantly, there does not seem to be any way to investigate what the disposition is without possibly altering it. Suppose, for instance, that Hans had called an elephant’s trunk a widdler. Is there any room for thinking that he might have made a mistake, even by his own lights? Suppose that we pointed out to Hans that this elephant also had a penis or a vagina; suppose, too, that we showed Hans that the elephant urinated through his penis, and that he used his trunk both as an olfactory and as a prehensile organ. It is not clear how Hans would respond. He might decide that the elephant has two widdlers. But let us suppose that he revises his original judgment: he comes to deny that the trunk is a widdler and asserts that the penis is one. There is no way to decide whether Hans has corrected a mistake in his own use of widdler or whether he has revised the concept of a widdler in the light of our teaching.

There is, then, a severe limit to the extent to which anyone can go native in a tribe that consists of one three-and-a-half-year-old speaker. Any attempt to focus in on what he means will to some extent draw his attention to our perceptions of salience. In trying to enter his linguistic community, we inevitably draw him into ours. There seems to be a gap that cannot be completely closed between the conceptual content of a mental state and the content of an infant’s mind.

 

Jonathan Lear – Love and Its Place in Nature p.102