Archives for posts with tag: empathy


According to the BBC’s ‘Brain Sex‘ quiz, my brain is exactly half boy, half girl, i.e. on-balance for skills that are traditionally male (spatial, logic) and traditionally female (emotion, intuition).

It’s a weird kind of thought.

Thankfully they explain it a bit as you go through each task: in essence, the majority of the differences between male and female brains are thought to be due to hormone differences and how they affect the development of the brain.

For example, men generally outperform women at “spatial tasks”, (although many women also score extremely well), and one theory suggests that exposure to higher levels of testosterone before birth gives men an added advantage because testosterone may stimulate the development of the right hemisphere of the brain – the side that contributes most to spatial awareness.

Females, on the other hand, tend to outperform men on tasks about “object position” (e.g. “has anyone seen the car keys?”), and some scientists think that women’s oestrogen levels make them much better at noticing details of their environment and spotting changes.

This perhaps also explains why women tend to perform better at ‘The Reading The Mind In The Eyes’ test devised by Simon Baron Cohen (Sacha Baron Cohen cousin!) which measures how well men and women display empathy towards others.

The amount of testosterone we are exposed to in the womb is also thought to influence the growth of our ring fingers. This theory may explain why men’s ring fingers are often longer than their index fingers. The average male ratio is .96. On average, women’s index and ring fingers are more or less of equal length, with a ratio of around 1.00. There is even some evidence that our finger ratio can be affected by the number of older brothers we have!

Want to know which side of your brain is more dominant?

What kinds of faces you find attractive and why?

Take the quiz now and rate your own brain’s gender at bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody

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‘Twlight’ by Stephanie Meyer. Not everyone’s cup of tea.

Interesting research has surfaced recently from University of Buffalo, suggesting that reading fiction increases your likelihood to feel empathy towards another person.

The study involved 140 undergraduate students who read Stephanie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ and JK Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter and the Philsopher’s Stone’. The participatants were then asked questions designed to measure their identification with the books – including “How long could you go without sleep?”, “How sharp are your teeth?” and “Do you think, if you tried really hard, you might be able to make an object move just using the power of your mind?”.

The study found that participants who read the ‘Harry Potter’ chapters self-identified as wizards and participants who read the ‘Twilight’ chapter self-identified as vampires.

“It is the first empirical finding, so far as I know, to show a clear psychological effect of reading fiction,” says Keith Oatkey, a professor in the department of human development and applied psychology at the University of Toronto.

“It’s a result that shows that reading fiction improves understanding of others, and this has a very basic importance in society, not just in the general way making the world a better place by improving interpersonal understanding, but in specific areas such as politics, business, and education.”

Is that why we feel like we ‘take books on’ when we read them? Why the best-written stories stay in your mind long after you’ve put them down?

The feeling of community and escapism to another “fantasy” world when reading a good fiction very clearly has real, positive psychological effects.

Though be careful what you choose to read; ‘Twilight’, for example, has been voted the No.1 ‘Worst Book of All Time’ AND ‘Best Book of All Time’ on goodread.com. 

Read Alison Flood’s full story on The Guardian 

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