PSYCHOLOGY

Introduction (by David A. Cooper):-

Psychology is the science of the mind, but it is not normally taught in schools at all, so it is entirely up to you whether or not you want to read on, but I think you might find it interesting.
indentWhat is the difference between boys and girls? I'm not asking you about their plumbing, but about the differences in the way their minds work. Perhaps you think there is no real difference? If so, then you need to explain how is it that most of the great minds in history appear to have belonged to men rather than women. Is it that men are brighter (that's highly doubtful), or is it more to do with opportunity and self-belief?
indentIt is usually impossible to prove that any answers you come up with are right, so the idea is to create theories which seem to fit the facts. Psychology is riddled with crazy theories made up by people who are barking mad, but there are also serious people working in this field who are doing genuinely useful work. Some of them specialise in studying how children's minds develop and looking at the different kinds of thinking abilities which children acquire at different ages. We will look into this in some detail, but first I will return to my opening question and attempt to answer it.
indentTo me, it is obvious that there is a difference between boys and girls: boys are usually much naughtier than girls. For example, when I was at school, I noticed that boys often kicked doors open, especially on days after any popular television programme showed a cowboy kicking a door open to enter a saloon. Even the best behaved of boys would feel the need to experiment with kicking doors open, the sprung doors at school being ideal for the task, but I never saw any girl doing it: they just weren't interested. The diffenence seems to be real enough, so what causes it?
indentThroughout most of history, men were in charge because they were stronger than women and could bully them. Women who were obedient were less likely to be killed by their angry husbands, the result being that they lived longer and had more children. The daughters of these survivors inherited their mothers' obedient nature and the degree of obedience in women would have increased over many generations, so long as there was still a survival advantage to be gained. This increase in obedience in women would also affect the way they behaved as girls, so the oppression of women may have resulted in most girls being far more reluctant to do anything naughty than boys.
indentHow then might this relate to intelligence? Research has failed to show that there is any significant difference between the intelligence of men and women, though it's rather hard to measure creativity. In the past it was obviously easier for intelligent men to make their mark on the world because they had greater opportunities than intelligent women, but in today's society there is a fairly level playing field. There are many women who write literature and music of equal quality to that produced by the best men, but there remains a proliferation of males at the top, and in some fields there is still no sign of any women capable of reaching the highest level. We are still waiting for a female world chess champion, and it is quite possible that there will never be one, not because there aren't any women with sufficient intelligence for the job, but simply because most girls don't feel driven to explore possibilities to the same degree as boys: this drive to explore may have been blocked to make them more obedient.
indentWhat then does a boy gain from kicking doors open? He learns that if he kicks it hard, it flies back in his face before he has time to run through the doorway. He also learns that it's more effective to contact the door gently and then push hard rather than hitting it with a bang and expecting the momentum to be transferred. This activity, like so many others, is an exploration of the laws of physics. Boys love the mathematics of football, even if they are hopeless players. They are addicted to throwing earth bombs in the playground, those dried-out lumps of earth which shatter so beautifully when they hit tarmac. They play dangerous games like throwing stones in the air and dodging them as they come down (please don't try this one - people actually die playing it, so use a tennis ball instead). It's all about investigating the laws of physics: boys explore these things regardless of the rules because they are driven to do so, and if they think it isn't immoral to break a rule they will happily do so whenever they think they can get away with it.
indentThis may well be how boys gain their advantage over girls: they are typically more adventurous and inclined to try things out even when they know it may get them into trouble. They often fiddle with things to find out how they work, sometimes damaging them in the process. Bit by bit they pull further ahead, and so it may not be society that holds girls back: they might be held back primarily by their own inhibitions and their lack of curiosity. When Rubik's Cube was invented, almost all of the people who worked out how to solve it were boys. I suspect that the reason for this has nothing to do with intelligence, but results from bullying cavemen who put a selection pressure on women to become more obedient by being less adventurous, and it is this that causes girls to miss out on activities which would expand their minds and enable them to compete with boys at the highest level.
indentIf I am right, it may be that we should encourage girls to be more adventurous; to be more like boys. But I could of course be completely wrong. Can you come up with an alternative theory? If so, the two theories could be compared, and one of them might fit the facts so much better than the other that the inferior theory could be judged to be wrong. Bit by bit, we might be able to build our way to a complete and correct understanding of our minds just by coming up with better and better theories.


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