Do Girls Give Up Easier?

When I read this article (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-success/201101/the-trouble-bright-girls ) I started wondering if girls really give up easier when faced with a challenge (and if so, why). Well, reading psychology textbooks has paid off and I’ve found a potential answer.

There are two neural systems in the brain that have the function of producing certain emotions and motivating us into action. The behavioral activation system (BAS) is excited by signals of potential reward, and produces feelings of hope, elation and happiness. It also causes the person to move towards what they want, and anticipate pleasure. The behavioral inhibition system (BIS) is excited by signals of potential pain, and produces feelings of fear. It also causes the person to try to escape the threat, and produces avoidance behaviors. And it just so happens that women score higher in BIS measures than men.

Personality traits, including sensitivity to reward and to punishment, are partially genetic. Twin studies suggest that about 40-50% of variance in personality trait scores is due to genes. Most of the rest is unique environment (and a small percentage is familial environment).

I’m not sure it means women are genetically more driven by fear and avoidance than men, but it seems so. In that case, women would have to work extra hard to psych themselves up to face a challenge, and it would make sense that many don’t want to stress themselves, and give up.

So now the question is – if you have a nervous system oversensitive to signs of potential pain, how do you calm it down and keep eyes on the prize instead?

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13 Responses to Do Girls Give Up Easier?

  1. caprizchka says:

    Being responsive to fear is herd behavior and thereby rejecting the herd tends to boost confidence in one’s own ability to handle risk.

    Perhaps it even causes one’s own testosterone levels to rise.

    Having a male mentor instead of relying on herd reinforcement is also a huge help.

    • emmatheemo says:

      Maybe. It’s good to have social support though – it lessens the stress of facing problems alone. People also like to belong, and feel stronger if they are a part of the group where they fit. But perhaps a good group and good friends don’t have to be a “herd”. What is a harmful herd, in your opinion, and how does it make a woman more fearful?

      • caprizchka says:

        The article touches on what I see as the most dangerous thing that can befall “bright girls” (and boys!) in the modern school, and that is praise addiction. If a girl depends on the herd approval for her own confidence and sense of worth then she is essentially doomed to that dependence. If appearing out of step when her peers reinforce that something is “too hard” is something she finds difficult then it’s a different sort of dependence. Essentially, in order to succeed in difficult endeavors one has to develop an independently-minded outlook. That seems to be rarer in girls than boys. Part of that might be that school is more geared to girls than boys so they feel that they are more comfortable or less alien to it. Being alien to something as pathological as modern schooling however may well be an advantage–to those with leadership ability.

        I think that building partnerships with select individuals who have complimentary talents is going to be more advantageous than even the most supportive herd even if the support “feels good”. Stress is a part of life and some people thrive under it and some people fear it. Modern schooling encourages the fear and conformity which is only a good thing for assembly line workers not scientific thinkers. Perhaps most girls, especially “pretty” ones, aren’t motivated to get past the pain of uncomfortable feelings especially when a nurturing support system is so easily obtained.

      • Eric says:

        Men are the natural protectors of women and biologically driven to face challenges. Women are more receptive by nature, putting them in challenging environments is putting them beyond their capacity in most cases.

  2. My first thought upon reading the title of post was, “I wish!” Then I realized I misread and that it didn’t say “Do Girls Give It Up Easier?”

    Damn, I really need to get laid. It’s affecting my reading comprehension now.

  3. Liz says:

    I thought this part of the article was funny: “How do girls and boys develop these different views? Most likely, it has to do with the kinds of feedback we get from parents and teachers as young children. Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their “goodness.” When we do well in school, we are told that we are “so smart,” “so clever, ” or ” such a good student.” This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness, and goodness are qualities you either have or you don’t.

    Boys, on the other hand, are a handful. Just trying to get boys to sit still and pay attention is a real challenge for any parent or teacher. As a result, boys are given a lot more feedback that emphasizes effort (e.g., “If you would just pay attention you could learn this,” “If you would just try a little harder you could get it right.”) The net result: When learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren’t “good” and “smart”, and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder.”

    Yes, of course, all comes down to ‘feedback’ queues. Can’t blame it on natural inherent differences! (unless you can paint them as ‘natural defects’…for boys only. “Boys are a handful” and so forth).
    Reading this, I wonder if this plays a roll in divorce as well, since more women file than men?
    I think it depends on context. I do believe that women are more likely to “give up” if offered the opportunity to give up. Since we aren’t on the pointy edge of survival anymore, most things are elective. It wasn’t always so. When not given the choice, women stick it out very well. If given a choice, I think more would choose the easy road…men have more ‘risk taking’ chemicals and those are also ‘passion driving’ chemicals.

    • emmatheemo says:

      True, I would imagine women can do whatever it takes, if in a situation where they need to fight for survival. That sure seems to be the case in real life. But in the times of calm, they don’t want to needlessly stress themselves.

      “Reading this, I wonder if this plays a roll in divorce as well, since more women file than men?”

      What do you mean by that? 🙂 I’m curious.

      • Liz says:

        “What do you mean by that? 🙂 I’m curious.”

        Well…since more women file for divorce, it would seem they are more prone to calling it quits (“giving up”) instead of working it out/fixing it/adapting and overcoming problems. The author of the article seems to think that women believe things are inherently the way things are (rather than fixable and/or obtainable with effort)…so in marriage that would encounter difficulties might just be dismissed as ‘not meant to be’, ‘a mistake’, and so forth.

      • emmatheemo says:

        Ah, yes! I see what you mean. That’s a very interesting thought. Perhaps these things are connected. But in that case, changing the attitude is possible.

  4. @CaJoBr_ says:

    This is interesting but does it really matter, what if women give up ezier (I’m not sure it is true but maybe it is)? Should this effect how we treat women should be given less responsibility etc only on the basis that women are on average a few % more likely to give up whenn faced with hardship?

    • Emma the Emo says:

      If this difference exists, it’s probably just an average. In many gender differences, the variation within a gender is larger than the average difference between the genders. So it wouldn’t be fair to make some sort of law barring women from responsibility. Not to mention completely unnecessary – people who can’t take too much responsibility usually don’t choose to have it. I know I never wanted to be a doctor for that reason. Who wants that extra stress?
      Of course, there are always narcissists who look very convincing, but don’t care about anyone but themselves and wouldn’t be good with responsibility. Those are unfortunately hard to screen out, and often get promoted, but I don’t think there are more women among them.

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