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?