Shalom Life | April 23, 2014

Gender Discrepancies Can Be Narrowed

Israeli researchers find the female brain can be modified to bridge gender gaps.

By: Bev Spritzer

Published: October 14th, 2010 in News » Israel

Gender Discrepancies Can Be Narrowed

According to Dr. David Tzuriel, professor of psychology and education at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University , the gap in gender-specific brain functions can be narrowed through educational intervention.

Israeli researchers have found that males are better than females when it comes to spatial capabilities. “Boys are better than girls in spatial abilities and especially in the domain of mental rotation, the ability to rotate some visual aspect in your mind and visualize how it will look when rotated,” said Tzuriel.

“Mental rotation has been found to be related to many skills in which males perform better than females,” he continued. “That's why there are so many males in exact sciences like architecture, physics and chemistry, theoretically because they require these spatial abilities.”

According to researchers, differences in the brains of boys and girls become evident from infancy.

Tzuriel and doctoral student Gila Egozi learned from preliminary findings that females apparently find it more difficult to gain control over spatial tasks, especially those involving mental rotation.

According to Tzuriel and Egozi, girls are genetically programmed to apprehend details in what Tzuriel refers to as a “local” way, while males have a more “global” perspective. This may contribute to the controversial perception that males are better drivers.

“But that doesn't mean it's not possible for females to develop their skills and become equal to males in a particular domain,” Tzuriel told Israel 21c. “What is needed is a way to look at information in a holistic way rather than details. That makes it easier to control the data and manipulate the visual stimuli.”

But that which is considered genetic, according to studies, can, in fact, be modified.

The researchers ran an interventional study on more than 100 randomly selected Israeli first-grade boys and girls to arrive at this end.

“When tested before and after, we found that the girls in the experimental group who had started at a lower level had closed the gap afterwards,” explained Tzuriel. “At the end of the program they performed as well as the boys, meaning they made more progress than the boys did.”

While the research doesn't yet prove that the training leads to better achievement in science, math and engineering for girls, according to Tzuriel, it is a promising first step - at least in the face of gender-related stereotypes.

Tzuriel is the editor of the Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, and is a professor at Bar-Ilan, where he used to chair the School of Education.

He is regarded as a world leader in the field of dynamic assessment of learning potential, used widely in England, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and North America.

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