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Hunters, Gatherers & the Evolution of the Mind of Woman & Man.
Sex Differences in Communication

From: The Right Brain & the Unconscious (Plenum).
by Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D.




It has frequently been noted in the popular press and in sociological literature that many men tend to act and look to one another in terms of status, physical and intellectual dominance and control. In contrast, many books suggest that women tend to speak and interact alike in regard to the family, inter-dependence, and social intimacy 1. Although as a rule, such notions do not apply to all men or women, there indeed does appear to be a gender linked difference in the manner in which many boys, men, women, and girls tend to interact and speak 2.

Many boys tend to play in groups where there is a recognized leader and hierarchical order of followers. The leader often wins this position based on physical strength and capability, risk taking, and his ability to control or bully others. Similarly, the hierarchy of followers is arranged along these same competitive lines. When playing boys often tend to engage in sometimes very physical, aggressive games, where wrestling, tripping, and pushing each other in fun is part of the activity 3.

Many girls tend to play in much smaller groups or in pairs; i.e. best friends. Although hierarchies also tend to form, rather than based on physical competitiveness (although that is often a factor) it tends to be based on personality, articulatory skills, and physical attractiveness; e.g. who is the "nicest," prettiest, or the most fashionably dressed 4. Of course, many boys and professional men seem increasingly concerned with these issues too.

In contrast to boys and men who are more likely to become involved in physically aggressive team sports where there are clear winners and losers, many young girls are more likely to engage in cooperative activities that focus on friendship, intimacy, sharing, talking, imaginativeness, and being liked. Challenges and competition between girls are more likely to be subtle and indirect, whereas cooperativeness, at least overtly, is the glue which binds them together 5.

Although both girls and boys often are concerned with being the best and tend to use force in order to get their way, boys are more likely to utilize threats or actual physical violence.

It is important to emphasize, however, that there are numerous exceptions, as many girls are quite physically competitive and aggressive, and many boys seek close social and emotional intimacy with their best friends as well. Probably most members of both sexes, in fact, fluctuate between these various different modes of interacting.

These general patterns of interaction in turn tend to color the way in which men and women interact as adults as well, including the manner in which they view the actions and even the speech of others. That is, in very general terms, men and women often tend to be concerned with different aspects of the same experience since they sometimes have different priorities.

Indeed, a recent spate of books contend that these different sex biased viewpoints affects the very way some men and women speak, such that sometimes although engaging in ostensibly the same conversation, they in fact focus on different aspects of the same shared information and emphasize features which are quite distinct 6.

Many males tend to employ speech and language as a means of imparting not only information, but as a manner of establishing status and superiority. Among men in white collar and professional positions this may involve considerable posturing as to intellectual and financial superiority. However, jockeying for status sometimes entails derogating other men through teasing, sexual jokes, or direct insults. Indeed, sexual remarks and teasing are frequent among adolescents and some, but by no means most, men in blue collar jobs and construction (fields in which I worked while a student).

Among men, comments about one another can be quite graphic and often go well beyond innuendo and include remarks as to sexual inadequacy or potency, and may go so far as to challenge other males to serve as willing orifices. Insults and sexual comments are in fact often seemingly made in fun, and although ostensibly and overtly accepted as such, they usually belie attempts to achieve dominance over other men 7. Nevertheless, when a man teases, comments, or interacts with a woman on a similar level, even when it is extremely and considerably toned down, she is likely to be offended, much to the bewilderment of the man who sees his behavior as normal.

Females are much less likely to insult one another in fun, deride each other's supposed sexual shortcomings (at least while face to face) or demand in a jocular tone that other women serve them as sexual objects. Unlike some men, it is not seen as as a means of establishing rapport or dominance. Moreover, when women engage in the seeking of status, or when they seek to put one another down (again, at least while face to face) it tends to be less confrontational, more subtle and less aggressive as ostensibly they appear more concerned with the social harmony and the establishment of mutual, friendly understanding and rapport 8. They are more likely to try to smooth things over and be more artful and subtle rather than overtly or physically aggressive, even when jockeying for positions of dominance. Of course, like men, many women have no difficulty with cutting up a competitor.

Men and women thus tend to use language differently and in order to convey different messages. Although both use language in order to convey information, details and facts, many women tend to be more interested in discussing what they or others feel, what happened to them or their friends, who said what, and how various relationships are going. For many women, talk often serves as a means for maintaining intimacy and friendly interaction as well as for conveying details on business, finance, and politics and a variety of other subjects 9. For many men, these personal details are inconsequential and of little importance.

Ginger: "That business lunch went just great. You should have seen Ruth. She was so happy after getting that big bonus, and she had on the most gorgeous outfit. Really quite stylish and...

Andy (yawning and picking up a newspaper): "So what happened?"

Ginger: "Put down that paper so I can tell you. Anyway, she has lost so much weight. She must really be feeling more confident about herself, with all the money she has been bringing in. Even Sally was impressed, and you know how Sally feels about that."

Andy: "About what?"

Ginger: "Haven't you been listening to me?"

Andy: "Yeah, sure. You were telling me about some business deal that went down at lunch."

Ginger: "Anyway, and, oh, did I tell you? Sally's little boy has been getting so big. She had these pictures...."

Andy: "I thought this was a business lunch."

Ginger: "It was. You should have seen the look on Ruth's face when she saw those pictures. She wants to have a baby so bad...."

Andy: "What has this got to do with your job? What did your boss have to say?"

Ginger: "Sally is my boss!"

Andy: "And she brings pictures of her kid to show you?"

Ginger: "What's wrong with that?"

Andy: "I don't see what that has to do with your job."

Ginger: "It has everything to do with my job. If you work with people you should be interested in what is going on in their life. People don't live and work in a vacuum. What goes on at home affects their work. Haven't you've learned that ?

Andy (yawning and reaching for the newspaper): "Learned what?"

For many men, when language and talk is personal it is either viewed as irrelevant or power oriented. Indeed, it often becomes personal when they feel their status or authority may be threatened.

Jake has come home and begins to complain to his wife Ruth about a problem at work. He is very irritated and upset.

Jake: "I don't know what's wrong with my boss. He hired this new girl and she is not working out!

Ruth: "What does she look like?"

Jake: "Very ugly. Anyway, she was supposed to type this stuff and she never even got started.

Ruth: "How old is she?"

Jake: "What's that got to do with anything? She's not doing her job. She was supposed to type these papers for me and she didn't do it."

Ruth: "Well, she's new. Is she married?"

Jake: "Why are you asking me all this irrelevant stuff? Who cares what she looks like or how many times she's been married. She is incompetent."

Ruth: "Maybe if you were nicer to her..."

Jake: "Hey! Whose side are you on? She's the one who is screwing up. Not me."

Ruth: "I didn't say you were."

Jake: "Bull shit! I don't know why I even bother talking to you. All you do is put me down."

Ruth: "Well excuse me for being curious."

Men tend to use language to describe what they are going to do and perhaps how they are going to do it to. It serves more as a form of achieving mastery over their environment and establishing their status and position in the world rather than as a means of revealing their feelings or intimate personal details about their life 10. In fact, men who "have the gift of gab," are often viewed by other men as a "bull shitter," or even as lacking in status or as posing a possible threat as they "talk to much," or have a "big mouth."

Again, many women employ language in a similar manner but in a less aggressive and less overt fashion. Women are more likely than men to use language as a means of maintaining social intimacy and are much more willing or likely to interweave professional talk with friendship. Women and girls use language as a means of maintaining a relationship, of feeling close and involved.

Men are more likely to focus on accomplishing something together, or talking about the accomplishments of others such as those who won a certain football game and those who excel or need improvement in their performance. Indeed, men are more likely to utilize speech as a means of maintaining or establishing status and to leave out details concerning their emotions or personal problems 11.

Women tend to become more interested in the details of a person's life and in discussing the details or their own lives as well as their thoughts and feelings, whatever they may be. When women are together this tendency naturally forms a bridge that maintains their rapport. They expect to be informed. However, when women are with men, they may feel that males is acting disinterest or not being communicative and is somehow lacking in the ability to express his feelings. Indeed, it is a common complaint expressed by my female patients and in the media; supposedly men do not express their feelings and are not as communicative, at least not in the company of the opposite sex.

In fact, often the man is disinterested and is wondering why she is talking about this or that and asking him all these "irrelevant" questions. Indeed, many men tend not to share their feelings and other personal details, because to do so might put them at risk with other men, who, being so competitive, may use it against them or make fun of them 12. Moreover, knowing that other men are not very interested in the social and personal aspects of another man's life, even when discussing family and children, men usually keep these topics quite brief as it seems irrelevant to the task at hand; to conquer the world, make more money, get that promotion, or to discuss those who are at present conquering the world, e.g. politics and sports 13. These are viewed as worthy topics to discuss at length.

Even when it comes to personal difficulties, men are more likely to keep it to themselves and answer in as few words as possible. By contrast, women are more likely to not only discuss these issues at length, but to discuss it again and again with all their friends.

Andy: "So how you been getting along since that divorce?"

Jake: "You know how it is."

Andy: "Yeah."

Many men often see no competitive advantage in discussing personal difficulties and to discuss such issues are sometimes seen as an admission of personal weakness or as a source of information that can be used to create an imbalance in power. Indeed, in my private practice, I have often heard men bitterly complain about how their spouse or girlfriend goes around telling people, including their relatives, very personal details about their relationships. Many men often view this as betraying information that is best kept secret and just between them. For them it is a breach of privacy and trust.

For many women, to keep these details to themselves is a breach of friendship and intimacy, for often their friends, and mothers insist on knowing the details and derive considerable enjoyment in hearing and discussing them. Hence, women achieve closeness by revealing intimate details about themselves or others, whereas men achieve or lose power by doing so and are thus so disinclined.

However, when it comes to plans, actions, and future goals, or even past conquests, the discussion between men is likely to be quite extensive, particularly if it can enhance their status.

Andy: "So getting any lately?"

Jake: "I'll say. You remember that blond that used to work at the...."

Nevertheless, even in these contexts, men are less likely to discuss what was said, how they felt about it, how romantic the evening was, how their partner felt, and so on, because it is viewed as irrelevant. They want to talk about their actions and accomplishments, whereas women tend to focus on the relationship. This of course can create considerable difficulty when men and women talk together.

Girls and women, thus tend to focus on the social, supportive, familial and the communal aspects of interaction. Men tend to focus on the individual and the struggle for dominance over the community, the family, and each other. In this regard, when women interact they tend to be less confrontational as they are more sensitive to social and emotional nuances, and as one of their main interests is to maintain the cohesion of the group or the friendship.

Again, however, it is important to emphasize that there is much variability in these seemingly differential attitudes toward the use of language as a means of social and intimate interchange. Some men are more interpersonally inclined, and many gossip among themselves about sports, politics, and each other, although they do not call it as such. Similarly, many women are much more interested in the non-personal, political, business, informational aspects of communication and would rightly take extreme exception to the notion they spend their time talking predominantly about family or relationships.


Can all such differences in language and communication be due to cultural forces or the differential manner in which boys and girls are raised? Environment certainly plays a tremendous role as does biology 14, but not in the manner that most people might think. Some of these differences are in fact due to the interaction of the environment and our biological makeup and this in turn is reflected in subtle differences in the structure and organization of the nervous system. However, these differences were over several million years in the making and reflect not only sex differences in endowment, but the division of labor and activities that generally characterized the two sexes, particularly over the course of the last several hundred thousand years; i.e. big game hunting vs gathering.

Although men and women vary in ability and talent, males tend to be on average bigger, stronger, faster, and more athletically skilled than females to almost every single sports activity, even at the Olympic level. This is not a sex biased comment. It just happens to be the truth. However, it is important to emphasize that many women far exceed the average man in regard to these activities and abilities.

Nevertheless, on average, women have their own superiorities. Females are constitutionally superior to males in that they can withstand stressful extremes far better than man, be it fatigue, illness, and even starvation 15. Probably this superiority is a direct consequence not only of their role in carrying and giving birth to babies, but their role as the main providers for their children and "husbands" for the last half million years. Hence, they have had to be quite hardy. Indeed, females not only live longer than males, but males are so much more delicate that they are more likely than females to be aborted during times of stress, they are more likely to die in utero, they are more likely to die at birth, and from birth to old age males die at a higher rate than females.

Even at a genetic level the female of the sex has an advantage. For example, sex is determined by one's chromosomes. Females have what are called two XX chromosomes, whereas maleness is determined by an X and a Y chromosome. It is the double X which gives the female a greater genetic importance in the maintenance of the species and in the transmission of traits, whereas the Y chromosome (which some have referred to as a broken X), is more restricted to simply determining maleness. The tiny Y chromosome is also quite feeble. In fact, no matter how many Y chromosomes are possessed by a cell, if there is no X chromosome in attendance, the cell and the organism will die. X chromosomes don't need a Y in order to prosper. The female chromosome is thus not only superior but has more genes and is gene-rich compared to the paucity of genes along the male Y.


It is well established based on a variety of independent studies conducted by both men and women researchers, that in general, males have far more elaborately developed and thus superior visual-spatial and spatial perceptual skills than females 16. Indeed, only about 25% of females in general exceed the average performance of males on tests of such abilities. Moreover, some of these differences are present during childhood and include a male superiority in the recall and detection of geometric shapes, detecting figures that are hidden and embedded in an array of other stimuli, constructing 3-dimensional figures from 2-dimensional patterns, visually rotating or recognizing the number of objects in a 3-dimensional array, playing and winning at chess (which requires superior spatial abilities), directional sense and geographic knowledge, the solving of tactual and visual mazes, aiming and tracking such as in coordinating one's movements in relationship to a moving target, coordination in aiming and throwing, and comprehending geometrical concepts 17. These are all skills associated with the functional integrity of the right half of the brain 15. Moreover, many of these abilities are directly related to skills that would enable an ancient hunter efficiently to track, throw a spear, and dispatch various prey without getting lost and while maintaining a keen awareness of all else occurring within the environment.

This does not mean, however, that women are somehow lacking in these abilities, as again, many women far exceed the average male in regard to these capacities. Indeed, in regard to other right hemisphere capabilities, such as discerning and expressing social and emotional nuances, females are often thought to be much more sensitive and adept.

Moreover, females tend to display many superiorities in regard to left brain skills 18. Hence, in contrast to males, females vocalize more as infants and speak their first words at an earlier age, they develop larger vocabularies at an earlier age, and their articulation skills improve at a faster rate. Similarly, among children the speech of females is easier to understand. Women excel over males on word fluency tests, for example, naming as many words containing a certain letter, or words belonging to a certain category. Fine motor skills, such as involving rapid temporal sequencing are also abilities at which females tend to excel in comparison to males 97.

It is also well known in clinical practice, that following a stroke and a patient becomes aphasic, women tend to recover their language more quickly and more fully. However, some have argued that this is due to the fact that men and women suffer different types of strokes (e.g. thrombotic vs emboli). Nevertheless, men are far more likely to suffer language related disorders and to lose language abilities at a faster rate than women as both groups age.

These and the other findings mentioned above thus suggest possible neuroanatomical differences in the brains of males and females. Indeed, not only is the hypothalamus and the Limbic System sexually differentiated, but possibly the Language Axis of the left hemisphere as well. That is, when we study the anatomy of the brain, it is apparent that those areas which subserve language are larger on the left versus the right side of the cerebrum; i.e., the left superior temporal lobe. However, there are some studies which indicate that when these differences are statistically analyzed, that these differences are maximal in females. They appear to have more brain space devoted to language functioning. However, it is important to note that some well respected neuroscientists have also claimed that there are no gender differences in the size of the left superior temporal lobe. Nevertheless, as both sexes age, males tend to lose more cortical tissue in the brain areas subserving language indicating that this modality is more fragile in males.

Complicating the issues even further, there is some suggestion that functionally, Broca's area is more well developed in females than males, whereas the left-temporal parietal language areas are functionally more developed in males. Although it is my impression that these suggestions are purely speculative at best, it is interesting to note that Broca's area is associated with temporal-sequential motor control and when it becomes activated, so to does the right hand.

As suggested earlier, many of these differences in verbal versus visual-spatial capabilities are related to various environmental pressures and the presence or absence of the the male hormone, testosterone, during the time period in which the brain becomes sexually differentiated 20 . However, they are also long rooted in our evolutionary past and the differential activities that men and women have engaged for well over a half million years.



Foraging, scavenging, and the chasing and hunting of small game has probably been a dominant activity of human beings and their ancestors for several million years 21. Naturally, our mind and brain has been tremendously influenced by these activities and has evolved accordingly.

Initially, both the male and the female of the species probably engaged almost equally in scavenging, gathering and the hunting of small game until just a few hundred thousand years ago with the onset of big game hunting. It was possibly this event, coupled with the rapid and progressive development of mans big brain several thousand years earlier, that a divergence in the mind of man and woman appears to have increasingly occurred. The hunting of large game animals appears to have become the dominant domain of the male 22, although they probably continued to assist in gather on occasion. Presumably females continued to predominantly engage in gathering, and to a lesser extent fishing and the hunting of small game, and only occasionally assisted males during the hunting and stalking of large animals 23.

Nevertheless, with this general division of labor, one might suppose that over the course of several hundred thousand years, tremendous differential influences on mental and brain functioning resulted due to selective evolutionary pressures on survival. That is, those who were best able to adapt were most likely to pass on their genetic traits to the next generation. In consequence, the brains and minds of men and women probably became adapted and molded accordingly each in accordance with the activities they were best at 24.

In this regard, as gathering and the harvesting of wild foods involves perseverative, temporal-sequential hand movements, those who were most successful at these activities probably had brains that were best adapted to these tasks. However,if the right hand is being used predominantly for picking and gathering, whereas the left hand is more likely to hold a recepticle, one might suspect that the left half of the brain would not only be more adapt, but through what is known as learning, would become even more adapt at temporal-sequential processing.

In contrast, as the searching and stalking and killing of prey would require good visual-spatial skills and sensitivity to environmental and non-verbal nuances, those who were most successful at these activities would in turn continue to develop, and pass on to the next generation, these same capabilities.

The question might arise, however, as to why did this general division in labor result? Why, over the course of evolution, did females remain engaged in gathering, whereas males were able to indulge in the pursuit of large game? In large part, to acquire the skills necessary to be successful at big game hunting required that the human brain become more complex. This is in fact what occurred, and this is also one of the factors which in turn limited female participation in the stalking and hunting of large game animals.

Over the course of human evolution, the human brain and the human head became increasingly larger 25. The progressive and significant increase in brain size, in turn required an adaption in the pelvic opening of these ancient females. A bigger brain comes in a bigger head. Hence, eventually the hips of the human female became wider as well so as to accommodate a larger brained baby. With a wider pelvic opening and with wider hips, a big brained baby could be delivered without becoming damaged or lodged inside the womb unable to emerge. If that were to happen, the baby, the mother, or both would die.

As a consequence of these changes in the hips and pelvis, the gait and balance of human females became altered over time such that they would wiggle when they walk and were no longer able to run as fast as males as their mobility became slightly restricted as well. This is slowly developing condition may have first began to exert significant limiting influences perhaps around 500 thousand years ago or longer, at which time, the brain of our remote ancestor, Homo Eretus apepars to have reached it's maximum size (approximating that of a small brained, modern day human) 26.

The human brain, of course is not fully developed at infancy and in fact is only about a third of the size of an adult. If it was too close to the adult size it would be impossible for an infant to be born. In consequence, the brain has to do a tremendous amount of growing after birth, a process that continues unabated for the first 10 years of life and then slows over the course of each ensuing decade.

However, by prolonging infant development the period of helplessness became lengthened as well which in turn necessitated prolonged child care. Hence, in contrast to most mammals and all other forms of life which remain helpless and unable to fend for themselves for only a few months at most, humans remain helpless for 4-6 years. This is in fact 4-6 times longer than for monkeys, and twice as long as for all other apes, which, like their female counterparts, invest a considerable amount of time in childcare 27.

Thus, the human infant, including an infant Cro-Magnon, Neanderthal, and even Homo erectus, required almost the full time presence of a mother for many years. This increased dependency in turn reduced female mobility as well. Hence, at a minimum, human females have been engaged in prolonged child care for at least half a million years or longer.

In consequence, having a baby or several children to watch over, and being unable to run as fast and being more clumsy in the attempt, the adult human female did not make for as good and as reliable hunter as compared to men. You can't carry an infant while stalking prey because your hands and arms must be free and you need quiet. The sudden cooing or crying of an infant is likely to result in an empty stomach. Hands and arms must also be free to carry weapons. Hence, there were a number of forces acting on females which conspired against their ability to excel as big game hunters. Indeed, her smaller stature also made her a less formidable foe and possibly even a a tempting prey.

Hence, for good reasons females probably tended to wander less than males, to stay closer to the home base, and to engage in activities compatible with a lifestyle that included the nurturance of infants for years at a time. The ultimate consequence of these particular limitations was that the human female probably remained more involved in gathering and the occasional hunting of small game closer to the home base whereas males were more free to engage in new activities such as big game hunting.

Again, one might naturally assume that to be successful as a hunter required certain adaptive changes in the human brain, alterations which would be maximal among males. Conversely, gathering, an activity involving prolonged and rapid temporal and sequential hand movements, would in turn exert its maximal selective pressures on the brain of the female. That is, those who were best at these activities were more likley to survive and pass on their genetic contributions and thus their adaptive skills, to their progeny.

Although a woman, or a band of women, could probably live and flourish without the aid of the bigger and more muscular male, and certainly could eat quite well without ever savoring a steak from a big game animal, her smaller size and the children that she bore, certainly put her at a disadvantage when dealing with males. Indeed, since our ancestors may have been slaughtering each other since the time of Australopithecus 28, one might speculate that it may have certainly been to her advantage to have at least one male around to aid in her protection as well as the rearing and education of the children 29. That is, she may have needed a male to protect her from other males who might rape or kill her and her children. Although perhaps highly debatable, there were probably other advantages to have a man about the house (or cave), as well such as being able to partake in the high protein diet that meat afforded.

In part, this bonding of a man to a woman, was aided by the establishment of a base camp and the maintenance of a family social group, events which appear to have first had their onset during the time of Homo Erectus (who lived from 1.9 million to about 300 thousand years ago). However, from an evolutionary perspective it was necessary to provide the man with some incentive to return home and thus maintain the sanctity of the family. The solution was possibly an appeal to the limbic system: food and sex.

To insure that the male return to base camp and share his spoils with her and her infant required that males become bonded to females or at least highly attracted so as to return again and again. The manner in which this, at least in part, may have been achieved was for females to become sexually receptive and sexually available 24 hours per day, 365 days a year. Indeed, the human female is the only female regardless of species, who is able to have sexual intercourse during times when she is not biologically receptive in order to become pregnant. For all other species, sex serves as a means of reproduction. Among humans, sex is a source of pleasure and serves as a means of bonding a man and a woman.

As is well known, for most other mammals there are long periods in which females are not sexually receptive and this is characterized by long period of non-sexual activity in which males show little or no interest in females. When she becomes sexually receptive there is a short period of frenzied sexual activity in which males will literally go sexually crazy for days until the female ends her estrus or "heat." of course, when a female goes into heat all other activities cease or greatly suffer.

It may have been sometimes during the rein of Homo erectus that this great change may have occurred and the female estrus disappeared altogether. Indeed, it was during the time of Homo erectus (or his immediate ancestor) that the first base camps also came into existence. However, even if we assume that this sexual revolution did not come until the end of their rein, that is, around the time period in which the first primitive Homo sapiens arrived on the scene it would still appear that full time sexual availability had it's onset somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago. Nevertheless, in consequence of that momentous occasion, the human female has been the sexiest of all other females ever since.

Her becoming sexually available at all times enabled man and woman to become free of the purely biological and hormonal influences which drive and control sexual behavior. They could now postpone sexual activity and could now decide for themselves when and if they were going to have sex, as well as where it would take place. Moreover, unlike the apes who only on occasion and for brief time period can enforce a selective preference, humans were also able to decide with whom they were going to have sex and could enforce their preference via denial and through bonding.

All in all, with the complete availability of a full time sexual partner coupled with the ability to make personal choices and to act on preferences, human sexual relations became more enduring and so to did the relationships between men and women; all of which probably promoted the development of language and the art of conversation.

Man, still functioning at the behest of his limbic system, could now have one almost insatiable need repeatedly satisfied. However, as noted, a second insatiable need, food, was also provided by the female. That is, gatherers provide the bulk of the food supply 30. There were thus two very good reasons for males to not only come home, but to stay home for prolonged time periods as females were not only providing for their sexual needs, but gathering and probably preparing their supper as well. Man was becoming domesticated.


With the exception of those who lived in the very coldest of climates where a gathering way of life would be quite difficult due to the scarcity of edible vegetable matter, for at least the last 100,000 years until perhaps about 10,000 years ago, females, and not males, appear to have been the main providers of food 31. Big and even small game hunting has always been (except in the much colder far northern climates) a supplementary means of acquiring an adequate food supply.

Indeed, even among the great majority of the very few modern hunting and gathering societies in existence today, spoils from hunting account for only about 35% of the diet 32. In contrast, gathering, which, we are assuming, has been the predominant domain of the female for the last 300 or so thousand years, accounts for the remainder. Indeed, even among the Cro-Magnon, where hunting was the center of religious and artistic life, 60-80% of their diet consisted of fruits, nuts, grains, honey, roots and vegetables 33, which was probably gathered by the females. Hence, it probably was the female, and not the male who probably wielded economic dominance for a significant period of our history.

Indeed, given woman's dominant role as gatherers and since they were probably generally responsible for both reproductive and most subsistence activities, males could be almost be considered a co-producing dependent 34. That is, women were probably the original "bread winners." Perhaps it is this ancestral tendency to nurture and provide that enables some modern women to not only tolerate but to support men who simply sponge off them.

Not surprisingly, males recognized that females were a tremendous economic asset, and in many societies, dominant males would try to accumulate as many wives or lovers as possible 35. However, although sexual availability may have played some role in this procurement during ancient times, the fact that females were the dominant producing partners meant that with many women, the man would be freed from having to spend all his time engaged in the pursuit of food, its preparation or even the maintenance of dwelling. The more females, the more leisure time and thus the more time to engage in recreational and artistic tasks.

Indeed, such a relationship, at least for dominant males, may have been rather ideal. For the first many years of their lives they were provided for by their mothers, and then later in life they were cared for by their wives. On the other hand, one could argue that not only were women the main providers, they were being exploited for the last 100,000 years as well.

Nevertheless, with increased leisure time and the evolving complexity of social relations, tremendous selective pressures were no doubt brought to bare on the mind and brain of human beings. Only those who could selectively adapt to these changing conditions could pass on their traits and genes. Not only were the right and left brain evolving new functional capabilities associated with sex differences in socializing, gathering and big game hunting, but correspondingly, about 50,000 years ago, the frontal lobes of the brain tremendously expanded in size. With the development of the frontal lobes came the capacity to engage in long term planning, the formation of goals, and the ability to maximally inhibit one's immediate desires and impulses 36. This great change came about with the appearance of the Cro-Magnon and social relations expanded beyond small bands to large tribes 37.


Since food gathering was such an extremely important part of economic existence for so many hundreds of thousands of years until very recently, it might be asked, why has so much emphasis been placed on the importance of man the hunter and along with it, the false notion that he was the main provider?

To better understand the role of providing meat in the assumed dominance of man as the most important provider, let us consider our nearest living evolutionary cousins, the apes. When a chimpanzee captures another living creature for the purpose of consumption others will rapidly and excitedly gather around and beg and beg for just a morsel of the meat 38. Nothing like this happens when they forage for vegetables or insects. Indeed, the hunting and capturing of meat has an immediate highly arousing excitatory effect on the whole band all of whom will gather around in hopes of being given a tiny morsel.

Moreover, Chimps and baboons will chase after and kill small animals but they do not eat dead ones. That is, they do not scavenge 39. For them the pleasure of the meat is tied to the hunt, capture and killing. However, it is the male who predominantly engages in these acts.

Thus among the chimpanzees, the procurement and eating of meat for some reason promotes considerable social excitement and food sharing. In contrast, they do not share and show no interest in sharing or receiving any of the vegetable matter that another chimp may have found and is eating 40.

Similarly, among hunter gatherer societies, the procurement of meat promotes food sharing and the eating of meat is thus a very social activity 41. Indeed, when the hunter returns he is likely to be met by most members of his band all of whom will eagerly seek a share of the spoils. The hunter will naturally give the largest pieces to his own relatives and the smaller shares to friends and co-band members. These individuals in turn will give a share of what they receive to their own special friends and relatives. Hence, a certain degree of group cohesion and bonding occurs when meat is caught and shared and the sharing reinforces the social bond. Meat thus becomes an important currency of exchange.

In contrast, when females bring home the vegetable matter that they have gathered, there is no excitement and there are no begging hands eagerly seeking a share. What the female procures is shared only with her own immediate family.

Indeed, this same emphasis on the importance of meat can be found repeatedly in Genesis and the Books of Moses, as God demanded his sacrifices to be of living flesh. Hence, when Abel offered God "the firstlings of his flock, the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering." But when Cain, a tiller of the soil, made an offering of his vegetable produce, the Lord God "onto Cain and to his offering he had not respect."

Due to the social and even religious and spiritual importance of meat, a successful hunter is looked upon as a very special and powerful individual who has great prestige among his band. Moreover, the successful hunter who gives out shares of meat in accordance with his own prerogatives thus gains power over the group as well as respect. In consequence, the successful hunter is sometimes rewarded with more than one wife (or has numerous extra-marital affairs) presumably because he can provide for more than one and by his great stature is actually sought by females as well as prospective father-in-laws 42.

Of course, those who were the best hunters were no doubt the most intelligent of their times, at least insofar as survival is concerned. Supposing that the most intelligent of the race were more likely to breed, with each passing generation, there was a manifold increase in the numbers of intelligent people. That is, the best hunters would have the most wives and thus the most children, whereas those who were not proficient either died out or bred so sparsely that their descendants and genetic contributions simple ceased 43.

Moreover, females then as now, tend to be attracted to males who hold a more dominant status than they themselves. Males tend to establish relations with females who are subordinate. Hence, our ancient spear throwers, like modern athletes today, often had their pick of willing females thus increasing further their particular genetic contribution to the race 44.

As noted, however, the ancient female was quite a prized possession 45, due to her sexual availability and gathering skills. Hence, males had to also compete amongst each other for their favors and attention, particularly in regard to females who may have been similarly dominant and intelligent.

Males also must often fight and sometimes even kill in order to maintain their dominant position, or in order to escape a position of inferiority. Females are not subject to these same pressures, particularly in that males fight not only for dominance but sometimes for sexual access to females which in turn can be a great source of status. These beahviors are most obviously evident among non-human male mammals 46.

Hence, not only successful hunting, but general intelligence, and the ability to successfully compete against other males in regard to status, dominance, and access to women may have been a tremendous concern of the human male for several thousand years. One might suppose his brain adapted accordingly.

Does this explain, at least in part, the tendency for modern men and adolescent males to sometimes denigrate, even in a teasing manner, the intellectual, physical and financial abilities or even sexual prowess of one other? Is this the remnants of an age old means of achieving dominance?



The basic skills necessary in the gathering of vegetables, fruits, seeds, berries and the digging of roots include the ability to engage in fine and rapid, temporal-sequential physical maneuvers with the arms, hands, and particularly the fingers. As gathering has been a dominant activity for such a long time period in our prehistory, it is thus not surprising that the brain has possessed rudimentary temporal-sequential capabilities for several million years 47.

To aid the women on their daily shopping trips they carried large purses (or pouches) made either of leather or the stomach or bladders of various animals into which they could deposit their goods 48. It probably hung over the woman's shoulder almost like a long strapped purse. Women have thus been gathering (shopping?) and carrying purses for at least 100,000 and perhaps as long as 500,000 years and longer.

The purse was also highly beneficial to the development of social relations. If they did not collect they would probably simply eat what they found on the spot and would have nothing to bring home 49. In fact, humans are the only primate that engages in gathering. All other primates eat their vegetables as they find them. Of course a few highly social animals such as wolves and wild dogs bring food back to the den in their stomach where they may then regurgitate it for the young, or even for the old, injured or feeble. Birds also bring food to their young.

In addition to gathering, women made tremendous use of tools and may have been the first tool makers. Tool making, like gathering was possibly a major aspect of their lives and one they may have spent considerable time engaged in 50. In fact, the first tools were made not for hunting but for gathering and rooting plants. That is, if we suppose that gathering predated hunting and scavenging. For example, in grubbing for roots and bulbs, the gatherer would need a digging stick which they probably had to periodically sharpen as they gathered by using stone flakes. They would also carry a hammerstone for cracking nuts and for grinding the various produce collected during the day.

In addition, as the female also would sometimes hunt and try to capture small game (probably with the help of a big friendly dog) she may have carried an ax and spear for the purposes of dispatching whatever hapless prey she chanced upon. By Cro-Magnon times, many of them also carried large flat bone knives up to 9 inches in length 51.

These ancient women did not spend their time solely gathering, for foods had to be prepared and clothes had to be fashioned out of hides. Her duties may have included cleaning the hides via the use of a scraper, drying and curing the skin over the smoke of a fire, and then using a knife or cutter to make the general desired shape, and then a punch to make holes through which leather straps or vine can be passed so as to create a garment that could keep out the cold. They were also weaving and by Cro-Magnon times they were using a needle to sew garments together. Although there is no way of knowing if woman was the first tool maker, she certainly regularly engaged in these endeavors as a more or less on going activity.

Be it woman or man or both, they eventually developed the capacity to look at and feel a stone or bone and immediately realize its potential as a weapon, tool, or object of art. In this regard, they may have been more attuned to details and had to know stones and bones and the properties and grains of wood, theÊway, manner and direction it had to be struck and with what instrument to use in order to arrive at the desired effect.

However, in tool making, technique comes to have pre-emmenence. With the invention of technique, a linear, temporal and sequential approach long developed over eons of gathering, probably came to characterize the process. Certain tools are made a certain way with certain instruments with certain movements, and with a certain degree of muscular power and considerable precision. To make and utilize tools requiring a precision grip required that the manufacturer not only have a hand capable of such feats, but a brain that could control this hand and which could use foresight and planning in order to carry out the manufacture.

Due to selective pressures and the survival and breeding of those who were successful at these activities, the left half of the brain, which controls the right hand, became increasingly adapted for the control of temporal-sequencing be it for the purposes of tool making or for gathering. Hence, it was not only tools, but the neural substrate for the temporal-sequential and grammatical aspects of what would become spoken language that was being forged and passed on to succeeding generations, a process that had it's onset several million years ago. As females have engaged in gathering for time periods much longer than males, coupled with her possible role in tool manufacturing and tool use (e.g. skinning, clothes making, etc.), it might be assumed that these changes were maximal in the brains of women, particularly in the motor areas controlling speech (Broca's area) and hand control.

Ontogeny follows phylogeny and in this regard we see that not only do modern human females demonstrate an earlier onset of the ability to use language and are less likely to suffer language disturbances, but that it may have been our female ancestors who more fully developed the temporal-sequential aspects of language first as well. Perhaps this was the fruit of knowledge woman offered man only after having taken the first bite. In fact, we find in Genesis that the first gatherer, the first seeker of knowledge, and the first individual to hold a complete conversation (other than God and the serpent) was a woman 52.

When we consider the many selective pressures which acted on males so as to inhibit speech during the hunt, whereas females were allowed to talk quite freely while gathering (as there would be no fear of scaring off game), it certainly appears that these factors strongly and differentially promoted female linguistic development and a greater capacity to discuss topics unrelated to events associated with the hunt. Language was now being used for social bonding and only later became an instrument designed more and more, at least insofar as males are concerned, for the purposes of exchanging information related to business and sports; i.e. the hunt.


Searching for large game animals requires that the hunting band roam quietly over a huge expanse of varied terrain which may extend up to 500 or more miles. To be successful requires good directional sense, so that one could wonder and also find their way home without the aid of a street sign, good visual-spatial skills such as depth and distance perception, so that one can walk and run as well as anticipate the trajectory of movement of a running prey, without tripping and falling, an excellent capacity to recognize, comprehend, and mimic animal, environmental and non-speech sounds, and an increased capacity to communicate non-verbally via gesture, body language, and particularly via animals mimicry so that game would not be scared off by the sounds of speech and so that communication with other hunters could occur. These are all skills associated with the right hemisphere of a modern day human being.

Indeed, the mimicry of certain animal sounds could communicate a host of meanings such as where something might be located (as those animals whose sound he is mimicking may be found only in a certain location), that a particular beast (which elicits cries from the creature being mimicked) is approaching or nearby, or a particular action that the group should take (fight or flight or freeze), and so on. These are all capacities at which the right hemisphere of modern man and woman, excels.

However, in that big game hunting was an activity dominated by men, when one considers the skills involved to be a successful big game hunter it should be no surprise that after 300 or more thousand years of engaging in these activities, that males continue to demonstrate cognitive superiorities in regard to related abilities.

When males banded together for the purposes of the big game hunt, they had to walk silently for long time periods and their only form of communication was probably concerned only with the expression of facts and information about the hunting they were engaged in. If they were to begin talking about anything else such as their family, they possibly would have been shunned as their discussion would have been irrelevant, and would have scared off the game. A premium was thus placed on men who could hold their tongue.

Also decreasing the need for talk was the fact that as hunters stalk their prey they may walk at anywhere from 25-100 yards apart. Two or more men standing together is more likely to warn a prey of their presence, whereas men standing apart have the advantage of chasing a beast into the waiting arms of his comrade.

Finally, it is likely that once the hunt was complete and they returned to their base camp, that the men did not then begin to discuss their wives, children, feelings, or personal problems, but their own prowess as hunters, incidents related to the hunt, and whatever adventures they may have had that would enhance their status amongst their fellows.


In contrast to the silent, non-communicative males, women in contrast were able to freely chatter amongst themselves. Indeed, gathering fostered the development of language, and like hunting for men, also served as a social activity but in a more physically close and socially intimate manner.

Our ancient females ancestors probably gathered in large groups of 7 or more individuals, as the typical size of a band is about 25 individuals on average. Some women were pregnant or probably carried infants which might be set on the ground here and there, or accompanied by young adolescents who would frolic about and play. Such gathering groups must have commonly been loud, noisy and very gay affairs filled with the talk of the women and the sounds of games and yells of the children. Hence, unlike the men who must remain quiet for long time periods in order to not scare off game, the women are free to chatter and talk to their hearts delight.

While in a gathering group it was probably necessary due to the differences in their physical size that many women did not wonder far away from the group or home base as they might become prey. Talking also served as a means of maintaining the location of the group so that if a gatherer or a child chanced to walk away, she (or her child) could always relocate the others by their hodgepodge of speech.

Talking thus became part of the gathering glue and served the purpose of keeping the group together and thus of bonding the group as a collective. The women talked about their children, their husbands, each other, and were thus exposed and allowed to expose their own feelings and thoughts to those who valued talking as much as they. For women, to socialize and be together means to talk, and to talk is a very social bonding element for women even today.

When considering our evolutionary heritage and the fact that women have spent a good 100,000 years or more in female dominated gathering groups, where socializing and freely expressing oneself about social and family matters were the norm, it should come as no surprise that modern day females continue to respond similarly. It is thus little wonder that some women also feel a compulsion to shop and derive considerable enjoyment making it into an all day affair. Likewise, some modern men, bravely armed with high powered weapons, also feel a compulsion to stalk and kill helpless animals, or even other humans. It is hard to escape hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary pressure.

In this regard, it perhaps should not be surprising that after almost half a million years of holding his tongue and jockeying for status and position amongst his fellows, that modern day man continues to respond similarly and have the same concerns, albeit translated and modified to some degree; i.e. sports, politics, business.

Of course, we are not ruled by our evolutionary history, nor is biology equated with destiny. Nevertheless, these influences, including those related to our personal history and the sexually differentiated manner in which we are raised, all continue to effect the manner in which we behave and how the sexes interact. Those forces that cannot be modified, should at least be understood.

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