Men and women don’t learn differently
Bobex-73/Shutterstock There are many differences between men and women, but it doesn’t mean that the sexes aren’t equal in their learning capabilities. “On average, men have larger brain volumes than women, while women have thicker cortices than men,” Dr. Tarawneh says. “The differences are not just anatomical—men’s and women’s brains seem to be wired differently to some extent.” She points to research by Diane Halpern, PhD, who found that women do better with verbal and writing ability, and men better with problem-solving and visuospatial skills. But, there may be a social component to this, and other research has shown both sexes performing equally in mathematics. “Men’s and women’s brains are more alike than they are different, and there is a lot of variability between individuals of the same gender,” Dr. Tarawneh says. Don’t miss these other 17 science myths that have been proven wrong.
Size doesn’t matter—or does it?
whiteMocca/Shutterstock Another ongoing debate is how your brain’s size impacts your smarts. “The size of the brain is not linked to intelligence or learning new material,” Dr. Tarawneh says. Comparing the brains of great thinkers, writers, and mathematicians after autopsy hasn’t yielded conclusive evidence that their size has a correlation to intelligence. Even among different species, research has shown that when it comes to brain-to-body ratio, the “smarter” animals don’t always have bigger brains. However, scientists have come up with an “encephalization quotient” that compares animals based on their relative body size—and humans finally come out on top. Check out these quirky habits that prove you’re smarter than everyone else.
The size of our brains cause us to be born “too soon”
ren_Geo/Shutterstock The theory of the “fourth trimester” suggests that babies are born when their bodies are still very fragile in order to allow for their relatively large brains to have room to be delivered. (Here are more bizarre facts about newborns that doctors don’t tell you.) “I always tell my patients that all babies are born too soon,” says Harvey Karp, MD, author of The Happiest Baby on the Block and creator of the “smart sleeper” SNOO. “Think about it—a horse can walk on the very first day of life, but by comparison, human babies are super immature. They can’t walk, run, or even burp without help from Mom or Dad.” A horse’s survival depends on his body, but human survival depends on our brain. “So, our species evolved to evict our little genius babies from the womb three months early—before their heads get so big that they risk getting stuck in the birth canal,” Dr. Karp says.