[MUD-Dev] Male and female brains

Steven J. Owens puffmail at darksleep.com
Fri Apr 25 04:23:25 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

On Mon, Apr 21, 2003 at 09:39:44PM -0700, Koster, Raph wrote:

> There's an article to be found here:
>   http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0,13026,937913,00.html
> discussing how male and female brains tend to have different
> attributes on average--more males tend to have "systematizing
> brains" and more females tend to have "empathizing brains."

This sounds an _awful_ lot like the classic analyitical
vs. community oriented male/female style (see Deborah Tannen's _You
Just Don't Understand_, along with the much cliched _Men Are From
Mars, Women Are From Venus_).

> Along with the article, there's a couple of tests to assess the
> "systematizing quotient" and the "empathizing quotient" of your
> brain.  > I personally scored as a "type B" brain, meaning that I
> had a balanced quotient--fairly high in both, actually (52 and
> 43).

Just for giggles, I took the test, 28 EQ, 50 SQ.  I disagreed with
several of the questions, of course.

> Now, as it happens, I've also been playing a socializer-heavy
> online world recently, one with no combat abilities. And I am
> playing a female avatar in this world, something which has been my
> habit for years now.  Almost all the friends I have made there are
> female. As is fairly typical, I've been sexually harassed already,
> fairly crudely, and when there is misbehavior in the game, it's
> generally assumed that the perpetrator is a younger male.

Years back, in college, I spent a not-insignificant span of time
playing a female character in an RPG-oriented, PvP mud.  Oddly
enough, I didn't see a lot of harassment.  Then again, my name
wasn't blatantly female ("Cawti", from the Steven Brust novels) and
I *did* run an assassin's guild...

> I wonder: -- would we find a correlation between type E or B
> brains in males and their preference for female avatars?

Hm... I suspect not.  That assumes female-presenting males feel more
comfortable with female culture (community instead of analytical)
than with male culture.  On the other hand, I suspect most
female-presenting players are inquisitive and exploring, not merely
feeeling more at home among females but curious about the experience
of being _perceived_ as female (not the experience of _presenting_
as or imagining themselves to be female).

I would guess that you'll find those players to be more evenly
balanced, if anything.  Perhaps they're more curious about
interacting on that stereotypically female dimension that their
peers don't typically pay attention to.  This is purely a gut feel
thing, however.  Any justification I could come up with would be an
after-the-fact rationalization, e.g. perhaps the female-presenting
males generally must be cleverer and more aware of/attentive to
emotional nuances than typical males.

>   -- would we find, I wonder, in research, that male brains tend
>   to shift from S brains to B brains as they age? There's evidence
>   for this shift in playstyles among male players, according to
>   Nick Yee.

I think characterizing this as a "shift" from S to B is probably
simplistic.  Young men tend to be more competitive, that's well
known, but I suspect that's largely a side-effect of the whole
"proving yourself" syndrome.  Older men probably develop a higher
empathic quotient, but is that because they've shifted or because
they're no longer as preoccupied with proving themselves and hence
have attention-span to turn to other issues (both in the long term
of developing interaction skills, and in the short term of expending
energy on emotional/community interaction)?

>   -- would we find that designers in general, and perhaps of
>   online worlds in particular, tend to have B brains?

I incline towards "yes", at first, but I suspect that designers, per
se, tend to be more analytical, but also more attuned to
cultural/emotional issues, an odd combination.  I suspect that game
designers, particularly multiplayer game designers, tend to look at
the interplay of motivations and emotions both more than the typical
analytical programmer, and also more analytically than the typical
culturally/emotionally oriented diva.  Again, it's an odd

Steven J. Owens
puff at darksleep.com

"I'm going to make broad, sweeping generalizations and strong,
declarative statements, because otherwise I'll be here all night and
this document will be four times longer and much less fun to read.
Take it all with a grain of salt." - Me at http://darksleep.com

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