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Why women can't read maps and men can't find the butter (Even if it is in the fridge)

In these days of political correctness men and women are supposed to be equal yet a controversial new book claims they never will be. In Why Men Don't Listen And Woman Can't Read Maps, Allan and Barbara Pease claim there are irrefutable differences between the sexes. Here, Mandy Francis explains why you'll never have to say sorry again ...


Every woman has had the following conversation with a man who is standing by an open fridge. Him: ``Where have you put the butter?''

Her: ``In the fridge?''

Him: ``I can't see it.''

Her: ``Well, I put it in there ten minutes ago.''

Him: ``You must have put it somewhere else it's definitely not here!''

At this stage she thrusts her arm into the fridge and as if by magic produces a tub of butter.

Men sometimes feel this is a trick and accuse women of hiding things. Women, on the other hand, think men play dumb deliberately, just to drive them mad. But the biological fact is that often men genuinely can't see the their `lost' socks and keys.

Genetically, women have two X chromosomes compared with men's one. Among other things, this gives women a greater variety of cone-shaped cells in the eyes which, in turn, gives them superior colour vision

Women also have wider peripheral vision. As traditional nest defenders, women have developed brain software that gives them an arc of at least 45 degrees clear vision to each side of the head, and the same broad spectrum of vision above and below the nose. In fact, many women's peripheral vision is effective up to almost 180 degrees.

In contrast, as hunters men have evolved a type of long distance `tunnel vision', allowing them to see accurately over longer distances, rather than like a pair of binoculars.


Research shows that women can speak 20,000 to 25,000 a day, compared to a man's paltry 7,000 to 10,000. And in childhood, not only do girls start talking earlier than boys, but a three-year-old girl has nearly twice the vocabulary of a boy of the same age.

Why is this the case? For males, speech is not a specific brain skill. It operates solely in the left of the brain but has no specific location.

When a male talks, brain scans show that the entire left hemisphere of his brain becomes active as it searches to find a centre for speech, but is unable to find one. Consequently, men aren't physically equipped to be good at talking.

Women, however, have specific areas in the brain devoted to speech, located primarily in the front left hemisphere with another, smaller hemisphere with another smaller specific area in the right hemispheres. Having speech in both hemispheres means that, unlike men, women can talk and watch TV at the same time for example, or talk about several different subjects at once.

Male brains are highly compartmentalised and have the ability to separate and store information. At the end of a day full of problems, a man's brain can file them all away. If he's used up his 7,000-word quota, he really has no desire to communicate any more he's happy just to fire gaze or read the paper.

The female brain, on the other hand, does not store information in this way the problems just keep going around in her head and she needs to talk them through. If she has used up her 20,000 words during the day, she may be happy just to sit back and relax quietly, but if she hasn't had the opportunity to chat enough, she feels the need to speak the remaining balance of her quota.

Men can perceive this as nagging but it's not. Her objective is to discharge the problems, not find conclusions or solutions.


Men tend to be much less expressive than women when they are listening using The Grunt a series of short, monotone `hmms' and an occasional nod of the head.

They rarely use facial expressions when someone else is talking and hardly ever interrupt. Instead, they tend to sit back and let the speaker have their say. So, girls, often he is listening it just doesn't look as if he is.

So, if you want a man's full attention give an agenda. Tell him what you need to discuss, what you require from him and when you'd like to talk.

Objectives appeal to the compartmentalised male brain and he'll be more than happy to listen.

In contrast, talking is part of a woman's wiring. All a man needs to do unless his opinion or a solution is requested is learn to listen more like a woman.

Show interest in what she is saying through listening sounds `oohs' and `aahs' and occasionally repeating things she has said. Also, register interest with facial expressions and body language.


When a man has a problem he talks inwardly to himself while a woman will want to get things off her chest. This is because, when under stress, men use the right side of their brains to find solutions and stop using the left to listen or speak.

While women have the genetic capacity to deal with a multitude or tasks at once, men can handle only one thing at a time. They can't solve problems and listen and talk simultaneously.

This silence often creates tension. A woman might say to her husband: ``Come on, you've got to talk about it. You'll feel better.''

That is because this is what works for her. But he just wants to be left alone until he comes up with a solution. He doesn't want to talk to anyone about it especially a therapist because he sees that as a sign of weakness.

The famous Rodin sculpture `The Thinker' symbolises a man sitting on a rock, pondering his problem. To do this, a man needs to be alone. But a woman feels the urge to climb up to give comfort, and she gets a rude shock when he pushes her off.

A woman needs to understand that when a man is on his rock which could mean he's reading a newspaper, watching TV fixing something or fishing she needs to leave him be. When he finally solves his problem, he'll come down off his rock and feel happy to talk again.


For women, shopping is like talking it doesn't need to have a point and can't take place in an unstructured way over several ways. It doesn't even need a definite outcome. Women find shopping rejuvenating and relaxing, whether or not they buy anything. This behaviour drives men mad after 20 minutes.

For a man to feel energised he needs an objective, a target to hit and a timetable. After all, he's a hunter that's his job. He wants to make a quick kill and take it home.

Men become anxious and frustrated in a dress shop when a woman tries on outfit after outfit, asks for his comments and then buys nothing. Women, on the other hand, love testing a wide range of clothes because it fits and pattern of her brain various emotions reflected in different outfits.

A man's clothing reflects the male brain set predictable and conservative. That's why it's easy to spot a man whose clothes are bought for him. If he's well dressed, there's either a woman about or he's gay. One in eight men are colour blind and most have little ability to match patterns and designs.

If you want a man to go shopping with you, give him clear criteria colours, sizes, brands, styles and tell him where you will shop and for how long. With clear objectives, you'll be amazed at his enthusiasm.


He might be to read a map, but why is it, if a man's driving and he gets lost, he won't stop and ask anyone for directions? To understand why men hate asking for help, it's important to understand the history behind the attitude.

Picture the scene: the cave family are crouched around a fire the man is sitting at the cave entrance, surveying the landscape. The woman and children have not eaten for days and the man knows he must go out and hunt for food.

His stomach is churning. Will he be successful? Will he starve? Will other males kill him because he is weak with hunger? He must not show any signs of fear to his family as they would become disheartened. He must be strong.

A million years of not wanting to be seen as a failure seems to be wired into the brain of modern men. If a man is driving in a car alone and gets lost, he'll probably ask for directions. But to do it in front of his family makes him feel weak.

When a woman says: ``Let's ask directions,'' a man hears: ``You're incompetent you can't navigate.'' If she says: ``The kitchen tap is leaking let's get a plumber,'' he hears: ``You're useless I'll get another man to do it!''

This is also the reason men have difficulty saying sorry, because to be wrong is to fail.

To deal with this problem, a woman needs to make sure that she doesn't criticise when she discusses problems. A man needs to understand that a woman's objective is to help and he should not take things personally.

Men don't like admitting to errors because they think women won't love them. But what they should realise is that women love men more when they admit mistakes.

* Why Men don't Listen and women Can't Read Maps by Allen and Barbara Pease is published by PTI Ltd. and costs st£10.99.

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