~drawing by my youngest daughter at age 5
I've been reading a book about infant brain development and I discovered a little fact that I'd never heard before: vision develops differently in boys and girls.
There are several different types of cells that send visual information from the retina to the brain. One is called parvocellular (or P cells) which link to the cones--they transmit information about color and shape of stationary objects. Another type is called magnocellular (or M cells) which link to the rods--they carry information about depth and motion.
Researchers have found that girls have more P cells and boys have more M cells. So, girls are born with a better skill in seeing shape and color (or "what something is"), whereas boys have an advantage in seeing motion, depth, and shades of gray (or "where something is"). I can easily see the evolutionary link here-- female gatherers need to recognize plants by shape and color, male hunters need to process the motion of prey to make a successful kill. But I digress…
The impact of this anatomy on preschool function is what I found so interesting. Girls tend to use many bright colors to draw things (like houses, flowers, people, or animals). While boys tend to use a few crayons, often black, gray, silver, and blue, to draw actions (car crashes, airplanes, etc.)
Just imagine the psychological impact on little Sam when his teacher (mostly females in preschool settings) inadvertently criticizes him for not using more color, or asks him to draw more "happy people." He'll get the message that he's not doing something right or somehow lacking.
And, his feeling of failure is more important than we realize. Other studies have demonstrated that children decide whether they like school by the end of their first year and that their decision remains stable throughout their lifetime!
Ack!-- I hope preschool and kindergarten teachers have heard about this! I don’t have any sons, so I haven't seen this play out. Have any of you?