Part 2—What is Your Brain Type?
In Part 1, I talked about the different brain types discussed by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen and learning that I had the Empathizing brain type that is more common in women. Both men and women have brains that can both empathize (E type) and systemize (S type), but females tend to be better at empathizing. Although empathizing helps make me a better counselor, and I’d like to think a better husband and father, I still wanted to try the test again to see if I could get more of the “manly” systemizing answers.
I retook both tests hoping there was a mistake. No dice. I still scored high on E and low on S. I have taken the tests many times over the years. No change. Of course, the fact that my empathy skills are very high makes me an excellent therapist and it’s not the end of the world that my wife knows more about fixing cars than I do…still, it’s not easy accepting the reality that I’m never going to be the next James Bond or win the favor of the voluptuous Pussy Galore (how did that name ever get past the censors?) played by Honor Blackman in the movie Goldfinger.
I hoped I would do better in the updated tests Dr. Baron-Cohen offered in his latest book, The Pattern Seekers. Here he has just 10 questions for each test:
Systemizing (S) test
Empathizing (E) test
“Based on our scores we can calculate our brain type,” says Dr. Baron-Cohen.
You simply subtract your E (empathizing) score from your S (systemizing) score which gives you a D (difference) score. In my case my S score was 0 and my E score was 18. So, 0 minus 18 gave me a D score of -18.
Dr. Baron-Cohen says there are 5 brain types as follows, along with the D score ranges:
- Extreme E (empathizing): -14 and below. That’s me…again (-18).
- Type E (empathizing): -13 to -7 (inclusive)
- Type B (balanced): -6 to -2 (inclusive)
- Type S (systemizing): -1 to 8 (inclusive)
- Extreme S (systemizing): 9 and above
Based on Dr. Baron Cohen’s research he found the following population results for each type:
Extreme Empathizers are rare. Only 3% of women and 1% of men fall into this group.
Empathizers, Type E are predominantly female. 40% of the female population, but only 24% of the male population are this type.
Balanced Types are equal between men and women, 31% of males and 30% of females.
Systemizers, Type S are predominantly male. 40% of the male population, but only 26% of the female population are this type.
Extreme Systemizers are also rare. Only 4% of males and 2% of females fall into this group.
The Ancient Roots of Our Systemizing and Empathizing Circuits
In his book The Pattern Seekers, Dr. Baron-Cohen says that the ability to empathize and systemize evolved in humans 70,000 to 100,000 years ago. The ability to empathize enabled our ancestors to understand what was going on in each other’s mind and allowed us to cooperate around shared beliefs, tell stories about our world, and helped us develop complex social interactions. Our ability to systemize helped us recognize the patterns in nature that formed the basis for using fire to cook our meals, agriculture, music, invention, sport, math, and science.
While men, as a group, were not as able to empathize as women as a group, we were good at systemizing. Together these two brain circuits, empathizing and systemizing, have allowed us to become who we are. All of us, whether we are male or female, better at systemizing, empathizing, or are balanced in both, need to accept ourselves as we are, both our strengths and our weaknesses.
“When I get to heaven,” said the Hasidic rabbi Susya shortly before his death, “they will not ask me, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ but ‘Why were you not Susya? Why did you not become what only you could become?’”
Luther Price offered a more street-wise admonition: “Be what you is, not what you ain’t; ’cause if you ain’t what you is, you is what you ain’t.”