Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School


  • There is not doubt that men and women are different. Women have two X chromosomes, and it is this chromosome that does the heavy lifting in terms of brain function. While they only use one, the other represents a backup that men don’t have, and the male Y chromosome is much smaller and not good for much. Some brain structures vary in size between genders. Here is a list that shows how various diseases and one skill vary by gender: schizophrenia(M), depression(F), antisocial behavior(M), anxiety(F), alcoholism and drug addiction(M), anorexia(F), verbal processing ability(F), and reading disorders(M).
  • Our culture has exacerbated these brain differences. For example, men who give orders are more likely to be seen as leaders, while women giving orders are seen as bossy. Men are also more likely to answer questions in a more direct manner. In emotional situations, men are more likely to get the gist, while women get the details. How teachers and businesses can leverage what we know about gender differences in not very clear, but John gives some examples and suggestions.


  • We are natural explorers. As young children, the only way we learn about our environment and how it works is to explore, which is driven by a strong drive to know. Our ancestors’ survival depended on chaotic, self-correcting, information-gathering experiences, and this type of learning is at the heart of research. The fact that we can grow new neurons at any age explains how we can be life-long learners.
  • The lesson for teachers and parents is to do what you can to feed your childrens’ curiosity. John thinks that this is the greatest brain rule of all. Joy in learning is more likely to happen if students explore their interests and passions. As soon as they start asking “what to I have to do to get an A,” the joy may be gone.
  • The way we prepare teachers needs to change based on what we know. Real-world experiences with students should begin when students start college, and there should be a research focus to what they do. This would be somewhat more like what happens in medical school. Other subject areas should do the same. Business school students, for example, should run a small business.
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