Why Humanities Students Just Can’t Study Science, and Vice Versa

humanities students

There is an age-old rivalry on every university campus in the world — and it isn’t among fraternities and sororities. Since the dawn of civilization, humanity has been divided into two competing factions, each believing it is better than the other, neither understanding exactly how the other thinks, and both working hard to demonstrate their worth. The longstanding adversaries? Science students and humanities students.

Fortunately, it seems that a breakthrough has come to benefit both sides. Scientists now believe there is a fundamental difference between science brains and humanities brains, which could be the reason you didn’t do well on your Chemistry AP test.

The Study

In a study uncreatively named “Brain Structures in the Sciences and Humanities,” science-minded Dr. Takeuchi and colleagues explained their significant findings in the neural discrepancies between different types of undergraduate students. Scanning a total of 491 brains (housed in the heads of 312 science students and 179 humanities students), the research team noticed that structures varied dependent on the subjects the students studied.

The study explains that science students tend to have more gray matter in the medial prefrontal cortex. Gray matter — the pinkish-gray stuff that looks most brain-like to non-neurologists — is composed of cell bodies, dendrites, and axon terminals. In essence, the gray matter is where processing occurs in the brain; it is responsible for such crucial tasks as muscle control, perception, and memory formation. The prefrontal cortex, which is one of the most overdeveloped structures in the human brain, is thought to handle various crucial cognitive processes, from decision-making to emotions.

Meanwhile, the research team found that humanities students displayed more white matter around the right hippocampus. White matter, which is aptly named for its pale color, is mostly made of tough neural fibers called myelinated axons, which speed the transmission of information from nerve to nerve. White matter is crucial during learning, as it allows strong, fast connections between pockets of gray matter. Experts believe that the hippocampus is responsible for long-term memory and spatial awareness.

The Possible Effects

Takeuchi et al briefly analyzed the possible reasons for these structural differences between students; however, because our understanding of the human brain continues to develop, the team was hesitant to provide conclusive explanations for the incongruities in white and gray matter.

The increased amount of gray matter among science-minded students may indicate a lower ability to empathize. Takeuchi notes that previous studies have found a connection between diminished social and self-relating cognitive capability and higher gray matter, hinting that brains can prioritize either empathizing or systematizing — never excelling in both. The team believes that this proclivity may indicate that science students display varying degrees of autism, which may attract them to this less personal field of study.

Conversely, the excess white matter in humanities students’ hippocampi may thwart a certain amount of spatial reasoning. Though study of the hippocampus is much less extensive — and tends to be contradictory — Takeuchi and team supposes that a high amount of testosterone in the fetal environment may overdevelop the hippocampus, impairing the ability to navigate and understand spatial environments. It is perhaps this difficulty in spatial cognition that leads some students to the more theoretical studies of humanities.

The Ramifications log

humanities studentsIf other neurological studies align with Takeuchi’s findings, humanity may have a new and improved career test. Instead of asking subjective questions regarding an individual’s interests, headhunters can perform quick brain scans to determine which field a student will find most fulfilling. Nevermore will undergrads fret over their degree program of choice, wondering if they would be better served in a completely different atmosphere.

Of course, this future is likely centuries away. Even as studies like Takeuchi’s elucidate the deep secrets of the human brain, there is plenty we have to learn about our most precious organ. No matter what prospective undergraduate students get out of Takeuchi’s study, it is important to note that the differences his team discerned were marginally significant at best. The brain is abundantly complex and infinitely malleable, which means that no matter a student’s neural structure, she is capable of studying any subject. However, her slightly lower empathy or worse spatial cognition may make it slightly more difficult.

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By | 2017-03-22T15:25:05+00:00 July 13th, 2015|Categories: Education, Human Brain, Uncommon Science|Tags: , , , |1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Skip Newberry July 24, 2015 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    Long ago, there used to be a course where both Humanities and Chemistry (a sort of Science… right?) were taught. On the one side you were taught how the nature of things evolved and how it interacted with the environment or nature (my version of Humanities). On the other side, you were taught how to take these (things) apart, clean them and then put them back together (my version of the Sciences) to create medicines and other wonders. You also needed to do these experiments during specific lunar cycles AND you learned how to pray a little and to thank the almighty GOD when things worked out well. Once you learned all there was to learn about the “things” nature on this earth has produced in the time she has had to produce them, you were able (through Mans industry) to produce the same in a fraction of the time she needed…
    The problem for the Student here was and still is. The Students were chosen for this course because they were of a good and prideless nature and respected Nature as there University to learn at.
    The best this had to offer, when the Student had graduated, is that they were “self sufficient” and would never need to apply for a position in some greater Firm or Office and still were able to enjoy good health, travel all over the world, and have enough monetary riches to enjoy anything/help anything/anybody that they were momentarily interested in.
    Having a Master in Humanity AND Natural Science is not yet possible because so many of us are too egocentrical due to the dependency we have for money and what it buys. Health, food, clothing or a roof over your head… to name only the most important.
    Some of you may have already figured out what the name of the Course is, that I’m talking about. And you may be chuckeling, maybe not. If you are not, then you already know one basic law of natural Science that still can’t be proven, because we need to observe the natural process over a 1000 year period. Ready?
    All Base Metals (metals that comes from an Ore, Iron, Copper, Lead etc.) in the earth have the potential, given the proper natural Environment, to evolve/develop into the perfect Metal, given enough time. Usually this process is interupted prematurely through Mans industry and you have thereafter only a “Copper mine”, “Lead mine” or whatever. But if you look closely at any of these mines, you will always find some trace of the perfect Metal.
    Don’t believe me? Then you don’t know what the perfect Metal is….
    Live purely and leave Pride alone. It’s probably your greatest Sin.

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Why Humanities Students Just Can’t Study Science, and Vice Versa