Re-examining neurosexism

My dad brought this interesting book review to my attention: Peeling Away Theories on Gender and the Brain (NYT)

In her book Delusions of Gender (which I have not read though am intrigued to do so), cognitive neuroscientist Cordelia Fine places several modern studies of early differences in brain anatomy/function into a long line of sexist explanations for supposed differences in male and female behaviors.

The basic argument is that there has been no convincing connection made between any measured structural differences (which she argues might not exist) to behavioral differences. Just another case of correlation (maybe) and not causation.

Here’s a description of study that you might already be familiar with and Fine’s take on it:

Dr. Baron-Cohen’s lab conducted research on infants who averaged a day and a half old, before any unconscious parental gender priming. Jennifer Connellan, one of Dr. Baron-Cohen’s graduate students, who conducted the study, showed mobiles and then her own face to the infants. The results showed that among the newborns the boys tended to look longer at mobiles, the girls at faces.

Dr. Fine dismantles the study, citing, among other design flaws, the fact that Ms. Connellan knew the sex of some of the babies. Because it was her face they were looking at and she was holding up the mobile, Dr. Fine says, she may have “inadvertently moved the mobile more when she held it up for boys, or looked more directly, or with wider eyes, for the girls.”

Although I am unsure about the scientific merits, it is refreshing to see a new viewpoint in this debate. It provides some food for thought on this interesting topic:

Summarizing the research, she writes, “Nonexistent sex differences in language lateralization, mediated by nonexistent sex differences in corpus callosum structure, are widely believed to explain nonexistent sex differences in language skills.”

What all this adds up to, she says, is neurosexism. It’s all in the brain.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Re-examining neurosexism

  1. THIS IS PLAIN NONSENSE. THE PRESENCE OF SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER LEVELS OF NEURO REPRESSORS, TOLERANCE OF ROUTINE, SEXUALITY DIFFERENCES IN A STUDY IN WHICH I PARTICIPATED & WROTE THE PAPER, INDICATING A STUNNING DIFFERENCE IN RESPONSE TO SEXUAL STIMULII, ADAPTATION & LEARNING STUDIES DONE WITH ANIMALS WHERE YOUNG FEMALES FIRST, ELDER MALES LAST IN NEW LEARNING, STUDIES ON INJECTING CHIMP FETUSES WITH MALE OR FEMALE HORMONES, AND THE UNQUESTIONED RESULTS, TESTS WITH FINE MOTOR VS. GROSS MOTOR, TESTS RUN ON STAMINA VS. STRENGTH, ALL REVEAL WIDE CHASM, EVEN ACROSS BELL SHAPED CURVE AVERAGE MATRIX, IN SKILLS, IN MEASUREMENTS OF HORMONE, NEUROTRANSMITTER, MUSCLE & BONE RESPONSE TO STRESS. SAYING THIS DOESNT EXIST IS BLIND AND AIMED AT UNISEX, WHICH WILL NEVER NEVER BE. WHATS MISSING IN THE FIELD IS A HUGE BODY OF STUDY FROM ALL ANGLES ON MALES AND FEMALES BORN GAY, NOT SEDUCED, MOLESTED OR FORCED, BUT BORN GAY. PERIPHERAL MATERIAL AVAILABLE ON THIS FROM SOME MALE/FEMALE STUDIES. BUT THEY NEED THEIR OWN STUDIES

    Like

  2. I’m only a lay reader, but I read Fine’s book and I just wanted to clarify something. You wrote that the book argues that sex differences in function don’t really exist. But Fine doesn’t argue that, per se. Her book isn’t a treatise on sex differences so much as a critique of how some research on sex is done and particularly reported. She doesn’t argue there aren’t functional implications, but does question the functional implications some have drawn. Here is a paper that gives you an idea.
    I could offer a couple of examples. She points out that a lot of researchers assume that greater male lateralization is associated with enhanced spatial cognition and decreased verbal ability. However, these researchers might be depending on circular reasoning. Namely, greater male performance is explained by greater male lateralization because this increased lateralization is seen in males and they perform better on these tasks. However, some lesion studies seem to support the idea that greater male lateralization is linked to these cognitive patterns.
    Alternatively, though, she points out how a lot of researchers engage in post-hoc speculations and it comes off as “fact” or explanation. But she isn’t arguing there aren’t functional implications. Rather, researchers today can sometimes be careless about them in light of unknowns.

    http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/19/5/280.full

    As far as I can tell, sometimes she’s a bit pessimistic, but she raises some important and worthwhile questions about assumptions, gaps, etc.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s