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RS 239 - Saloni Dattani on "The debate over whether male and female brains are different"

Release date: September 2nd, 2019

Saloni Dattani

Several recent books have argued there's no difference between male and female brains. Saloni Dattani, a PhD in psychiatric genetics, discusses some of the problems with the argument, and what we really know so far about gender and the brain.


Saloni's Twitter

Saloni's article on the debate over gender and the brain

"Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne

The back-and-forth between Gina Rippon, Cordelia Fine and Daphne Joel versus evolutionary psychologists on gender in the brain and behavior

Research on the digit ratio and prenatal testosterone

Some of the literature in the philosophy of biology regarding innate & socialised differences:

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Reader Comments (5)

It's a no brainer.
September 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMax
The male and female human fetal, infant, juvenile, and adult brains show clear morphological differences. The evidence for this derives from years of cadaver studies.

Human genetics do lead to sex differences in the brain. Additionally, human genetics lead to differences in hormone production and hormone receptors, that then also lead to sex differences in the brain.

Females and Males actually score about the same on standardized tests for mathematical skill such as the SAT and Achievement Tests. However, Females do better than males on the verbal tests. Thus, women have more options than men, and can more easily pursue degrees and careers in the humanities instead of engineering. Due to the rigor and sometimes outright abuse of many engineering curriculum, many women capitalize on this opportunity choose humanities over engineering.

Scientific papers should indeed clearly define every term used.

Human children develop and learn rapidly. Children of any sex can learn a whole variety of behaviors, and this socializes them. Children of any sex can certainly learn the virtues of civility, responsibility, and productivity.

Some real scientific evidence does show neurological and psychological differences in females and males. Females statistically have slightly larger brains in the front on one side, and males statistically have slightly larger brains in the front on the opposite side. The same goes for the back of the brain. Females statistically see an assortment of things and remember them better than males, whereas males can statistically follow navigational directions better. The ideal scouting party would stereotypically have both a female and a male, one to remember the things observed and the other to reach the target and return. Perhaps females and males evolved this way to work as a pair. Young boys (not just infants in a cradle playing with a mobile) statistically prefer things and avoid eye contact, whereas young girls statistically prefer socializing and readily make eye contact. Females generally develop physically and mentally about two years ahead of males. However, take all of these differences put together, and possibly a bunch of others, and females and males actually have about the same mental capacities.

Making assumptions about people on the basis of gender leads to serious errors. Kraków University denied Madam Curie a professorship because she was a woman. Then she went on to win two noble prizes, one in Physics, and another in Chemistry.

One wonders how much of gender difference in society comes from "innate biological gender differences", and how much of gender difference derives from the anticipation of gender differences and resultant socialization of children to meet those expectations. Perhaps we need to take more care to avoid making assumptions about gender preferences and characteristics.
September 3, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJameson
I liked this guest. The episode feels a bit light on content, but it's much better to be light on content than to exaggerate. My intuition is that more conversations *should* be like this. She just came across as very honest and reliable. ... and I'm not surprised that a lot of studies on this topic aren't good.
September 3, 2019 | Unregistered Commentersty.silver
Are transgendered people born this way or not? Are their brains different?
There was a human-interest story about some guy who realized he's a woman, so now he's learning to walk and talk like a woman. But if he was a woman's brain trapped in a man's body, why does he need to learn this stuff? Shouldn't it come naturally?

By the way, why do women pronounce words differently? The vocal fry, the lisp, how do they pick that up, by imitating other women and not men? What about gay speech? Is the gay lisp learned or what? Is it different in other languages?
September 4, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMax
Thank you for that information you article
October 28, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermostfungames

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