Tags:


Brain
June 16, 2005 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Brain study reveals gender differences.
posted by semmi (21 comments total)

 
Although this article is new to MeFi, this is still a double post.
posted by Specklet at 11:42 AM on June 16, 2005


Apparently ignoring scientific evidence is not a trait limited to the religious right:
"What is astonishing to me," Witelson said, "is that it is so obvious that there are sex differences in the brain and these are likely to be translated into some cognitive differences, because the brain helps us think and feel and move and act.

"Yet there is a large segment of the population that wants to pretend this is not true."

No one knows how these neural differences between the sexes translate into thought and behavior — whether they might influence the way men and women perceive reality, process information, form judgments and behave socially.

But even at this relatively early stage in exploration of the brain's microanatomy, battle lines between scientists, equal rights activists and educators have formed.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 11:42 AM on June 16, 2005


When Witelson began acquiring human brains, sex was the last thing on her mind.
I would hope so. That's really perverted.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:59 AM on June 16, 2005


Slowly, she formed a theory: The brains of men and women are indeed different from birth. Yet the differences are subtle.

This appears to simply be bias on her part, or am I missing something from the article. I read that she determined specifically gender-linked differences, some of them quite striking, but I don't see where the evidence points to a biological cause for that difference. I'm not trying to be too strident, but we know that phenotype is expressed from genotype only in the face of a specific environment. Why privilege the biology here over the environment?
posted by OmieWise at 12:24 PM on June 16, 2005


Indeed OmieWise.
"Other experts argue that the physical differences Witelson observed may result not from the brain's basic design but from conditioning that begins in infancy, when the brain produces neurons at a rate of half a million a minute and reaches out to make connections 2 million times a second."
This article is not really even a review of literature. And it certainly doesn't warrant: "Brains study reveals gender differences" for the title of the FPP. It's mere anecdote.
The only thing I'm left with from reading it is that women are smarter per volume of brain tissue. But I've always thought that anyway.
posted by peacay at 12:31 PM on June 16, 2005


That would make women more dense, right?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:47 PM on June 16, 2005


*pushes weapons-grade pandemonium away with barge pole*
posted by peacay at 1:01 PM on June 16, 2005


crotch study reveals gender differences too.
posted by quonsar at 1:18 PM on June 16, 2005


I remember reading something on the beeb a year ago that said that the corpus callosum (connecting divider that channels communication between the hemispheres) was wider in women, and in gay men, than it was in straight men. Which IIRC evidenced that homosexuality was more nature than nurture, i.e., homosexuality is not a choice.
posted by modernerd at 1:24 PM on June 16, 2005


Apparently ignoring scientific evidence is not a trait limited to the religious right:

Witelson's editorializing here. The hypothetical "segment of the population" she's talking about, although it's hard to say since she doesn't name any names, is probably not trying to "pretend" that there are no gender differences in the brain. They're probably concerned about how her research might be used politically; understandably, as a scientist, she's a little defensive about that. With so much of her research coming to counter-intuitive conclusions, though, I'm a little surprised that she would so blithely state that "these [differences] are likely to be translated into some cognitive differences." I guess it's intuitively obvious?
posted by transona5 at 1:51 PM on June 16, 2005


So Sinbad the comic was right. Women do be different than men.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:10 PM on June 16, 2005


If you read the article, there seems to be a lot of evidence that she has uncovered that points towards brains being different biologically, and not purely as editorializing. I mean, it says that she found out that men and women store memories differently, that the density of neurons is different, that the way left and right handedness shows up in the brain is different between men and women. While I suppose it is possible that these are due to environmental factors, it does seem to be a bit of a stretch to claim that there is no biology involved with this.

And as for the cries of "what if this encourages people to be more discriminatory based on sex?" well... What this really points out is that we need to pay a lot more attention to how good someone is, not what's in their pants. It's the same bloody argument over and over. Stating that there are (or even might be!) biological differences between men and women does not mean that you're saying one is fundamentally better than the other or deserves better treatment. At all.
posted by vernondalhart at 2:21 PM on June 16, 2005


Harvey, however, decided to preserve the organ responsible for the theory of relativity and the principle of the atomic bomb...It was not such an unusual thing to do. Einstein's ophthalmologist had removed the scientist's eyeballs and put them in a safe-deposit box

Bunch of psuedoscientists and savages, they are. The organ responsible for the theory of relativity? A man is not merely the sum of his organic constituents: he is a living creature, an amalgam of experience and desire. To dissassemble his corpse and study the strips of flesh as if they were cyphers of the man and his wisdom is not only ghastly, but a gross violation of the legacy and memory of a man in the name of "scholarship" which is little more than voodooism.
posted by ori at 2:23 PM on June 16, 2005


By "editorializing," I was referring just to her comments about how unnamed people would like to pretend that there are no gender differences in brains. I'm sure the research is solid, although it does nothing to link these physical differences to conventional ideas about how men and women are different.
posted by transona5 at 2:29 PM on June 16, 2005


ori: You don't think he would have found it interesting? I know I'd want to take my brain apart.
posted by phrontist at 2:53 PM on June 16, 2005


he is a living creature, an amalgam of experience and desire

ori - you don't believe that all these amalgrams and experiences are contained within the brain? I, for one, do believe that the brain contains all of our experiences and thoughts and memories. Wouldn't it be fascinating if one day someone invented a machine that could read all the memories from dead brain? I think I'll write a sci-fi story about that...
posted by shoppingforsanity at 3:43 PM on June 16, 2005


vernondalhart writes "If you read the article, there seems to be a lot of evidence that she has uncovered that points towards brains being different biologically, and not purely as editorializing. I mean, it says that she found out that men and women store memories differently, that the density of neurons is different, that the way left and right handedness shows up in the brain is different between men and women. While I suppose it is possible that these are due to environmental factors, it does seem to be a bit of a stretch to claim that there is no biology involved with this."

I did read the article. My point wasn't that biology is not involved, it always is when we're talking about human beings. My point was that her research does not establish a biological cause for the differences in brain tissue, but she does offer an opinion on the matter. That's fine, she's free to offer the opinion, but it isn't supported by her research. Biological determinism, a contested field of explanation, simply assumes that biology comes first, that genotype determines phenotype, that mind reduces to brain. But it's an ideological assumption in the sense that it's founded on opinion and belief which then informs the science. (Just as, not incidentally, my more environmentally informed views are also an ideological assumption.)

orthogonality can argue the opposite opinion much better than I can.
posted by OmieWise at 4:52 PM on June 16, 2005


Qonsar, thank you for a great belly laugh and plain truth about telling the difference between men and women. Sometimes things aren't that simple.

There are some interesting studies about the brain and autism. Apparently Einstein had autistic traits. The reason I mention autism is that a number of scientists have theorized that autism is an expression of an"extreme male brain".

Among many sites about the brain, is a fun and interesting one where you can test your own brain's 'personality' and left or right side functions online.
posted by nickyskye at 8:18 PM on June 16, 2005


Someday I hope to meet one of those mythical insane people who believe there are no differences whatsoever between the brain structures of (most) men and those of (most) women.

There are, however, plenty of us who believe that any such are most likely small enough to result in only minute practical differences.

For example, pretty much all of us generally hate straw man arguments.
posted by kyrademon at 11:37 PM on June 16, 2005


I loved how the author of the article felt the need to describe the scientist's 'raven hair' and 'scarlet nails'. As Anne Fausto-Sterling said, men and women are treated differently from birth which certainly affects the development of brain structures.
posted by miss tea at 4:57 AM on June 17, 2005


When Witelson began acquiring human brains, sex was the last thing on her mind.
I would hope so. That's really perverted.


That just made my day.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:07 AM on June 17, 2005


« Older It's Pac-Man's 25th birthday...  |  You remember Hunter, right?... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments