Neurosexism: the myth that men and women have different brains
[Nature, 2/27/19] The hunt for male and female distinctions inside the skull is a lesson in bad research practice, writes Lise Eliot.
Early in The Gendered Brain, cognitive neuroscientist Gina Rippon describes one of the myriad brain studies heralded as ‘finally’ explaining the difference between men and women. It was a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) analysis of 21 men and 27 women by researchers at the University of California, Irvine (R. J. Haier et al. NeuroImage 25, 320–327; 2005). Tiny by today’s standards, this brief communication nonetheless went on quite a publicity tour, from newspapers and blogs to television, books and, eventually, teacher education and corporate leadership conferences.
I woke one morning in 2010 to see an especially bad extrapolation of this study on the Early Show, a programme on US television network CBS. The presenter, Harry Smith, gushed as medical correspondent Jennifer Ashton declared that men have “six-and-a-half times more grey matter” than women, whereas women have “ten times as much white matter” as men. Next came the obvious quips about men’s talent at mathematics and women’s uncanny ability to multitask. Never mind that these differences would demand that women’s heads were about 50% larger, or that the Irvine team didn’t even compare brain volumes, but investigated a correlation between IQ and measures of grey or white matter……
Read the Full Article at: Nature
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