A welcome blow to the myth of distinct male and female brains

From New Scientist:  https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28584-a-welcome-blow-to-the-myth-of-distinct-male-and-female-brains/

A major study that undermines the damaging idea that male and female brains are fundamentally different could be a game-changer

Gina Rippon
30 November 2015

One of the biggest barriers to equality is crumbling, thanks to a study that blows away the misconception that male and female brains are distinct.

Based on detailed and careful analysis of core features seen in scans of more than 1400 female and male human brains, Israeli researcher Daphna Joel and colleagues demonstrated that most are unique mixes or “mosaics” of features previously thought to be either “male” or “female”. A brain that is not a mix was found to be extremely rare.

The result is a major challenge to the entrenched misconceptions typified by the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” hokum. My hope is it will be a game-changer for the 21st century.

Crucially, it means the power of neuroimaging to explore and explain the links between brain and behaviour can at last come into its own, freed from the constraints of preconceived stereotypes. Our understanding of sex-related brain differences will move beyond simple and outdated dichotomous thinking.

Knowing the controversy associated with such declarations, the authors have been very careful to use a range of different datasets from different laboratories and to investigate the veracity of their findings using more than a single neuroimaging measure.

Their paper adds to similar discussions in neuroscience, as well as to the canon of recent research findings that previously “well-established” sex differences in brain structures turn out to be false when careful analytical techniques are applied.

And it gels with the broader idea that the biology of sex differences is not what we thought. A news feature in Nature last year proclaimed: “Sex redefined: the idea of two sexes is simplistic”, reporting data showing that, even in the most fundamental aspects of sexual differentiation, including chromosomes, cells and genital anatomy, thinking in simple male/female terms is no longer tenable.

What’s more, for several years, psychologists have been saying that, in terms of cognitive skills and personality characteristics, the “two” sexes are much more similar than different. Just knowing whether someone is male or female is a very poor predictor of almost any kind of behaviour.

Continue reading at:  https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28584-a-welcome-blow-to-the-myth-of-distinct-male-and-female-brains/

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on A welcome blow to the myth of distinct male and female brains

What I Learned on My Red State Book Tour

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/132819483625

Robert Reich
Sunday, November 8, 2015

I’ve just returned from three weeks in “red” America.

It was ostensibly a book tour but I wanted to talk with conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers.

I intended to put into practice what I tell my students – that the best way to learn is to talk with people who disagree you. I wanted to learn from red America, and hoped they’d also learn a bit from me (and perhaps also buy my book).

But something odd happened. It turned out that many of the conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers I met agreed with much of what I had to say, and I agreed with them.

For example, most condemned what they called “crony capitalism,” by which they mean big corporations getting sweetheart deals from the government because of lobbying and campaign contributions.

I met with group of small farmers in Missouri who were livid about growth of “factory farms” owned and run by big corporations, that abused land and cattle, damaged the environment, and ultimately harmed consumers.

They claimed giant food processors were using their monopoly power to squeeze the farmers dry, and the government was doing squat about it because of Big Agriculture’s money.

I met in Cincinnati with Republican small-business owners who are still hurting from the bursting of the housing bubble and the bailout of Wall Street.

“Why didn’t underwater homeowners get any help?” one of them asked rhetorically. “Because Wall Street has all the power.” Others nodded in agreement.

Whenever I suggested that big Wall Street banks be busted up – “any bank that’s too big to fail is too big, period” – I got loud applause.

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/132819483625