No Hard-wired Differences Between Male and Female Brains

In Delusions of Gender, a new book that seeks to correct popular false conceptions of sex and gender, Cordelia Fine, shows that “there are no major neurological differences between the sexes.”  Fine, who is a research fellow at the University of Melbourne, presents compelling evidence from the latest neuroscience and psychology research to demonstrate that commonly-accepted “innate” gender differences are actually the result of socialization.

Dr. Lise Eliot, author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain, another recent book debunking the “hard-wired” differences between boys and girls, weighs in on the issue in this article from The Observer:

“Yes, there are basic behavioural differences between the sexes, but we should note that these differences increase with age because our children’s intellectual biases are being exaggerated and intensified by our gendered culture. Children don’t inherit intellectual differences. They learn them. They are a result of what we expect a boy or a girl to be.

The current popular stress on innate intellectual differences between the sexes is, in part, a response to psychologists’ emphasis of the environment’s importance in the development of skills and personality in the 1970s and early 1980s, said Eliot. This led to a reaction against nurture as the principal factor in the development of human characteristics and to an exaggeration of the influence of genes and inherited abilities. This view is also popular because it propagates the status quo, she added. “We are being told there is nothing we can do to improve our potential because it is innate. That is wrong. Boys can develop powerful linguistic skills and girls can acquire deep spatial skills.”

Dr. Eliot notes that “All the mounting evidence indicates these ideas about hard-wired differences between male and female brains are wrong…There is almost nothing we do with our brains that is hard-wired. Every skill, attribute and personality trait is moulded by experience.”

We’re happy to see neuroscientists taking on the pop psychology tropes that boys and girls or men and women are “hard-wired” to be so incredibly different from one another that they can’t be educated together or need to purchase junk science books to relate to one another. Once we can get put these gendered assumptions behind us, we can focus on the reality of the situation: that every person, regardless of gender, is different, and that there is far more that our brains have in common than not.

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1 Response to No Hard-wired Differences Between Male and Female Brains

  1. Larry Cahill says:

    I am a neuroscientist working in the are of sex influences on brain function. The key arguments made by Eliot and Fine are either specious, or simply wrong, as any neuroscientist working in the area can easily document. Those of you wishing to get an accurate picture of the issue might try my 2005 Scientific American article on the topic, of perhaps my articles in 2006 and 2010 in Nature Neuroscience Reviews. An excellent book on the topic is Brain Gender by Melissa Hines.

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