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November 27, 2014

Our ideas about how the anatomical differences in male and female brains explain the behaviors of men and women may be based on bias rather than science.



Has sexism infiltrated neuroscience? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

We often hear about brain researchers finding differences in the male and female brains that confirm our assumptions about the sexes—for instance, that women are more empathetic or men more aggressive. In the journal Science, University of Melbourne psychologist Cordelia Fine writes that the reports say more about our biases than about neuroscience.

CORDELIA FINE (University of Melbourne):

We’re  very early days in understanding how the neural circuits of the brain give rise to our mental processes, but there is a temptation there for researchers to draw on what are often very inaccurate gender stereotypes to interpret their findings.


She says the popular media often jump on board, emphasizing findings that support the idea that male and female brains are hardwired in ways that fit in with our expectations. She says that can lead to a gross underestimation of the complexity of personality and behavior.  I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.