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Old 08-23-2010, 01:37 PM   #1
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Mars And Venus, Delusions Of Gender

Male and female ability differences down to socialisation, not genetics | World news | The Observer

It is the mainstay of countless magazine and newspaper features. Differences between male and female abilities – from map reading to multi-tasking and from parking to expressing emotion – can be traced to variations in the hard-wiring of their brains at birth, it is claimed.

Men instinctively like the colour blue and are bad at coping with pain, we are told, while women cannot tell jokes but are innately superior at empathising with other people. Key evolutionary differences separate the intellects of men and women and it is all down to our ancient hunter-gatherer genes that program our brains.

The belief has become widespread, particularly in the wake of the publication of international bestsellers such as John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus that stress the innate differences between the minds of men and women. But now a growing number of scientists are challenging the pseudo-science of "neurosexism", as they call it, and are raising concerns about its implications. These researchers argue that by telling parents that boys have poor chances of acquiring good verbal skills and girls have little prospect of developing mathematical prowess, serious and unjustified obstacles are being placed in the paths of children's education.

In fact, there are no major neurological differences between the sexes, says Cordelia Fine in her book Delusions of Gender, which will be published by Icon next month. There may be slight variations in the brains of women and men, added Fine, a researcher at Melbourne University, but the wiring is soft, not hard. "It is flexible, malleable and changeable," she said.

In short, our intellects are not prisoners of our genders or our genes and those who claim otherwise are merely coating old-fashioned stereotypes with a veneer of scientific credibility. It is a case backed by Lise Eliot, an associate professor based at the Chicago Medical School. "All the mounting evidence indicates these ideas about hard-wired differences between male and female brains are wrong," she told 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."

Thus boys develop improved spatial skills not because of an innate superiority but because they are expected and are encouraged to be strong at sport, which requires expertise at catching and throwing. Similarly, it is anticipated that girls will be more emotional and talkative, and so their verbal skills are emphasised by teachers and parents.

The latter example, on the issue of verbal skills, is particularly revealing, neuroscientists argue. Girls do begin to speak earlier than boys, by about a month on average, a fact that is seized upon by supporters of the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus school of intellectual differences.

However, this gap is really a tiny difference compared to the vast range of linguistic abilities that differentiate people, Robert Plomin, a professor at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, pointed out. His studies have found that a mere 3% of the variation in young children's verbal development is due to their gender.

"If you map the distribution of scores for verbal skills of boys and of girls you get two graphs that overlap so much you would need a very fine pencil indeed to show the difference between them. Yet people ignore this huge similarity between boys and girls and instead exaggerate wildly the tiny difference between them. It drives me wild," Plomin told the Observer.

This point is backed by Eliot. "Yes, boys and girls, men and women, are different," she states in a recent paper in New Scientist. "But most of those differences are far smaller than the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus stereotypes suggest.

"Nor are the reasoning, speaking, computing, emphasising, navigating and other cognitive differences fixed in the genetic architecture of our brains.

"All such skills are learned and neuro-plasticity – the modifications of neurons and their connections in response experience – trumps hard-wiring every time."

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."

In short, women can read maps despite claims that they lack the spatial skills for such efforts, while men can learn to empathise and need not be isolated like Mel Gibson's Nick Marshall, the emotionally retarded male lead of the film What Women Want and a classic stereotype of the unfeeling male that is perpetuated by the supporters of the hard-wired school of intellectual differences.

This point was also stressed by Fine. "Many of the studies that claim to highlight differences between the brains of males and females are spurious. They are based on tests carried out on only a small number of individuals and their results are often not repeated by other scientists. However, their results are published and are accepted by teachers and others as proof of basic differences between boys and girls.

"All sorts of ridiculous conclusions about very important issues are then made. Already sexism disguised in neuroscientific finery is changing the way children are taught."

So should we abandon our search for the "real" differences between the sexes and give up this "pernicious pinkification of little girls", as one scientist has put it?

Yes, we should, Eliot insisted. "There is almost nothing we do with our brains that is hard-wired. Every skill, attribute and personality trait is moulded by experience."


What they say...

Cambridge University psychologist and autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen:

"The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems"

Writer and feminist Joan Smith:

"Very few women growing up in England in the late 18th century would have understood the principles of jurisprudence or navigation because they were denied access to them"

John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus:

"A man's sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results. A woman's sense of self is defined through her feelings and the quality of her relationships"

Sociologist Beth Hess:

"For two millennia, 'impartial experts' have given us such trenchant insights as the fact that women lack sufficient heat to boil the blood and purify the soul, that their heads are too small, their wombs too big, their hormones too debilitating, that they think with their hearts or the wrong side of the brain. The list is never-ending"
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Old 08-23-2010, 05:00 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by MrsSpringsteen View Post
John Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus:

"A man's sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results. A woman's sense of self is defined through her feelings and the quality of her relationships"
The happiest men are often those who pursue the latter approach.



Quote:
Saint Etienne - Soft Like Me Lyrics

I used to wonder why big boys don't cry
'Cause they were always taught to hold it deep inside
Hide the feelings, they bubble to the top when it's all going off
Better put 'em up, let 'em know you're tough

.........
And that's daddy doing what he can
To make that boy a man, I have a different plan
Baby, I'll encourage you to be expressive not aggressive
More soft around the edges just like me

Little girls are made of everything nice, we pay the price
For wearing hearts on sleeves, I still believe
We hold the key to the better way to be
With feminine energy I touch the universe
Extract from "Soft Like Me" lyrics by Saint Etienne.
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Old 08-23-2010, 07:20 PM   #3
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"I could never understand
The mysterious distance
Between a man and a woman" ~ Bono
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Old 08-23-2010, 08:16 PM   #4
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John Gray is a fraud and there are gradients when it comes to gender.
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Old 08-23-2010, 08:34 PM   #5
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I need to e-mail that article to my mom. She's always insisting that you simply can't expect a man to express emotion or do housework.
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Old 08-24-2010, 02:18 AM   #6
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I kind of feel like saying, "Duh" to that study. It's monkey see, monkey do, you learn your behavior by observing how others around you act. Everyone's different, we don't all fit into neat little boxes and stereotypes. It's strange to me that people still seem surprised by that concept.

I do think there are some social/technical abilities that people just have a natural tendency to be good at (or bad at), but I don't think that gender has anything to do with why that happens.

Angela
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Old 08-27-2010, 08:41 PM   #7
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I think there are differences between men and women.

Women like to look you in the eye when talking to you.
Men can sit on a porch and talk without ever at looking each other in the eye.

When the wife says "Take out the garbage."
She expects instant obedience.

The husband, may sit there awhile in the chair before he obeys.
It's not that he's not going to to do it.

He's just not going to spring from his chair and do it instantly.

There are differences.
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Old 08-29-2010, 12:03 AM   #8
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There are differences.
Sure, there's that whole penis/vagina thing and then there's that whole testosterone/estrogen thing.
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Old 08-29-2010, 12:36 AM   #9
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John Gray is a fraud and there are gradients when it comes to gender.


pretty much.

having worked with young kids (2-4 years), there seem to be enough dramatic gender differences -- girls absolutely bereft when someone hurts their feelings, boys who immediately slug things out when it doesn't go their way -- between boys and girls at a young enough age that i'm inclined to think that biology has a lot to do with it. but to a point. i'm a male who can't read maps, who's very emotionally articulate and empathetic, and i tend to measure my sense of self-worth through results.

so, while gender may explain many of our differences, gender itself isn't a determinate of one's abilities, and gender should never be used as the basis for discrimination or prejudgement of any sort.
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Old 08-29-2010, 03:11 PM   #10
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I think there are differences between men and women.

Women like to look you in the eye when talking to you.
Men can sit on a porch and talk without ever at looking each other in the eye..
I'm female, and have trouble looking people in the eye when I speak to them.
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Old 08-29-2010, 04:15 PM   #11
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I kind of feel like saying, "Duh" to that study.
that sums it up neatly
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Old 08-29-2010, 04:51 PM   #12
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John Gray is a fraud and there are gradients when it comes to gender.
Shocking. He's a less offensive Laura Schlessinger.

Quote:
Gray was born in Houston, Texas. After graduating high school, Gray attended University of St. Thomas and the University of Texas without receiving any degrees. He did receive a bachelors and masters degrees in creative intelligence, though sources vary on whether these degrees were received from Maharishi European Research University (MERU) in Switzerland or from Maharishi International University in Iowa.[3][4][5]

Gray received his Ph.D. from the unaccredited institution, Columbia Pacific University (CPU), after completing a correspondence course.[3][6] CPU was closed by California court order in 2000.[7] The court ruled that the State of California recognizes CPU degrees earned before June 25, 1997, as "legally valid" for use in the state, but other states, such as Texas, criminalize the use of CPU degrees. This time period above included Gray's degree which he received in 1982.[7]

Anyone who has done any study in these areas is well aware that although there are measurable between group differences on average, the differences that can be found within group are greater. His PhD by correspondence probably didn't cover that, though.
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Old 09-29-2010, 11:17 AM   #13
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By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY

Women apologize more than men, but it's not because they commit more wrongdoing. They just think they do.

New research on apologies from Canadian psychologists finds that men have a "higher threshold" for bad behavior, meaning they just don't see "wrong" the same way women do, according to a study online in the journal Psychological Science.

Psychologists at the University of Waterloo in Ontario conducted two studies of 186 people, divided by gender. They found that men were less likely to be offended than women and were less likely to think they committed wrongdoing.

"The gender differences just sort of leapt out at us," says co-author Michael Ross, a psychology professor. "It was too big to ignore. It was just very clearly there."

In the first study, 33 men and 33 women completed online diaries for 12 days, describing instances in which they apologized to someone or did something that might have warranted an apology. That study found women more readily offered up a mea culpa. But the study also found that contrary to the stereotype, men didn't avoid apologizing or refuse to admit they were in the wrong. They were just as likely to apologize if they believed they were actually in the wrong.

Another study of 120 participants asked them to rate specific offenses, how much that action deserved an apology and how likely they were to say they were sorry for it.

"Men rated the offenses as less severe than women did," the study found.

"Part of the reason women apologize more is they have a lower threshold for what is offensive behavior," says Karina Schumann, lead author of the study to appear in print in November.

"It's not that men are always being insensitive or that women are always seeing offenses that aren't."

Schumann adds, "It's a different standard between men and women on how offensive behavior is, and sometimes results in men not apologizing for something that the female thinks they should."
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Old 09-29-2010, 11:29 AM   #14
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Interesting, I haven't found this to be true in my life... maybe I just know a lot of stubborn women.
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Old 09-29-2010, 12:25 PM   #15
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I think people have differences that have nothing to do with gender and every person is unique in their makeup and experiences. In general I think it's very difficult for all people to recognize and admit when they're wrong and to apologize.

I think it's socialization for women and in many cases the way they are raised-as far as thinking they have committed more wrongdoing. That is the case for me, because even when it's clear that someone else is in the wrong (not just that I think it's clear, even when I run it by several other people it is) I'm still always looking to blame myself somehow even if it's just internally. I think as a generalization men are raised not to do that as much. Not to be as hard on themselves, to put it simply.Of course there are always exceptions. And maybe in 2010 it's much different. But for me just looking at my brothers vs me, that is certainly the case.
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