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Old 08-23-2010, 12:37 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, 04:00 PM   #2
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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.



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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, 06:20 PM   #3
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Old 08-23-2010, 07:16 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, 07:34 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, 01:18 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.

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Old 08-27-2010, 07:41 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 08-28-2010, 11:03 PM   #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 08-28-2010, 11:36 PM   #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, 02:11 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, 03:15 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, 03:51 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.

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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, 10:17 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, 10:29 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, 11:25 AM   #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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Old 09-29-2010, 05:24 PM   #16
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I'd say that article's fairly accurate in my own life experiences. I can be quite stubborn, yes, and it has been hard at times to admit I was wrong, but I do also try quickly to diffuse arguments because I don't like making people mad or hurting people's feelings. I will apologize if need be, to keep the peace. The guys I've known, on the other hand...

I think everyone could do well to have a bit of both stubborness and humility in their lives, male or female.

Angela
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Old 09-29-2010, 06:50 PM   #17
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Cool, that study is from my school, I know Dr. Ross.
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Old 04-21-2011, 07:53 PM   #18
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In the jittery world of anxiety research, one of the field's most consistent findings is also perhaps its biggest source of controversy: Women, according to countless studies, are twice as prone to anxiety as men. When pollsters call women up, they always confess to far higher levels of worry than men about everything from crime to the economy. Psychologists diagnose women with anxiety disorders two times as often as men, and research confirms—perhaps unsurprisingly—that women are significantly more inclined toward negative emotion, self-criticism, and endless rumination about problems.
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If women really were fated to be significantly more anxious than men, we would expect them to start showing this nervousness at a very young age, right? Yet precisely the opposite is true: According to the UCLA anxiety expert Michelle Craske, in the first few months of infants' lives, it's boys who show greater emotional neediness. While girls become slightly more prone to negative feelings than boys at two years (which, coincidentally, is the age at which kids begin learning gender roles), research has shown that up until age 11, girls and boys are equally likely to develop an anxiety disorder. By age 15, however, girls are six times more likely to have one than boys are.

Why the sudden gap in diagnosed anxiety? Well, one answer is that as a flood of adolescent hormones sends these boys' and girls' emotions into overdrive, the difference in their upbringings finally catches up with them. After all, whether parents intend to or not, they usually treat the emotional outbursts of girls far differently than those of boys. "From a socialization angle, there's quite a lot of evidence that little girls who exhibit shyness or anxiety are reinforced for it, whereas little boys who exhibit that behavior might even be punished for it," Craske told me. In my book Nerve, I call this the "skinned knee effect": Parents coddle girls who cry after a painful scrape but tell boys to suck it up, and this formative link between emotional outbursts and kisses from mom predisposes girls to react to unpleasant situations with "negative" feelings like anxiety later in life. On top of this, cultural biases about boys being more capable than girls also lead parents to push sons to show courage and confront their fears, while daughters are far more likely to be sheltered from life's challenges.

...The result of these parenting disparities is that by the time girls grow into young women, they've learned fewer effective coping strategies than their male counterparts, which translates to higher anxiety. The sexes learn to deal with fear in two very different ways: men have been conditioned to tackle problems head-on, while women have been taught to worry, ruminate, and complain to each other (hey, I'm just reporting the research) rather than actively confront challenges. These are generalizations, of course; the fact that I have always been an Olympic-caliber worrier offers us just one example of how men can fret with the best of them, and everyone knows at least one woman who appears not even to know what fear is. Still, these differences in upbringing clarify quite a bit about the gender gap in anxiety.
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We have an odd tendency to label women as anxious even when they aren't. A recent, highly revealing study showed that even in situations in which male and female subjects experience the same level of an emotion, women are consistently seen—and even see themselves—as being "more emotional" than men. It shouldn't be too surprising, then, that this bias holds for anxiety as well; we buy into the fretful-women stereotypes far too often. Another report, for example, found significant differences in the way doctors respond to patients who report common stress symptoms like chest pain: Whereas men get full cardiac workups, women are more often told that they're just stressed or anxious, and that their symptoms are in their heads.

It should be pretty clear by now that the claims about women being far more innately anxious than men are suspect, but before I depart in a blaze of justice, one final point is in order: Men are getting off much too easily in the anxiety discussion. Probably the most significant reason why women get diagnosed with anxiety disorders twice as often as men isn't that they're doubly fearful. It's because anxious men are much less likely to seek psychological help. The flip side of being raised to always show strength is that men come to feel that going to a therapist is a sign of weakness or failure (think of Tony Soprano's mopey resistance to the benefits of psychiatry), which is why men constitute just 37% of therapy patients, by some estimates. If nearly twice as many women seek help from a psychologist, then they'll obviously be diagnosed more often with anxiety disorders. Troublingly enough, the evidence shows that while women deal with anxiety and stress by worrying, men are more likely to try to bury these feelings with alcohol or drugs—which offers one rationale for why men are at higher risk for "antisocial" disorders like alcoholism.
The point that parents (and, in adulthood, other adults) tend to respond differently to distress depending on the sex of the person manifesting it, sure seems right; I notice such behavior all the time, including from myself.
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Old 01-10-2012, 09:36 AM   #19
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Men and women are more alike than different -- that's been the consensus view for many years among the researchers who study personality differences between the sexes. But a new study claims this wisdom is wrong. By correcting for measurement errors, three researchers put forth a study that was published on Wednesday on the Public Library of Science website saying they've found that men and women feel and behave in markedly different ways. They're almost like "different species," Paul Irwing, one of the researchers, told The Huffington Post.

The research, conducted by Marco Del Giudice of Italy's University of Turin and Irwing and Tom Booth of the UK's University of Manchester, involved getting 10,000 Americans to take a questionnaire that measured 15 different personality traits. According to their analysis, men are far more dominant, reserved, utilitarian, vigilant, rule-conscious, and emotionally stable, while women are far more deferential, warm, trusting, sensitive, and emotionally "reactive." The two sexes were roughly the same when it came to perfectionism, liveliness, and abstract versus practical thinking.

"If you translate it into the simplest terms," said Irwing, "only 18 percent of men and women match in terms of personality profiles, and that's staggeringly different from the consensus view."

The consensus view, most persuasively set out in a 2005 study by Janet Shibley Hyde, a professor of psychology and women's studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, demonstrated through a meta-analysis of 46 other studies that men and women were actually very similar, not only in personality traits, but in other realms of supposed gender difference, like self-esteem, leadership, and math ability.

In the early 1970s, Hyde became one of the first researchers to focus on the psychology of women. "Before that, psychology had been a psychology of men," Hyde told The Huffington Post, and many theories had been developed based on entirely male samples. So she began to study women, and the differences between women and men, and was surprised at how small those differences turned out to be. "I mean, I was trying to study difference," Hyde said.

Hyde says the final figure Irwing, Del Giudice, and Booth came up with -- the "global sex difference" -- is "really uninterpretable, it doesn't mean anything."

In past studies on this topic, researchers would simply add up all the survey responses, according to Del Giudice. This led to imperfect results because of careless responses and misreadings. Through a sophisticated method called "structure equation modeling," the researchers claim they were able to remove this random error. When asked if he could translate this concept for a lay person, Irwing replied: "I teach courses on this and it takes me approximately 20 hours."

Past research also usually compared one variable at a time, Del Giudice said. He believes this method led to underestimations of the sex difference because when you actually combine all personality traits, with all their small discrepancies, the result is a much more significant difference. For example, if you were to examine the difference between men and women's body types using the traditional method, you would look at torso circumference and waist-hip ratios and torso-leg ratios, one by one. In Del Giudice's method, you would crunch all these figures into one much larger number. And that's what he did with personality.

"They kind of globbed together all these personality dimensions and said there was a big difference," Hyde said. "They're throwing together apples and oranges and dishwashers to get this thing in 15-dimensional space. We don't know what 15-dimensional space looks like."

But Del Giudice contends that his team didn't measure "a haphazard list of traits." Rather, they considered 15 facets that could offer a reasonably complete picture of a person's personality.

Irwing thinks that some researchers in the past may have been biased in their methods, in order to reduce any gender difference. "It's for totally laudable reasons," he said. "People are very concerned, or were very concerned, that women didn't get equal opportunities, and that there was a lot of bias in selection processes."

"People are afraid that studies like ours will turn the clock back," Irwing added.

Hyde is one of those people. "This huge difference is not only scientifically false," she said, "it has unfortunate consequences for places like the workplace and education and heterosexual romantic relationships."

But the authors stand by their results, and are currently drafting a lengthy response to Hyde's objections. "I think distorting science because of what you would like to believe, or because of what you think the political consequences are, is very dangerous," said Irwing.

The study doesn't speculate as to whether the alleged differences are due to nature or nurture, although Irwing points out the results are consistent with standard evolutionary theory. Even if these differences aren't indelibly printed in our genes, Hyde believes there's still cause for alarm.

If men and women have wildly different personalities, "then how can we do the same job men can, and deserve equal pay for equal work?" she asked. "A married couple have marital difficulties, and they go to the therapist, who says 'he's from Mars, you're from Venus, you'll never be able to communicate. It's hopeless.' If you have a gender similarities point of view, you just need to work on communicating."
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