Friday, November 8, 2019

Women investigators feel that discussions of gender tend to be out-of-date

I came across an article this morning about generally held concepts of human gender as opposed to what science has found.  Basically, general notions and some scientific discussions consider male brains and female brains to be quite different. Usually specific differences are expected, such as males are more taciturn and females are more communicative.  The article asked why discussions of gendered brains continue to be based on a notion of permanent, physical differences created by hormones affecting the fetus and early childhood. The authors stated that such a conception has not been supported by studies and that the evidence supports a more individualized experience-based development of characteristics that are very much affected by culture and expectations of others.

One of the authors was Cordelia Fine, a name that sticks in the mind.  Another was Rebecca Jordan-Young, a name new to me. I remembered Fine as the author of "A Mind of Its Own", a book, like "Incognito" by Eagleman, that emphasizes that our brains are not all that under our control, that we get ideas and impulses that we didn't logically deduce would be good to have.  Both Mind and Incognito are about our minds acting like they have minds of their own.  

Prof. Fine is an excellent writer, as demonstrated by this bit of her book:

MY SON, THIRTEEN MONTHS OLD, is crying as if his heart will break. He sobs with his entire body, and I know that in a few seconds he will assume what my husband and I call the tragedy pose. Sure enough, soon he collapses onto the floor and flops forward so that his forehead hits the carpet. I am holding in my hand the accomplice to the act that has obliterated all joy from my son's existence. This object and I, between us, have left no other course available to my young child but to give himself over completely to unmitigated, carpet-drenching grief. I struggle painfully but successfully with the urge to ruin his character forever by returning to him this item upon which, clearly, his entire happiness depends. It is a ballpoint pen.

Fine, Cordelia. A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives (p. 31). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

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