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Gender differences - it's all rubbish. What do you think of this article?

(18 Posts)
edam Wed 20-Jul-05 08:28:04

Apparently all the books and media stories about boys are better at x and girls at y are balls. According to this article. What do you think?

tattle of the sexes

I've spent past few years when it's been really popular to say actually men are better at reading maps grumpily saying 'actually differences between individuals can't be predicted by gender'... but been ages since I've actually read any psychological research.

merglemergle Wed 20-Jul-05 08:48:53

Really interesting article. I did psychology as part of my degree and hsve been saying this for years.

The brain is SOOOO complicated and we really have no idea what a lot of it actually does.

There was an interesting study a while back. It is often said that men are better at spatial rotation, map reading etc. In this study, they got women and men to rotate objects under 2 conditions. First both groups were told that it was a maths problem. Second, they were just told it was a puzzle. The actual task remained the same. Interestinly, women did worse than men on average when they thought it was maths but (I think) about the same when it was just a puzzle.

There is loads of this sort of research out there but it doesn't sell pop psychology books or newspapers!

edam Wed 20-Jul-05 08:50:21

That's really interesting Merglemergle. Did they suggest that women did badly when it was a maths problem because we've been conditioned to think we are worse at maths?

Doesn't work like that in my house - dh could barely find his way home without me!

fqueenzebra Wed 20-Jul-05 08:53:49

Did anyone else do the BBC brainsex quiz? Because I did and it said I think like the "average" man, which I thought was iteresting & could explain a lot of why I don't understand other people's behavior... but then, I am a geographer so of course I can read a map

edam Wed 20-Jul-05 08:58:06

Damn, don't have Flash so can't do it (and don't want to download, elderly computer already close to capacity).

tarantula Wed 20-Jul-05 09:12:33

me too fqueenzebra (both quiz and geog bit). Good job Im good at maths too cos someone has got to balance the books in our house and no chance of dp managing it.

Jimjams Wed 20-Jul-05 09:24:25

I think men don't stop to help a child in the street as they're worried about being accused of something nasty if they do!

Chuffed Wed 20-Jul-05 09:49:33

There was a documentry on discovery about this the other night, they think some of it has something to do with the amounts of testosterone in early utero, which might not make a woman any less a woman but when they were doing the testing the ones with the highest testosterone in utero did better at the tests regarded to be more 'male' dominated such as spacial tasks. They apparently looked back and had archives of amnio fluid from like 20yrs ago in US which they tested for testosterone and went on to test the people as adults later. It was a really interesting documentry.

edam Wed 20-Jul-05 09:51:35

so according to that theory, you can't say 'women are more like this' but individuals can differ from the stereotype depending on how much testosterone they were exposed to in utero?

TwinSetAndPearls Wed 20-Jul-05 10:19:57

The problem with gender experiemnts is that they make ore interseting reading if they find a difference, it is these articles that make it into journals and then into the poular media. So there may have been 1000 studies that show no difference between male and female brains but it will be the one that finds a difference that gets published.

Of course men and women are different but I think that a lot of ability and brain differences are due to experience and reflect the brains plasticity rather than an innate gender divide.

edam Wed 20-Jul-05 11:26:55

Indeed Twinset - we know we aren't born with fully formed brains that never change. Babies and small children are laying down pathways and making connections all the time. So the way they see the world, the way their parents and other people treat them (consciously or subconsciously), will all inform how their brains develop.

TwinSetAndPearls Wed 20-Jul-05 11:32:44

Exactly edam and I dread to think what spending all my time on here arguing about sunhats, stolen grapes, dried fruit and hairy toes has done to my brain.

edam Wed 20-Jul-05 11:51:49

Hmmm do you think we should put a call out for any MN psychologists to test us and compare us to normal population? Would we be more argumentative or prone to saying 'right, I'm off' when disagreeing with people?

LeahE Wed 20-Jul-05 11:56:02

Statistically there are physical differences between men's brains and women's brains, so it would be odd if there were absolutely no statistical mental differences as a result.

edam -- I have read that girls who have a male twin do tend to be more "masculine" in attitudes/behaviour than girls who haven't. Supposedly holds true even if the male twin is stillborn or dies shortly after birth, so suggested that it's down to the exposure to testosterone rather than just being brought up with a male twin. But I can't find the reference just now.

edam Wed 20-Jul-05 12:22:02

I think there are physical differences 'in general' i.e. if you had 100 female brains and 100 male brains on a table you could probably sort them into two groups and be right some of the time. But a pathologist given a brain to look at couldn't predict with any certainty whether it was male or female - could guess, but not predict, (I think).

Mine may well be very different from yours even though we share the same gender. IIRC the major difference is that women TEND to have more connections between the two halves. But some men have more connections than others and some women have fewer than others, I think?

LeahE Wed 20-Jul-05 20:27:11

Exactly, that's why I said "statistically". And any psychological differences are likely to follow the same pattern -- if you had 100 female personality results* and 100 male personality results you could probably sort them into two groups and be right some of the time. But a psychologist given a result to look at couldn't predict with any certainty whether it was male or female.

* Using "personality result" in a very vague sense i.e. some experimental task that might reveal a gender difference.

edam Wed 20-Jul-05 20:43:07

so, does this mean that all that fashionable stuff about how we must let boys play with guns because it's an essential expression of their innate maleness is rubbish, or what?

nooka Wed 20-Jul-05 20:54:23

Interesting article. How does it fit with people's experiences tho. My dh and I do not play typical roles at home, and in quite a lot of ways I am quite "male" and he is quite "female". I hate all that men are from Mars and women are from venus stuff (it always seemed a bit lazy to me to think "you do that because you are a man" rather than "you do that because you are you, and also in reaction to the environment, and the way I treat you") However my two children seem to me to be fulfilling just about every stereotype in the book! Now I know that some of that comes from their peers, but dd was putting the coffee jar to bed before she started nursery and a long while before she was given a doll. I've now pretty much caved in and have since made many trips down the "pink isle" something which I swore I would never do...

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