Different brains: the (false) myth of gender differences

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In 1992 John Gray published the now bestseller "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus", where the author describes how men and women are profoundly different in many psychological aspects. This book has influenced, and still influences public opinion and not only. In 2005 doctor Leornad Sax published the book "Why Gender Matters" in which he states that boys and girls differ in brains and sensory capacities. An example so you understand the type of book, Sax says that among other gender differences, girls would have a greater hearing sensitivity than males, and this would affect their ability to learn and focus: girls would need to focus less than males in noisy classrooms. Then the author proposes to create separate schools for male and females. In 2008 the consultant Michael Gurian published "Leadership and the Sexes" in which he states that, leaning behind alleged discoveries of modern neuroscience, males and females have different abilities and attitudes as a consequence of biological differences.

 

Fortunately, several authors have shown that the conclusions of Saxe and Guarin are not only inaccurate, but harmful, since they create myths that may foster dangerous stereotypes. And there are blogs like http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu constantly stressing the inaccuracy of sensationalist articles and books that claim all sorts of differences between men and women. In addition, books like "Delusions of Gender" by Cordelia Fine of the University College London are brilliantly debunking these myths. A sentence to help you understand the tone: non-existing gender differences in lateralization of language, mediated by non-existing gender differences in the structure of the corpus callosum, should explain largely non-existing gender differences in language skills. Finally, to close the circle, a recent article by Lise Eliot, published by a prestigious journal such as Neuron, finally seems to remove every myth about these spectral "biological" differences between male and female brains. Or rather, it explains how:

 

- Some structural differences do exist between men and women (eg. men have, on average, an 11% larger brains than women) the same kind of differences as height, cardiovascular system and hormons;

 

- There is no evidence of differences in "functional" (such as language skills) gender.

 

So, who says that men and women have different brains and functional structures, is not only politically incorrect but, more importantly, scientifically incorrect.

 by ANDREA MAGNANI




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