Sexual Differences in Cognition -- what we know about it and is it good to know ?

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Sexual Differences in Cognition -- what we know about it and is it good to know ?

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Editat: maig 15, 2010, 6:44pm

In the 1980's and 90's, one of many books I recommended and helped translate into Japanese claimed all research into sexual difference was inherently biased against women and therefore bad. I thought her book on the myths of gender science for the most part good as it included excellent case studies of just how seemingly objective research is corrupted, but wrote her to ask if she might not add a Foreword with some qualifications, for the research I had read included the fact that females had larger corpus callosum and that, as far as I knew was clearly favorable to the reputation of women, and there was the matter of why boys tended to have more reading problems . . . I thought Kropotkin's Mutual Aid was helped and not hurt by his admitting in his Foreword that there was truth to the competative side of Darwin's evolution as well, but the author was furious with me writing her and not only convinced that such a foreword would hurt the book but that I must be biased and ought not to be further involved with it!

So, I am all too aware that this subject is one that makes people with frayed nerves go ballistic, but days ago, I heard said corpus callosum brought up again in connection with girls being better with multi-tasking, so i thought to start this topic. As I have not kept up with developments of any type in the sciences in the cognitive science group tag since 1998, I cannot do much to lead this discussion and hope others will, so I can learn where things now stand with sexual differences in cognition.

jul. 5, 2010, 8:08pm

I don't know much about sexual dimorphism involving the corpus callosum (Wikipedia says even the existence of a difference is controversial), but a relation between it and "multitasking" sounds fishy in part because there's an entire "sex difference evangelist" industry that spins unlikely (or at least untested) conclusions from modest evidence, usually single studies. Often, the sex differences one sees reported are simply tiny differences in means, which cannot possibly convey anything about spread or variability - which are ultimately more important.

Here's a nice case:

The six part Slate series linked here are an ok introduction to relatively current controversies and personalities:

jul. 9, 2010, 11:01am

Thanks Bjza. Things are hectic. No time to check today, but will before too long.

Meanwhile, the other day on the local NPR station, I was surprised to hear a woman talking about fe/male brain/mind differences on the alternative radio talk forum from San Francisco! So i guess you are right about the subject getting if anything more popular and it pleased me that the woman (Lou Anne Brizandine is what the name sounded like, i have not googled yet) had a good sense of humor and did make sure to bring in the bell-curve to make it clear that the sexes overlap.

I was surprised to find the talk at a progressive forum as I had thought from what i ran into in the 80's that feminist scientists might have pretty much scared people away from the whole thing . . .

(Agreed on small differences exaggerated -- and since epigenetic elements are found to be more important than even waddington might have predicted, small differences . . .)

jul. 9, 2010, 4:57pm

Some titles to consider:

Baron-Cohen, S. (2003). The essential difference: The truth about the male and female brain.

Halpern, D. (2000). Sex differences in cognitive abilities

Kimura, D. (1999). Sex and cognition.