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Not so fast -- sex differences in the brain are overblown
Date:10/27/2010

eal difference between men and women overall.

This problem of false positive results is understood by the neuroscientists who do the research; they know that one study with 20-odd participants that finds some small region of difference between males and females is not the final word on the issue. But these often subtle, questionable differences are readily seized on by popular writers, Fine says.

Another problem is how to interpret sex differences in the brain. Neuroscientists are only beginning to understand how neural activity brings about complex psychological phenomena. The temptation, to which popular writers are particularly vulnerable, is to use gender stereotypes to bridge that gap in scientific knowledge.

The fact that neuroimaging studies use complex, expensive machines that seem to take pictures of the brain may also make their results seem more real, reliable, and impressive than behavioral studies. As a result, substantial behavioral evidence of gender similarity, or the sensitivity of gender differences to context, can be overshadowed by a single finding of a sex difference in the brain.

"A healthy dose of skepticism is required when it comes to reports of sex differences in the brain and what they mean," says Fine, who is concerned that claims about differences in male and female brains are reinforcing old-fashioned gender stereotypes.


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Contact: Keri Chiodo
kchiodo@psychologicalscience.org
202-293-9300
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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