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Title: Sexing the Brain: The Science and Pseudoscience of Sex Differences
Contributor(s): Rogers, Lesley  (author)
Publication Date: 2010
DOI: 10.1016/S1607-551X(10)70051-6
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Abstract: A recent upsurge in unitary biological explanations for gender differences in behavior (i.e. that they are "hard-wired" in the genetic code), put forward not only in books written for a general audience but also in scientific papers, makes it important to examine the fallacies of these ideas. Such genetic and hormonal explanations of human behavior, formulated with little consideration of the influences of experience, and often without taking experience into account at all, are part of a new wave of genetic explanations for a broad range of human behavior, as explained in the paper. These ideas are far from new; moreover, they are pseudoscientific and are used for political influence under the guise of science. They are a conservative social force that maintains social and educational inequalities between women and men. This paper explains that causal explanations of differences between the sexes are of two completely different types: unitary (genetic determinist) versus interactive explanations. The false reasoning used to support genetic determinist explanations of sex differences in behavior is discussed. To illustrate what biology really tells us about gender differentiation, the paper discusses the interactive roles of genetic, hormonal and environmental influences on the development of gender differences. These interactions are illustrated using two model biological systems (e.g. the intertwined influences of genes, sex hormones and experience on the development of sex differences in behavior in rats, and sex differences in neuronal connections in chickens). There is plenty of scientific evidence to show the complex interactive, and ever changing, influences of experience and genes that take place as an organism develops and throughout its life. Malleability of brain and behavior can be shown clearly using animal models, and the processes involved apply also to the development of brain and behavior in humans. We diminish our understanding of the functions of a host of contributing factors to gender differentiation by parceling out the largest portion of control to the genes. The biology and behavior of humans is dynamic and flexible and need not restrict women to inferior positions in society.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences, 26(6), p. S4-S9
Publisher: Elsevier
Place of Publication: Taiwan, Republic of China
ISSN: 1607-551X
Field of Research (FOR): 069999 Biological Sciences not elsewhere classified
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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