Re: Gender differences

Douglas C Scott (
29 Apr 1995 00:02:15 -0500

Kathy Petrie ( wrote:
: Gerold Firl ( wrote:
: : I think it is fair to say that socialization plays a part in the formation
: : of all human behaviors, but to deny the role of instinct is delusion.

: : Consider the propensity to play with dolls seen among girls. Girls are
: : encouraged to play with dolls, of course, and that is cultural. But when I
: : see a juvenile baboon female who manages to get ahold of an infant, I
see a
: : behavior which is clearly instinctive, and instantly recognizible as
: : related to behavior in our own species.

: Have Harry Harlow's studies been discredited? If memory of my
: primatology course 19 years ago is holding firm, he removed rhesus monkeys
: at birth to raise them in complete isolation -- the intent being to
: identify what might be instinct and what might be learned behavior.
: Female rhesus monkeys so raised had no idea what their babies were (both
: sexes had to be taught to have intercourse as well), and exhibited no
: mothering behavior towards them whatsoever.

: If this study is still considered valid, it argues strongly that your
: example is *not* clearly instinctive, but learned behavior.

: (Speaking anecdotally, as a former girl, I had no inclination or interest
: in dolls and babies despite all the cultural cues and encouragement
: American society could heap on in the 1950s and 60s. So much for instinct
: ;^)

: regards,
: Kathy

I don't think you can apply these studies to gender differences. Those
monkeys were totally disfunctional. They could not interact with other
monkeys at all, sexually or otherwise. In fact it was not a matter of
teaching the monkeys to have sex. Unable to bear the touch of other
monkeys they just were not going to have sex on their own, period.

Indeed the big discovery in this seems to have been that some of
the effects of raising monkeys this way could be partly alleviated
by providing a surogate mother in the form of fur covered dolls.
Wire mesh mothers were not good enough. The babies had to able to
hug them for comfort. These studies were important in understanding
pyschological development in primates. But I never heard of anyone
using this as evidence of learning gender differences.

Doug Scott
Arlington, Tx