Re: Gender differences

J. Moore (
Fri, 26 May 95 20:31:00 -0500

Ge> Here is one of the tests reported in the article I referred to. (It was
Ge> in the special issue on the brain, of which one article was devoted to
Ge> gender-based differences. I would guess that it was september of 93 or
Ge> 94; sorry about the fuzzy reference.)

Ge> A table was scattered with small objects, and the subject was allowed to
Ge> look at the table for a few seconds. The table was then covered, and the
Ge> subject was asked to name as many of the objects as possible. Women
Ge> scored about .5sigma higher than men on this test. Women also did better
Ge> when asked to name as many words as possible starting with the letter a
Ge> (or any other letter, for that matter.) Perhaps it's a failure of my
Ge> imagination, but I tend to view these as tests which are relatively
Ge> immune to socialization. If gender-based acculturation has somehow
Ge> produced these kinds of cognitive differences, then these are very
Ge> subtle effects indeed.

It's called "learning"; remarkable thing, you know. We do know that
females and males are treated and taught differently from an extremely
early age, and we know that learning and practice can produce improved
ability in mental activities. Those tests sound like simple tests of
memory, which you can certainly improve with practice. So it shouldn't
take much imagination to see that it's possible for social conditioning
to improve one's abilities at a test like that.

Ge> In fact, to claim that these results stem from
Ge> cultural sex-roles requires a major leap of faith, seeing as how we
Ge> already know that there are physical differences between the sexes which
Ge> are genotypically specified.

Yes, most of us do indeed know that boys have wee-wees and girls have
boobies. However, we are talking about somewhat more subtle physical
differences here, and the evidence of differences between the sexes as
seen in human brains has not been followed up to attempt to see whether
or not those differences are developed (and therefore possibly due to
socialization) or innate. (And that favorite feature of "male
brain/female brain" physical difference, the corpus callosum, appears
to be subject to development, just like muscles.)

In fact, to claim that these results, whether cognitive or physical,
are innate without doing that testing requires a *massive* leap of
faith, especially when that leap appears, as in your post, to be based
on the fact that the two human sexes have *some* physical differences.

Jim Moore (

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