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The Gendered Brain - Gina Rippon and myth shattering neuroscience


In men and the other thing to bear in mind is the kind of metrics which I won't go into detail wonderfully weird feeling an empty skull with bird seed and weighing it or feeling bumps on the head or measuring angles. The idea of these metrics was to come up with the answer that they'd already decided was the case. So if for example found a metric which women at the top of the particular skill there was clearly something wrong with the metric. So you have to get rid of it for example the kind of things that Kremlinologists that people end. We're looking for was to demonstrate that at the top of any scale and this deduction set with questions of race and class is well. We're white upper class. Men Bit lowered lot lower down white women and children then lower classes than of the races. So we need to bear in mind. This research did not take place. Did Not have auspicious beginnings in a political vacuum. Now I'm not saying that researches today fortuny use metrics in the same way but we are still very much in this hunt the difference agenda and I think that's really what I was trying to challenge. So let's have a look at the argument. Was very clearly that whatever it was that made Ben and women anatomically different because his aunt did know that at that time even though they didn't access to jeans etc. That meant that that gave you a different sort of brain indisputably so if you had a female anatomy. You had the female brain disowned male and the NAS membrane. If you had a female brin the psychologist join. Jin Sort of halfway through the twentieth century came up with this Nice Goto list. This is what women alike. This is what men alike so they linked together. If you female brain you really good empathy and emotional type things but rubbish reading maps whereas you've got mail brain. You'll fantastic these spatial skills. Which makes you a brilliant scientist store and explorer or just generally suited for the pinnacles of power. You could become a great scientist win the Nobel Prize. Great Explorer Discover America Australia. Whatever but you weren't very good emotion stuff for listening and that then gave you a different place into started if you could empathy then you were really well suited to be a carer or a nurse or a primary school teacher. Biology caused psychology. Caused your place in society. Even though the early scientists had started at the other end so it was very clear uni directional argument and these links were fixed biologically determined and that gave us what I call. The sort of biology is destiny. Pathway the idea that the brains of boys and girls start possibly slightly differently. We might come back to that. But as a boy brain arrives in the world perhaps already with some of the key skills which are going to be really important. The brain gets bigger acquires. More of those skills gets even bigger becomes really resilient and lands up at a fixed end point with the kind brain. That's GonNa make you a great scientist or a leader of the world etc and again. This is a fixed pathway playing out of a biological script if you like whereas the female brain which is chiefly pink possibly arrived in the world without too many of those key skills as brain got bigger maybe didn't acquire too many of those skills because of course anyway nine thousand even twentieth century. It was felt that women's brains were really vulnerable and they shouldn't be exposed to the dangers of higher education because this would for example damage the likelihood that they would reproduce or certainly make them less marriageable which was a key measure of of how successful a woman might be and her brain got bigger and then at the end again. We get fixed developmental. Endpoint somebody who was sort of interested in dressing up cheeky put the kind of Princess trope emotionally label but but good understanding emotions and this is what I call the Mars. Venus idea came from so you have this fixed. Pathway to fixed endpoint couldn't change it. There was no understanding. We have the very fixed idea right up to beginning this century that effectively you were born with a particular kind of brain got bigger with some connections and by the time. Possibly in your late teens. That was the brain that was going to carry you through the rest of your life so this was fixed. Now the important thing to realize that if you've got this kind of theory narrative under pinning any suggestions that you might like to look at some of the social injustices in the world. For example the imbalance between males and females. Somebody would say. But that is a biologically determined difference. That's the brain. You've got that kind of things you can do. And any of you. Noble people out there who are instant diversity. Initiatives need to bear that in mind then along comes brain imaging the kind of work that I'm doing and at last we've got a proper access to an intact human living brain because you have to remember that all of these wonderful brain-based series really arrived before we had an idea of what the intact living human brain looked like while the intact living human being was actually carrying out to task even if it wasn't a brain scanner so the kind of images that we produced were really felt that you could handle them. You could have said at that point. We should take a step back and say. Let's have a look at these brain-based series. Let's go back to the drawing board. That's really have a look and see what brains the like whether or not there are different or similar. What makes them different but no? I'm afraid what happened. Is the difference. Agenda continued one of the things that happened. Is that these wonderful images. Were very very attractive. To sort of self help gurus who are writing books explaining why men and women were different. So we had told trenches a slight this memos who from Venus. Obviously the granddaddy of the more but also intriguing men are clams women crowbars. Why men don't listen and women can't read maps and what the tended to do. Was it already got the narrative? Then they took these nice images because they told her story didn't bother to explain the science behind the images and therefore the beginning of this century the first ten years it was a big tidal wave of these self. Help books which were really reinforcing. The idea that men and women were different and then people killjoys like me came along and said you. Actually that's really not tavist science works and so I'd dump. These newer trash is as well come back to later the other kind of books. We were getting worse than the scientists themselves but could the essential difference by Simon Baron Cohen and the term essential is quite interesting. I think because actually what it means is to biological essence to sorts of essences giving you two thoughts brains. But I think if I'd asked any of you coming into the room you know what you think is sensual. Means you think really important something. We should keep opening lines of his book. The female brain so there is such a thing is hard. What can't change it for empathy. So there we are that link again. The male brain is hard wired for understanding systems. The reason why men can do science for example so we did have the kind of Eurotrash office but we also had to what Cordelia finds called the nearest sexism authors who were kind of maintaining this view that there was this very clear difference but then we could also say well. Let's really have a look at what kind of findings they're all? Using these wonderful techniques we had a whole range of papers which sex differences in the structural connect term sex differences in the adult human brain and there were hundreds and then thousands of papers triumphantly reporting sex differences often getting reported in the popular press as at last the truth. Proof at last so you know. The scientists have last caught up with what we knew all along. But when you actually have a look at this work I think we could describe it as neuro hype so everybody was genuinely doing their research looking for difference finding it and reporting it and then somebody would say well. It's interesting you say that men have got a bigger X. in their brains. I've looked at X. in men's women's brains and it's not different but why is different so then when you start to go through the story there is no consistent finding am? I have to say as somebody who spent a lot of the taxpayers money doing neuroscience research that as of today there is no one structure in the human brain which can reliably distinguish male brain from a female brain structures or networks or pattern of activation. You couldn't give me a brain and say it's a male brain or female brain. I could look at a brain image and say that's definitely a man doing this or a female doing that. I couldn't take any of you from the audience and say. Oh you're a woman you'll have a brain like this you're a man you'll have a brain light that and I think that's a really important story a really important narrative to remember because in fact what's happening is not journalists come along the at Lhasa proof Type Brigade and look at the titles of the articles or the abstracts and they really believe that we have found human brain differences between men and women. So big disappointment. We need to move on because Amb. I just say that actually neuroscience isn't very good at this question fortunately I think there are better ways of asking it and so I'll move onto those and that's really to say what new things do. We know about the brain which might suggest that the problem is that we neuroscientists have been looking in the wrong place. We looking inside the brain to see how the brain changes. What we need to do is look outside the brain and the important thing from this perspective is that we realize the brain. The secret of human success is not just because we got language and creativity problem solving which meant we could bright books paint pictures composed symphonies or whatever hugely wonderful cognitive skills. A loss of secretive human success is the fact that our brains award to be social. Human beings have the biggest social networks of any members of any other species many more of those networks all kind of interconnected different kinds of networks family network business network colleague network whatever and within the brain. We can see how we are constantly processing or sensor self sense of all the people really important sets of belonging understanding social scripts understanding social norms. But also using the kind of stereotype that I've been mocking because they're very handy shortcut your negotiating the world. You'RE GONNA meet a group of men. They're going to think like this group of Women. They're going to think like that our brains. The ultimate stereotype is but our brains also monitoring all the time our social behavior and their coloring the results of that social behavior with our little group of emotions which we like to think we've evolved beyond everything we do is coded. This was a good thing to do. I should do it again. If you encounter that. Or that really wasn't very successful. I should avoid that situation in the future..

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