People are still saying this?? December 4, 2013
Scientists have drawn on nearly 1,000 brain scans to confirm what many had surely concluded long ago: that stark differences exist in the wiring of male and female brains.
Maps of neural circuitry showed that on average women’s brains were highly connected across the left and right hemispheres, in contrast to men’s brains, where the connections were typically stronger between the front and back regions.
Ragini Verma, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, said the greatest surprise was how much the findings supported old stereotypes, with men’s brains apparently wired more for perception and co-ordinated actions, and women’s for social skills and memory, making them better equipped for multitasking.
Mr Jender, who sent the link to me, writes:
Now, my very basic understanding of neuroscience is that connections are drawn through experience; so that if, say, a young child were raised to value social relationships above all, that child’s brain scans would likely show those parts associated with that trait lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree. In other words, wouldn’t this study just show the effects of what we place as values for individuals throughout their lives?
It seems to me Mr Jender is likely to be right. Looking forward to the Bad Science column sure to be published on this in the same newspaper this version is from.
Sandra Harding Interviewed July 25, 2013
Over at the Ms. Magazine blog, on secularism, philosophy science, and religion (with a bonus one-minute introduction to standpoint theory). Go check it out!
On June 13, the National Geographic Society awarded Sylvia Earle the Hubbard Medal, their highest honor, “for distinction in exploration, discovery and research”.
On June 14, National Geographic “asked Sylvia to discuss her experiences as a woman in a field previously considered a man’s world”.
We can also find this three minute discussion embedded in a National Geographic News Watch piece (by Jane J. Lee) titled:
In Her Words: Sylvia Earle on Women in Science (click here for the news piece)
Earle’s 2009 Ted Prize talk (reminding us about little things like action necessary to avoid extinction)
Plenty of excellent video clips available on the interwebs. This one seems very good:
Sylvia Earle: Legendary Explorer Fights to Save Underwater Paradise
Stereotype threat: scaling up the interventions May 22, 2013
A controlled, incremental and systematic approach to the application of interventions is a possible path to scaling up interventions. For example, PERTS(http://www.perts.net/home/PERTS.php), created by doctoral students Dave Paunesku and Carissa Romero of the Department of Psychology at Stanford University, features such an approach. This method uses the Internet to deliver interventions to students. Teachers volunteer to have their students go to computer terminals to complete the interventions in a standardized fashion on designated days. As the procedure for delivering the interventions is highly controlled, the treatment message is given as intended, minimizing the potential for error. Interventions delivered in this manner have yielded reliable increases in GPA in studies of thousands of students across the country—particularly for low-performing ones.
6 Women Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism May 20, 2013
6 Women Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism (by Jane J. Lee, 5/19/13, for National Geographic Daily News)
“Despite enormous progress in recent decades, women still have to deal with biases against them in the sciences.”
“…Today’s women scientists believe that attitudes have changed, said Laura Hoopes at Pomona College in California, who has written extensively on women in the sciences—’until it hits them in the face’.” Bias against female scientists is less overt, but it has not gone away.
“Here are six female researchers who did groundbreaking work—and whose names are likely unfamiliar for one reason: because they are women…”
Just some of (unfortunately many,) many relevant FP posts:
Athene Donald on unconscious bias April 7, 2013
A fantastic post.. The newest bit to me was this one:
The most recent study I came across, entitled The Matilda Effect in Science Communication: An Experiment on Gender Bias in Publication Quality Perceptions and Collaboration Interest looked at the responses of ‘243 young communication scholars’ when asked to rate some (carefully manipulated) conference abstracts. (The Matilda effect was a phrase coined by Margaret Rossiter 20 years ago to describe the systematic underrecognition of women in science.) The abstracts’ topics and authors were varied to see how the readers reacted and to test a series of hypotheses relying on ‘role congruity’. This theory says that a group (or in this case, an abstract) will be positively evaluated when its characteristics are recognized as aligning with that group’s typical social roles. So a paper written by women about a subject ‘appropriate’ to their gender, such as the effect of media on children (remember this was a project involving science communicators), will be more highly rated than one written by women on an ‘inappropriate’ topic such as political communication.
Their hypotheses were largely borne out; on average the papers written by ‘men’ were perceived as of higher quality than those written by ‘women’, and even more so if stereotypically male topics were being written about. The respondents were also more likely to want to collaborate with the males on stereotypically ‘male’ topics and with the women on those topics associated with women. These trends were the same irrespective of the respondents own gender. The differences in evaluations were not large, but as earlier studies have shown, small effects multiply up over time; this is true of salaries and it is true of less tangible attributes such as recognition or collaboration opportunities.
But do check out the whole post. There’s also a great example of some biased letter-writing. (Thanks, J!)
Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin February 20, 2013
“Since her death in 1979, the woman who discovered what the universe is made of has not so much as received a memorial plaque. Her newspaper obituaries do not mention her greatest discovery. […] Every high school student knows that Isaac Newton discovered gravity, that Charles Darwin discovered evolution, and that Albert Einstein discovered the relativity of time. But when it comes to the composition of our universe, the textbooks simply say that the most abundant atom in the universe is hydrogen. And no one ever wonders how we know.”
~ Jeremy Knowles
Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, a truly extraordinary woman. (Thanks, J!)
Oppressive beliefs and breast size preference February 17, 2013
A recent study showed that White British heterosexual men’s preferences for larger female breasts were significantly associated with a greater tendency to be benevolently sexist, to objectify women, and to be hostile towards women (Viren Swami and Martin J. Toveé, 2013).
Since the article isn’t open access, I will briefly summarise what they did and found, which will inevitably leave out things that are also relevant and noteworthy, but ok:
Based on self-reports, they selected a sample of 361 males of Britisch White descent, who didn’t indicate being gay or bisexual or didn’t disclose their preference (average age 30, ranging from 18 to 68). Those were asked to rate the attractability of photo-realistic 3D models that were rotated on the screen. I copied and pasted from the article the model with the smallest breast size out of five on the left, and the one with the largest on the right so you get a bit of an idea. In the study they were presented in colour. After having rated the models, the participants were asked to fill in questionnaires that measure sexist attitudes (Hostility Towards Women Scale HTWS, Attitudes Towards Women Scale AWS and Benevolent Sexism BS subscale of the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory ASI) and that measure objectification of women (an adaptation of the Self-Objectification Scale SOS).
What they found was that on average men found the medium breast size model most attractive, with a skewed distribution towards the larger breast size, which seems unsurprising. The men’s preference for larger breast sizes was significantly and positively correlated with hostility towards women, more sexist attitudes towards women, benevolent sexism and objectification of women. They also found that young men were more likely to rate large breasts as more attractive. Neither education nor relationship status had an effect. Benevolent sexism was the strongest predictor for breast size rating, while objectifaction of women and hostility towards women were also significant predictors.
Some highlights from the discussion which I thought were noteworthy:
“[...] insofar as breasts are an index of a gendered difference between women and men, benevolently sexist men may perceive larger breasts as ‘‘appropriate’’ for feminine women; in other words, in the view of benevolently sexism men, a feminine and submissive woman is likely to be someone with large breasts.”
“Based on this set of results, it might be argued that it is the tendency to view women in ways that are subjectively positive for the perceiver rather than to explicitly denigrate women that drives men’s breast size preferences. Of course, both types of sexism stem from issues relating to power, gender identity, and sexuality, and it should also be noted thatbenevolent sexism may also serve to justify hostile attitudes toward women (Glick&Fiske, 1996).”
“Our results also showed that a greater tendency to objectify women was associated with a greater likelihood of rating larger breasts as physically attractive. Previous scholars have argued that, in many socioeconomically developed societies, female breasts have become an important site of objectification of the femalebody (Seifert,2005;Wardetal.,2006). This is evidenced, for example, in media aimed at hegemonic masculinities (Gerald & Potvin, 2009), where large female breasts are fetishized and treated as sexual objects that fulfill the pleasures and desires of masculine men. In this view, the objectification of women’s body parts, including though not limited to their breasts, is an example of the dominance of men over women and is further reproduced through cultural expectations of heteronormativity (Martino & Pallotta-Chiarolli, 2005). Moreover, this normalization compels women to put up with the objectification of their breasts and bodies by men, and even to treat such objectificationas flattering (Pascoe, 2007).”
They acknowledge a number of shortcomings in the research, such as the models all having the same face and waist-to-hip ratio and such, and all the breasts being the same shape. They further indicate the rather standard issues with recruitment method of the participants that might limit the generalisability (if that’s a word) and the possibility of socially desirable responding.
“In summary, the results of the present study showed that men’s oppressive beliefs predicted their idealization of larger female breasts. These results may have important implications for contemporary theorizing of breast size preferences. In addition to considering the distal evolutionary pressures that led to men’s breast size preferences, our findings also highlight the importance of considering the proximate sociocultural context in which thosejudgments aremade (cf. Little, Jones, DeBruine, & Caldwell, 2011). Specifically, it seems clear that the lived experiences of women and men in contemporary societies, and particularly their gendered relations with one another, will have a major impact on their beauty ideals and practices (Forbes et al., 2007).More broadly, future research would do well to more carefully consider the ways in which such beauty ideals shape and maintain gendered divisions in contemporary societies.