I once attended a public talk on research examining sex differences in the brain. An audience member (young and female) dared to ask the panelists whether they had measured the ‘degree’ of maleness and femaleness in their participants and was laughed at by the (mostly older and male) scientists. Even if most scientists working in the area are not so dismissive, it is true that neuroscience research on sex differences takes “female” and “male” to be largely unproblematic concepts. So I was pleased to see that a recent paper examining brain differences between women and men had correlated the changes they found with results on a test of psychological gender. Yes, I know that the idea of “psychological gender” is far from straightforward (if even meaningful at all), but I thought that it was great to see scientists trying to think beyond the idea that “biological=innate.” Let’s at least say that it’s out of the fire and into the frying pan.
(See also this article in Scientific American.)