How Neurononsense Keeps Women in Their Place
Have new brain imaging techniques really revealed that women and men are ‘hardwired’ for their gender roles? Or has neuroscience become misappropriated to justify gender gaps? Professor of cognitive neuroimaging Gina Rippon investigates.
There is a long history of debate about biological sex differences and their part in determining gender roles, with the ‘biology is destiny’ mantra being used to legitimise imbalances in these roles. The tradition is continuing, with new brain imaging techniques being hailed as sources of evidence of the ‘essential’ differences between men and women, and the concept of ‘hardwiring’ sneaking into popular parlance as a brain-based explanation for all kinds of gender gaps.
But the field is littered with many problems. Some are the product of ill-informed popular science writing (neurotrash) based on the misunderstanding or misrepresentation of what brain imaging can tell us. Some, unfortunately involve poor science, with scientists using outdated and disproved stereotypes to design and interpret their research (neurosexism). These problems obscure or ignore the ‘neuronews’, the breakthroughs in our understanding of how plastic and permeable our brains are, and how the concept of ‘hard-wiring’ should be condemned to the dustbin of neurohistory.
This talk aims to offer ways of rooting out the neurotrash, stamping out the neurosexism and making way for neuronews.
Gina Rippon is Professor of Cognitive Neuroimaging at Aston University. Her research involves the application of brain imaging techniques, particularly electroencephalography, (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG), to studies of normal and abnormal cognitive processes.
Q&A – How Neurononsense Keeps Women in Their Place
What does neuroscience have to say about transgender issues? Do the things we’re told about how boys and girls learn dictate how they really do learn? What role does differences in hormones in males and females have? Gina Rippon answers questions from the audience following her talk.