Lise Eliot talks about Pink Brain, Blue Brain. Based on research in the field of neuroplasticity, Eliot zeroes in on the precise differences between boys and girls' brains and explains the harmful nature of gender stereotypes.
She offers parents and teachers concrete ways they can help all children reach their fullest potential.
Dr. Lise Eliot, Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School, received her Ph.D. in Physiology and Cellular Biophysics from Columbia University in 1991. Working in Eric Kandel's laboratory, she combined electrophysiology and calcium imaging methods to analyze the synaptic mechanisms underlying learning in the marine mollusc, Aplysia californica.
Dr. Eliot has published more than 50 works, including peer-reviewed journals articles, magazine pieces, and the book, What's Going on in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life (Bantam, 2000). Honors include a Magna cum laude bachelor's degree from Harvard, a predoctoral NSF fellowship, a postdoctoral NIH fellowship, a Grass Fellowship in Neurophysiology, a Whiteley Scholarship from the University of Washington, and a Rosalind Franklin Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Dr. Eliot's newest book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps and What We Can Do About It, was published in September 2009 by Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt.
Study of the psychological processes of children. The field is sometimes subsumed under developmental psychology. Data are gathered through observation, interviews, tests, and experimental methods. Principal topics include language acquisition and development, motor skills, personality development, and social, emotional, and intellectual growth. The field began to emerge in the late 19th century through the work of German psychophysiologist William Preyer, American psychologist G. Stanley Hall, and others. In the 20th century the psychoanalysts Anna Freud and Melanie Klein devoted themselves to child psychology, but its most influential figure was Jean Piaget, who described the various stages of childhood learning and characterized children's perceptions of themselves and the world at each stage. See alsoschool psychology.
So after nearly an hour of claiming no differences exist (really), or that certain male/female developmental processes are "mysterious," we conclude...what? That we must re-socialize the sexes to shake up gender assumptions? By the way, haven't we in the West already played out that experiment on some level with modern parenting? A discussion for another time, perhaps. As with Cordelia Fine's speech, I find this presentation interesting, yet too nebulous and naysaying about any hint male and female brains are different. I sometimes wonder if there is a push in the scientific/academic community toward publication bias where these matters are concerned. I'm aware that bestsellers written by celebrity scientists often draw irresponsible conclusions and claims, but I don't think that's a good basis for asserting things in direct opposition simply because it sounds more polite.
I liked the story in The Female Mind, where author talks about giving a truck to a little girl and finding that she had it wrapped in a blanket singing to it and saying "It's ok trucky, go to sleep..." I think most things being said about genders are true. Good and bad. I think to make them more accurate we just need to remove the absolutism and accept that it is a continuum with a 20% overlap. Think in terms of this. If you are an average man you will be stronger then most women, but you won't be stronger then a female body builder. It is just averages.
I wanted to comment on what Maureen and johnnyb said. It's not that genes and hormones don't have consequences. It's that interventions exist. It's not treat people in neutral or exactly similar ways and get the same results.
The thing is that even though people have natural presispositions, the environment can impact them and even alter them in some cases.
Shaka1743 points out that genetics influences our physical bodies and our tendancies even before birth. One of the things its well known to impact? Hair color. Ever heard of dye? Watched the loreal commercials? They can change it pretty quickly.
The environment can meaningfully impact sex-linked differences. These researchers Julian Stanley and Camilla Benbow found in 1980 that males tended to be overrepresented at the high end of mathetical ability. Among adolescents who took the SAT, there were 13 males who scored a 700 or higher for every female. But the most recent studies find there are 2.8 males for every female. That's a pretty dramatic shift. At Michigan State University, they started using a graphics training program to help young women improve their spatial abilities. Over the long term, the women who enrolled in the course were more likely to stay in engineering and they got better grades than controls who did not.
There are sex-linked predispositions from genes and hormones that show up extremely early in life. Human beings aren't blank slates, but the ultimate question isn't whether genetics has an impact. It does. It's also what are we endowed with and can societies, cultures, and institutions do about it? There are ways to bridge some gender gaps and open up opportunities for individuals in both sexes. We don't tell someone without 20-20 vision inherently to walk around confused, we give them eyeglasses or contacts.
For the person who says let boys be good at math and science, and girls at their areas: there is evidence that people tend to go for different sub-fields within a broader class according to gender. Diane Halpern pointed out in an interview, "Girls are more likely—and women—are more likely to be more concerned with environmental issues, environmental engineering. In biology, they’re more likely to be concerned with some reproductive biological issues. By cutting out a portion of the population, we’re also cutting the full range of diversity in our interests and where we make our advances." I'm sure the same is true in certain areas of the humanities, as males are probably more interested in some sub-fields than women (in general). Didn't writers like Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dicken, William Shakespeare, Nabakov, and the like add to the world? And isn't writing a skill that matters in general? Moreover, that could lead to supermajorities of our essayists and commentators coming from a female perspective, and it is important to hear a wide range of views.
Also, competetiveness for America is something that many people are worried about. If the United States needs to compete with China and India, then why not tap into the half of the population that's underrepresented?
Differences in genes and hormones make a difference in behavior, but social and culture can influence outcomes in ways that shouldn't be discounted.
I just do not understand it. How someone so smart can get it so wrong. Why on earth do we need to "promote" or "encourage" girls to learn things that boys are good at and vice versa. How about lets just say we let us boys be good at math and science and let girls be good at speaking and expression. And fundamentally build our education to incorporate these differences. I think we have all learned that its the rules of society that needs to be changed not the people. I mean hell have we not learned yet that once nature builds something, it takes millions of years to change it???
I have to disagree..
As a child, I never played with dolls, my affinity was for toy cars,trucks and other boy toys. I grew up playing sports, so lots of balls and movement was involved in my upbringing.
However, and I won't exaggerate here, my math level is that of a third or fourth grader. I still have to count on my fingers, I can't do anything past long division and it takes me a really long time to do any of the basic mathematical functions.
I would say spacial ability and mathematics understanding has little to do with gender, and more to do with dominant parts of the brain. Where my brain has little use for numbers, it cannot get enough of abstract thought and literacy. I just cannot understand Math. It is not in my grasp.
I think another barrier to my math comprehension could have been the age old adage of 'girls can't do math'. From a young age I have heard nothing but that from people in my immediate family and complete strangers. When you hear things enough- your brain starts to follow suit.
Try as I might... I can't wrap my head around math.
@Johnnyb, "...I think any explanation for the differential norms between the sexes ..."
I thought that she was quite correct to point out the more broad concept of gender and its difference.
As to the spacial attributes which Ms.Eliiot mentioned , I'm an unequivocal heterosexual male with less than superior spatial abilities. On the other hand, I am of a species which early on was hunter/gatherer in which men were apparently the hunters. Perhaps there is a hunter gene. Speaking from my own experience I can remember as a very young child engaging the spacial activity of pee on the moving insect (target) when the opportunity presented itself. It is not an activity played or lesson learned by those without an aim-able water pistol, which points (pardon the pun) to a difference not of the neuro- but of the physio-.
And I've been wrong before.
Toward the end she spoke of co-operation. I propose a brain scan study of conservatives and liberals involving two statements. 1) Capitalism is anti-democratic. 2) Social Security is an entitlement.
Obviously a statement about gun ownership would be confused because few conservatives understand that if they know nothing about me but think I should have a gun, that attitude is very liberal indeed, and few liberals care to admit that it is the Second Amendment which conserves all the rest.
So you're saying give girls trucks in order to help them improve at math?
And give boys dolls to play with in order improve their social abilities?
Genetics defines our human bodies, and our tendencies towards certain things objects even before birth.