Are sex differences hard-wired?

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Are sex differences hard-wired?

Postby Mossling on August 14th, 2010, 8:16 pm 

Today's News:

Male and female ability differences down to socialisation, not genetics
The Observer, Sunday 15 August 2010

"There is almost nothing we do with our brains that is hard-wired. Every skill, attribute and personality trait is moulded by experience."
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Re: So what if homosexuality is a choice?

Postby neuro on August 15th, 2010, 5:42 am 

Mossling wrote:Today's News:
Male and female ability differences down to socialisation, not genetics
The Observer, Sunday 15 August 2010
"There is almost nothing we do with our brains that is hard-wired. Every skill, attribute and personality trait is moulded by experience."

They must have had some space to fill in the observer today, and they made up a nice appealing title, did not they?
Given that almost anything we think and do is the result of genetics (mostly the capability of doing it), nurture/environment/socialization (the general pattern of our behaviors and general motivational framework), and mostly (50%? 70%? 90%?) personal, individual development, i.e. a consequence of HOW we lived our previous experiences and HOW we made our previous choices, in a totally unpredictable spiral of individual departure from stereotypes,
given all this, which is consistent with a very small influence of brain hard-wiring in individual differences in behavior ("almost nothing we do" is a bit too strong, and misleading), I shall introduce two small caveats:
1. Most reported opinions in the article begin with ""Yes, there are basic behavioural differences between the sexes" or something like that, though they stress the major importance of subsequent circuit molding
2. Brain and circuit development is quite notably influenced, with marked local differences, by hormones, and sexual hormones to a particularly relevant extent; although social influence may somehow contribute, the psychological changes occurring during and after pregnancy are paramount, as a result of the action of hormones in a fully developed brain... just think of what such hormones can do in a developing brain...

As homosexuality is concerned, it was rather clear even before this article that there is no genetic intermediate between XX (female) and XY (male), a part from trisomies and other chromosomal aberrations, and again I would stress that much more important than genetics, or experiences, is THE WAY experiences are interpreted and lived by each one of us, because this determines how we transform our experience into memory (no two witnesses will report the same fact in the same way) and HOW we shall live and interpret all subsequent experiences.
"Peu importe ce qu'on a fait de nous, seul importe ce que nous avons fait de ce qu'on a fait de nous" (J.P. Sartre).
It does not matter what they have made of us, what matters is what we have made out of what they have made of us.
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Re: So what if homosexuality is a choice?

Postby neuro on August 15th, 2010, 5:47 am 

oooops!
I thought this was a new thread... didn't realize there were four pages of posts before this last one...
Promise I shall read through the whole thing
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Re: Are sex differences hard-wired?

Postby Paralith on August 15th, 2010, 10:28 am 

No worries, neuro. I think the topic of the article is sufficiently different from the OP of the original thread to be split. (Though do read through the original thread if you like. ^_^)

I've said it before and I'll say it again - the nature/nurture dichotomy is really a false one. No trait exists in absence of genes. No trait exists in absence of an environment. Our very ability to respond to environmental influences in certain ways would not exist without a biological structure that allows us to do so.

This article, sadly, is the result of bad popular science reporting. (in addition to being an example of bad popular science reporting itself! How ironic.) The author seems to be reacting to over-blown media headlines and popular misconceptions, which are certainly problematic, but are not the fault of scientists who study sex and gender differences. If you read the actual scientific literature on these topics, you will find that there do exist average differences between men and women in many populations in traits having to do with ability (the focus of this article). But the range of ability within sexes is also very wide, and the range of each of the sexes greatly overlap each other. This has long been known and never denied.

That human men and women are biologically and behaviorally distinct in many ways should not surprise us or be something we would argue; this is true of all mammals, of all animals that have sexual reproduction, of all organisms that have anisogamy - gametes of two different sizes that must combine in order for reproduction to go on. The origin of sex differences in humans is not simply tied to a hunter-gatherer background, as the author rather condescendingly implies.

Now, the origin and development of these average sex differences in ability, and of sex differences in many other behaviors that this author apparently does not lump in with ability, is an active subject of study today. Current ideas and data suggest that infants (of humans and of many other mammals) are born with innate preferences for certain types of stimuli or environments. We know that very young infants prefer to look at and pay attention to adults of the same sex; we know that very young children have basic differences in the types of toys they enjoy playing with; we know that young children often prefer to spend more time playing with other individuals of the same sex. With these starting points, we are biologically set up to move towards environments that will socialize us for certain roles when we are adults. So yes, socialization does play a big part - but it appears that we may have in fact evolved in way that allows socialization to do most of the work, for a result that is selectively advantageous, no matter which way it came about.

I have to run, but I have a lot of papers on this topic and I will post a few soon.
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Re: So what if homosexuality is a choice?

Postby Deftil on August 15th, 2010, 10:43 am 

I'm thinking maybe this should be in a new thread?

Mossling wrote:Today's News:

Male and female ability differences down to socialisation, not genetics
The Observer, Sunday 15 August 2010

"There is almost nothing we do with our brains that is hard-wired. Every skill, attribute and personality trait is moulded by experience."

I'm a bit confused by this article. Is it only arguing against what they claim is the popular view of neurological sex differences or is it actually trying to argue against the science that shows there are some genetically rooted differences in the brains of men and women?

It keeps referring to John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (which I've never read) and saying it's wrong, but John Gray isn't a neuroscientist. If they are trying to argue against other neuroscientists, why don't they refer to them instead of some author who isn't a scientist at all?

The belief has become widespread, particularly in the wake of the publication of international bestsellers such as John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus that stress the innate differences between the minds of men and women. But now a growing number of scientists are challenging the pseudo-science of "neurosexism", as they call it, and are raising concerns about its implications. These researchers argue that by telling parents that boys have poor chances of acquiring good verbal skills and girls have little prospect of developing mathematical prowess, serious and unjustified obstacles are being placed in the paths of children's education.

So the book advocates telling parents this nonsense, but not the neuroscience community at large, right? I know neuroscientists have spoken about neurological differences between the sexes but I'm not aware of them putting it in terms such as those quoted above. Is this a strawman, or are they just arguing against the book written by a nonscientist?

...women cannot tell jokes...

...our intellects are not prisoners of our genders or our genes and those who claim otherwise are merely coating old-fashioned stereotypes with a veneer of scientific credibility.

...women can read maps despite claims that they lack the spatial skills for such efforts...

Again, are they just saying the book says such silly things, or other neuroscientists?

This point is backed by Eliot. "Yes, boys and girls, men and women, are different," she states in a recent paper in New Scientist. "But most of those differences are far smaller than the Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus stereotypes suggest.

ok so they are just arguing against the book...

This point was also stressed by Fine. "Many of the studies that claim to highlight differences between the brains of males and females are spurious. They are based on tests carried out on only a small number of individuals and their results are often not repeated by other scientists. However, their results are published and are accepted by teachers and others as proof of basic differences between boys and girls.

"studies"? ok, so I guess they are arguing against the book AND other neuroscientists without always being clear and naming the scientists or relevant studies.

"There is almost nothing we do with our brains that is hard-wired. Every skill, attribute and personality trait is moulded by experience."

This statement can be misleading. There is almost nothing we do with our brains that is completely hardwired. Skills are moulded by experience but they are also greatly affected by genetics. What I've just said, and what Ms Eliot have said aren't mutually exclusive, however, when some read her quote I feel it would be very easy for them to think otherwise - namely, that virtually all skills, attributes, and personality traits are completely shaped by experience and NOT genetics, which from all scientific indications I've seen, is false.

edit - I see Paralith posted while I was still posting and we touch on some of the same points. I think her post does help clarify some things. I also see this is a new thread now.. sweet!
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Re: Are sex differences hard-wired?

Postby Dryson on January 27th, 2011, 8:54 am 

The societal differences between men and women are based on the males ego of wanting to believe that they were the ones who created all including the female. This insane ego that males have because of the fact that they are made to feel lesser because women can actually create life inside of their wombs and carry the life into the new world infuriates men. Why because men have to feel dominate because they believe that their genes will create the same type of dominate male that they are but once again that notion has been proven wrong time and time again. Males are dominate because they are infurior to women in many ways which there are far to many to describe here but the main notion that has beset humanity is that man is the decider because he is stronger than the female, most of the time, and since he is stronger the weaker femal must abide by his laws or fear being the next meal for something that the female cannot defend against.

This notion however is slowly being weeded out of the civilized cultures. In American society today females are being looked to more and more to perfrom operations normally set aside for males. These societal roles normally held by males would include all type of labor including welding, construction, etc. as well as females even being given the chance to serve in combat roles for the first time in American history, roles that have always been reservered for the males.

Females fighting in front line of the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) are common place throughout Israel. Not only do they enlist at an early age but also operate tanks and other armored vehicles in front line combat manuever's. So what makes them any different than their male counterparts while in uniform? Nothing they are equal.

Girls of the IDF

Eventually the military here in America will see females operating heavy armor and other vehicles that go into harms way where fighting is meant to occur and may not just be random.

Equality is name that is spreading across the planet and not gender specific societal roles.
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Re: Are sex differences hard-wired?

Postby Paralith on January 27th, 2011, 12:50 pm 

Dryson wrote:The societal differences between men and women are based on the males ego of wanting to believe that they were the ones who created all including the female.


I don't think this is something you can state as absolute fact. This may be a culturally ingrained belief in some parts of the world and during some periods in history, particularly in Western cultures, but there are other groups and cultures who do not have particular creation beliefs where women were generated from men.
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Re: Are sex differences hard-wired?

Postby wolfhnd on January 27th, 2011, 3:24 pm 

There are plenty of research papers available on the Internet discussing this topic. The problem is the term hard-wired. As we learn more about the complex interaction of environment, both internal and external, the evidence suggest that development is very flexible and adaptive. There has been many discussions in this forum about epigenetic regulation of gene expression that show the hard-wired concept prevalent a few years ago to be an oversimplification. When dealing with a subject of this complexity you need to pose a very specific question to get any relevant response.

The following article illustrates how radically bain devleopment may be influenced by the hormonal environment. Just one more example of why we need to question the concept of hard-wired.

nuclear volume in the male animals was significantly greater than that of females whether nuclear volume was expressed in absolute terms or relative to brain weight. On the other hand, the volume of the MPON of the adult male castrated neonatally was significantly reduced when compared to that of the male castrated at the time of weaning, i.e. after the period of sexual differentiation of the brain.


http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_o ... archtype=a
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