The Gender Equality Paradox

Series from Denmark

Studies of mental functions, behaviors and the nervous system.

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The Gender Equality Paradox

#1  Postby Mayak » Jul 12, 2012 12:49 am

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQ2xrnyH2wQ[/youtube]


Really interesting seven part series from Norway. I think the host is a popular comedian from their country, but each episode deals with a different topic in society but they all relate around the theme of nature vs nurture.

Each side makes really good points, I sometimes feel the nurture side brushes off any suggestion that nature plays some role, but they seem to do it in a way that says until you bring "acceptable" evidence we really don't have much to say. Which is fair, but you would think the newborn study by Baron-Cohen would be somewhat acceptable?

I wonder in cases where women have higher than normal testosterone levels, if there is a pattern from those women to prefer things and tasks associated with men? Would this be acceptable evidence?

I'm not really ready to bank everything on nurture(society) as the only player but maybe someone has a video with some really up to date evidence, research? It seems like with all the new technology out today somebody would have cracked this puzzle!
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#2  Postby Mr.Samsa » Jul 12, 2012 2:30 am

Each side makes really good points, I sometimes feel the nurture side brushes off any suggestion that nature plays some role, but they seem to do it in a way that says until you bring "acceptable" evidence we really don't have much to say. Which is fair, but you would think the newborn study by Baron-Cohen would be somewhat acceptable?


Some of the people on the "nurture" side of the video had obviously been picked because they were a bit more extreme than the average researcher, and/or their comments were selectively edited to make it seem like there was a stronger position being advocated. It's important to remember that there has never been a field or approach to science which has been blank slatist, so the idea that major fields like sociology or areas within psychology believe or promote a blank slate approach is absurd. The general position is that nature obviously plays some role but we have to be careful about speaking beyond our data - not only for important scientific reasons (as speculation can dilute the validity of your results and lead you on wild goose chases), but also because the research in areas like these obviously have a real social impact. This obviously doesn't mean we should ignore any results or not report them, but it does mean that if our data or methodology is flimsy, we should be careful to present our results as tentative, or gather more data to support our conclusions.

There's a good discussion here by two researchers who discuss and criticise research like that of Baron-Cohen's, which a reference to their books (both of which are great, generally fair and scientifically accurate, resources).

I've only had time to watch the first episode, but I made some notes as I went through so here are my thoughts (any quotes I make are approximate):

"I thought if society was equal, then they would get the same jobs".


The whole section at the beginning about Norway leading the world in gender equality was so irrelevant to the whole episode, I don't understand why the host spent so much time discussing it. Leading the world in terms of fairness in employment, and pay, and law, etc, does not equate to equality in terms of how the genders are treated on a social level. Just look at all the people on the street that he interviewed, promoting the same ideas of girls liking to talk and play with dolls, boys liking trucks and playing rough, etc. Even if there were absolutely no biological basis, this kind of thinking would necessarily generate some difference.

Another point I found interesting was that none of the Norwegian scientists interviewed promoted a blank slate ideology. It was hard to tell with the editing and the sound bites we got, but the woman was mostly basing her position on the fact that gender differences were largely explained by environmental studies and that there was no need for a biological explanation. This is importantly different from a blank slate view. The host shows a clip of her saying that she's not interested in brain differences because she doesn't think they're relevant, as if that suggests she's holding a sort of blank slate view, but obviously it doesn't. No matter what side of the fence you sit on in this debate, brain differences are of course irrelevant. If we know that men and women behave differently, then there must necessarily be brain differences unless you believe that behaviors come from somewhere other than the brain. Similarly, we can show that liberals and conservatives have different brains, atheists and theists, rock fans and emos, etc. Showing a neurological difference tells us absolutely nothing.

Lorentzen also doesn't claim that there are no differences, but simply suggests that there are "basically" no differences. The qualifier is important because it means he accepts there is some variation, but he doesn't believe that the biological and innate component is significant enough to warrant the claims made by some people. He also claims that the American studies are speculative, most likely talking about the evolutionary psychologists from the Santa Barbara church of psychology, like Pinker, Buss, Cosmides etc, and he's certainly right - they are speculative, and that's why their work is not overly influential in science, even in evolutionary psychology.

The first study presented is the survey of over 200,000 people which demonstrated that there are differences in preferences of jobs in men and women. Well, we already knew this. That's the gender difference we're trying to explain. It doesn't tell us whether it's innate or learnt (or a mixture of both).

Lippa then suggests that if these differences were learnt, then we'd expect them to change across cultures, and he points to a graph with two constant, unchanging lines, and says that this is evidence that something biological is going on. Obviously it isn't. It's evidence that there is a common underlying variable controlling both, which can be biological or learnt. This is the problem with most people's interpretation of cross-cultural studies, they ignore the fact that cross-cultural behaviors can also be explained by species-specific environmental constraints which produce universal learning. As an example, look at the fact that all individuals, across all cultures and generations, eat hot soup from a bowl. Amazing, must be innate, right? Clearly not, there is no "eating-soup-from-a-bowl gene", and instead the common behavior is there because the guy who tried to eat it off a plate or flat leaf or whatever burnt his nutsack. The common factor of gravity produces this learnt effect. This isn't to say that the behavior is learnt, but that it's something that needs to be ruled out, not just shrugged off.

The next study found that there were clear differences in the toy preferences of 9 month olds. Obviously, both biological and learning explanations predict this.

Simon Baron-Cohen then presents us with another study where newborn babies look longer at mechanical devices than they do at faces. This is interesting, except that we find that this difference disappears when the person holding the mechanical device (normally a mobile) or showing their face, doesn't know the sex of the baby. That is, the responses of the babies change, and the sex differences emerge, as a direct result of the person interacting with them treating them differently. In other words, the studies that find the differences are not blinded.

Campbell, the evolutionary psychologist, suggests that it would be surprising if evolution hadn't equipped women (who give birth and generally look after children) with some kind of innate mechanism that made such actions pleasurable. Of course it's not surprising. We build bonds with people we spend time with, and we build a sunk-cost fallacy into the way we behave as a result of our learning, and so carrying something around for 9 months generally results in us being pretty protective of it, and rationalising to ourselves that it's a good thing. It would be surprising if we needed extra innate mechanisms on top of this.

She then quotes a study which finds that men prefer to be alone when stressed - this again only describes a gender difference we already knew existed, it doesn't tell us whether it has a biological or environmental cause. And she concludes her interview with an argument from incredulity; seemingly baffled by the idea that subtle changes in our behavior can significantly affect the behavior of a baby (whose brain is literally exploding with neural connections and associations, picking up on every tiny thing and strengthening and culling millions of connections)..

Lippa, who told us that cross-cultural studies and unchanging opinions demonstrate that there is a biological cause, then explains why some cultures (the non-egalitarian ones) differ from others. In other words, cross-cultural studies always support the biological cause, whether they show consistent results, or divergent ones..

Campbell makes the standard evo psych fallacy, of pointing out that our brains are evolved organs and then trying to conclude that our behaviors (specifically whatever behaviors are currently being discussed) must have evolved as well. This obviously isn't true. It's probably true for at least some behaviors, but it's also possible that the evolution of the brain was to push it entirely into a domain-general processor, meaning that we can accept the evolution of the brain and conclusively reject the claim that evolutionary theories must have a role to play in sex differences.

Lorentzen makes the good argument that he's not a blank slatist, he just accepts that there is currently no good evidence of a biological link - and he's entirely correct here. There are some studies suggesting it, and the studies are getting better and more interesting, but it's still a leap to accept that position from what we currently know.

Baron-Cohen concludes with:

It's a moderate proposal to say it's a mixture of biology and culture.


This is the golden mean fallacy; the idea that it's reasonable to presume that the two extremes of a position are wrong, and that the middle ground is likely to be correct. Of course, since the evidence is largely in favour of a cultural explanation of gender differences (mostly due to the longer history, and the ability to perform more rigorous experiments), it is an extreme position to suggest that gender differences are equally influenced by biology and culture.
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#3  Postby Mayak » Jul 13, 2012 6:27 pm

Mr.Samsa wrote:
Some of the people on the "nurture" side of the video had obviously been picked because they were a bit more extreme than the average researcher, and/or their comments were selectively edited to make it seem like there was a stronger position being advocated. It's important to remember that there has never been a field or approach to science which has been blank slatist, so the idea that major fields like sociology or areas within psychology believe or promote a blank slate approach is absurd. The general position is that nature obviously plays some role but we have to be careful about speaking beyond our data - not only for important scientific reasons (as speculation can dilute the validity of your results and lead you on wild goose chases), but also because the research in areas like these obviously have a real social impact. This obviously doesn't mean we should ignore any results or not report them, but it does mean that if our data or methodology is flimsy, we should be careful to present our results as tentative, or gather more data to support our conclusions.


Yeah, after re-watching it again I see what you mean. I don't know if they were picked on purpose. It is interesting that the nurture researchers come from his country and none of them have any international recognition outside of their field of study but on the nature side they all seem to be very well known, and great at popularizing their works. It's funny that the nurture people seem content with their position while the nature people want to popularize their position as much as possible. You're right though, that shouldn't change the facts.



Mr.Samsa wrote:There's a good discussion here by two researchers who discuss and criticise research like that of Baron-Cohen's, which a reference to their books (both of which are great, generally fair and scientifically accurate, resources).



Thanks, I'll check it out.


Mr.Samsa wrote:I've only had time to watch the first episode, but I made some notes as I went through so here are my thoughts (any quotes I make are approximate):

The whole section at the beginning about Norway leading the world in gender equality was so irrelevant to the whole episode, I don't understand why the host spent so much time discussing it. Leading the world in terms of fairness in employment, and pay, and law, etc, does not equate to equality in terms of how the genders are treated on a social level. Just look at all the people on the street that he interviewed, promoting the same ideas of girls liking to talk and play with dolls, boys liking trucks and playing rough, etc. Even if there were absolutely no biological basis, this kind of thinking would necessarily generate some difference.


Yeah, I guess making laws is not the same thing as changing people's minds. I'm thinking of myself when they asked the question of whether or not you would like someone else in the room before your shock treatment, and I instantly told myself no. I wonder why, maybe something with boys are supposed to tough it out while girls should always ask for help. But for me it had more to do with how awkward that would be.

Mr.Samsa wrote:Another point I found interesting was that none of the Norwegian scientists interviewed promoted a blank slate ideology. It was hard to tell with the editing and the sound bites we got, but the woman was mostly basing her position on the fact that gender differences were largely explained by environmental studies and that there was no need for a biological explanation. This is importantly different from a blank slate view. The host shows a clip of her saying that she's not interested in brain differences because she doesn't think they're relevant, as if that suggests she's holding a sort of blank slate view, but obviously it doesn't. No matter what side of the fence you sit on in this debate, brain differences are of course irrelevant. If we know that men and women behave differently, then there must necessarily be brain differences unless you believe that behaviors come from somewhere other than the brain. Similarly, we can show that liberals and conservatives have different brains, atheists and theists, rock fans and emos, etc. Showing a neurological difference tells us absolutely nothing.


That makes sense, where else would all of our differences in thinking be if not the brain. But by differences they seemed to imply that our brains could be structured differently or wired differently, like in the example they said where testosterone production had a lot to do with how female and male brains develop during child birth.

I mean what really shapes our brains? Are genes just the blueprint and the environment fills in the remaining area? Kind of like when you get a computer, there's the hardware and then you, as the environment, choose what software you want to install. But, way back before computers when we threw rocks at each other and our culture consisted of running around naked to the full moon, wouldn't it help to have some "pre-programming" from our genes? Something that guides men to be big, strong hunters and women to be social, friendly child bearers...



Mr.Samsa wrote:Lorentzen also doesn't claim that there are no differences, but simply suggests that there are "basically" no differences. The qualifier is important because it means he accepts there is some variation, but he doesn't believe that the biological and innate component is significant enough to warrant the claims made by some people. He also claims that the American studies are speculative, most likely talking about the evolutionary psychologists from the Santa Barbara church of psychology, like Pinker, Buss, Cosmides etc, and he's certainly right - they are speculative, and that's why their work is not overly influential in science, even in evolutionary psychology.


Pinker, speculative??? :o But he's a professor at Harvard! I kid :grin:



Mr.Samsa wrote:The first study presented is the survey of over 200,000 people which demonstrated that there are differences in preferences of jobs in men and women. Well, we already knew this. That's the gender difference we're trying to explain. It doesn't tell us whether it's innate or learnt (or a mixture of both).

Lippa then suggests that if these differences were learnt, then we'd expect them to change across cultures, and he points to a graph with two constant, unchanging lines, and says that this is evidence that something biological is going on. Obviously it isn't. It's evidence that there is a common underlying variable controlling both, which can be biological or learnt. This is the problem with most people's interpretation of cross-cultural studies, they ignore the fact that cross-cultural behaviors can also be explained by species-specific environmental constraints which produce universal learning. As an example, look at the fact that all individuals, across all cultures and generations, eat hot soup from a bowl. Amazing, must be innate, right? Clearly not, there is no "eating-soup-from-a-bowl gene", and instead the common behavior is there because the guy who tried to eat it off a plate or flat leaf or whatever burnt his nutsack. The common factor of gravity produces this learnt effect. This isn't to say that the behavior is learnt, but that it's something that needs to be ruled out, not just shrugged off.


Well, what to your knowledge is species-specific environmental constraint that we all share that makes men go to certain jobs and women go to others?


Mr.Samsa wrote:Campbell, the evolutionary psychologist, suggests that it would be surprising if evolution hadn't equipped women (who give birth and generally look after children) with some kind of innate mechanism that made such actions pleasurable. Of course it's not surprising. We build bonds with people we spend time with, and we build a sunk-cost fallacy into the way we behave as a result of our learning, and so carrying something around for 9 months generally results in us being pretty protective of it, and rationalising to ourselves that it's a good thing. It would be surprising if we needed extra innate mechanisms on top of this.


Why do we build bonds with people we spend time with? How did we learn to associate people with the sunk-cost fallacy? Before our learning, when the first cave man had sex with the first cave woman, how did she know that her pregnant belly was not an infection but a baby to protect? I hope that's not an odd question, but I'm trying to think from their perspective before they had tons of cultural knowledge to learn from, her body starts to feel weird, forcing her to throw up, always tired, and then a huge bump on her belly! If I was that first cave woman, I would fucking freak out.


Mr.Samsa wrote:Lippa, who told us that cross-cultural studies and unchanging opinions demonstrate that there is a biological cause, then explains why some cultures (the non-egalitarian ones) differ from others. In other words, cross-cultural studies always support the biological cause, whether they show consistent results, or divergent ones..



Do you think the reason most cultures show the same pattern is because pretty much every culture has mixed and learned from another? Wasn't there an amazon tribe somewhere that never had contact, ever, with any outside cultures? What did we find out from those guys?



Mr.Samsa wrote:Campbell makes the standard evo psych fallacy, of pointing out that our brains are evolved organs and then trying to conclude that our behaviors (specifically whatever behaviors are currently being discussed) must have evolved as well. This obviously isn't true. It's probably true for at least some behaviors, but it's also possible that the evolution of the brain was to push it entirely into a domain-general processor, meaning that we can accept the evolution of the brain and conclusively reject the claim that evolutionary theories must have a role to play in sex differences.


I looked up domain-general processor, something about how all brain function is interdependent? I thought this was common knowledge?

Mr.Samsa wrote:Lorentzen makes the good argument that he's not a blank slatist, he just accepts that there is currently no good evidence of a biological link - and he's entirely correct here. There are some studies suggesting it, and the studies are getting better and more interesting, but it's still a leap to accept that position from what we currently know.


Well, what have we currently found out about gene related behaviors in humans? You would think it would have been big news, the first behavior to be directly connected to a gene.

Mr.Samsa wrote:Baron-Cohen concludes with:

It's a moderate proposal to say it's a mixture of biology and culture.


This is the golden mean fallacy; the idea that it's reasonable to presume that the two extremes of a position are wrong, and that the middle ground is likely to be correct. Of course, since the evidence is largely in favour of a cultural explanation of gender differences (mostly due to the longer history, and the ability to perform more rigorous experiments), it is an extreme position to suggest that gender differences are equally influenced by biology and culture.


Damn, Pinker is at Harvard, Baron-Cohen is at Cambridge, what gives? I'm even reading Baron-Cohens wikipedia page, and he's on the 'Chair of the NICE Guideline Development Group for adults with autism.' You would think the nurture guys would get all the prestige's positions at the worlds top universities? :grin:
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#4  Postby Doubtdispelled » Jul 13, 2012 6:37 pm

:coffee:
Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#5  Postby Mr.Samsa » Jul 14, 2012 6:55 am

Mayak wrote:Yeah, after re-watching it again I see what you mean. I don't know if they were picked on purpose. It is interesting that the nurture researchers come from his country and none of them have any international recognition outside of their field of study but on the nature side they all seem to be very well known, and great at popularizing their works. It's funny that the nurture people seem content with their position while the nature people want to popularize their position as much as possible. You're right though, that shouldn't change the facts.


From what I saw, it seemed to be a documentary with a very particular goal in mind (demonstrated by the irrelevant preamble about the laws in Norway and their effect on equality).

Mayak wrote:Yeah, I guess making laws is not the same thing as changing people's minds. I'm thinking of myself when they asked the question of whether or not you would like someone else in the room before your shock treatment, and I instantly told myself no. I wonder why, maybe something with boys are supposed to tough it out while girls should always ask for help. But for me it had more to do with how awkward that would be.


Of course, there will be individual differences like you and me who choose no-one to be there because it seems awkward or unnecessary, but there will be a lot of men out there who refuse simply because they've been taught that men shouldn't have someone there to look after them and hold their hand, and women out there who don't really want anyone there but have been taught that they should have someone there to coddle them.

Mayak wrote:That makes sense, where else would all of our differences in thinking be if not the brain. But by differences they seemed to imply that our brains could be structured differently or wired differently, like in the example they said where testosterone production had a lot to do with how female and male brains develop during child birth.


The problem is that the link between those two claims is entirely guesswork. That is, we know that brains control behavior, and we know that hormones and brain chemicals affect the growth and development of the brain, however, we don't know that the differences between men and women produce any significant differences in brain structures, or that these brain structures have any noticeable affect on behavior.

So it's entirely plausible explanations for why differences could exist, but unless these differences can be identified, they are irrelevant stories.

Mayak wrote:I mean what really shapes our brains? Are genes just the blueprint and the environment fills in the remaining area? Kind of like when you get a computer, there's the hardware and then you, as the environment, choose what software you want to install. But, way back before computers when we threw rocks at each other and our culture consisted of running around naked to the full moon, wouldn't it help to have some "pre-programming" from our genes? Something that guides men to be big, strong hunters and women to be social, friendly child bearers...


It's certainly not blank slatist - there are definite innate structures which affect the way we behave, and we don't just 'fill in the gaps' with experiences. The question, however, is whether there are innate differences between men and women, and if so, what these are. All too often people tend to appeal to claims like "Of course men and women are different!" as if that necessarily supports some specific claim of gender difference. We can accept that men and women are different, whilst rejecting all specific claims of differences.

As for "needing some preprogramming", why would that be? We aren't that far removed from when we first came about, or from closely related species, and they seem to function just fine. I think the key thing to remember is that innate behaviors are incredibly rigid, and very poorly adapted for novel environments and complex behaviors. For things like "hunting" and being "social and friendly", there is far more involved than just innate structures.

Also, keep in mind that the idea of the "hunter-gatherer" tribe is no longer accepted. It wasn't a case of 'men going out hunting', but rather most meat was gathered through traps that were set up by both men and women, and they'd both harvest their fruit and vege together.

Mayak wrote:Pinker, speculative??? :o But he's a professor at Harvard! I kid :grin:


:lol: I assume you're being facetious, but yes, his forte is in speculation (and little else).

Mayak wrote:Well, what to your knowledge is species-specific environmental constraint that we all share that makes men go to certain jobs and women go to others?


It's hard to say as it's something that really needs to be tested, but obviously the average physical differences between men and women would certainly be something that needs to be considered when looking at the differences there.

Mayak wrote:Why do we build bonds with people we spend time with? How did we learn to associate people with the sunk-cost fallacy?


It's something that just necessarily happens through interactions. The more time you spend with someone, the more positive experiences you have with them - sharing food with them, warmth, finding shelter, etc. Unless they are incredibly antagonistic and trying to kill you, you will inevitably form positive bonds with people you spend a lot of time with (e.g. family).

Mayak wrote:Before our learning, when the first cave man had sex with the first cave woman, how did she know that her pregnant belly was not an infection but a baby to protect? I hope that's not an odd question, but I'm trying to think from their perspective before they had tons of cultural knowledge to learn from, her body starts to feel weird, forcing her to throw up, always tired, and then a huge bump on her belly! If I was that first cave woman, I would fucking freak out.


Yeah definitely, it's a weird thing to think about but you have to keep in mind that they would have seen it in their mothers, sisters, and cousins before them, and they would have seen it before them. I imagine a lot still would have freaked out, just as many, many women do today when they find out they're pregnant (and they often know exactly what's going on).

Mayak wrote:
Mr.Samsa wrote:Lippa, who told us that cross-cultural studies and unchanging opinions demonstrate that there is a biological cause, then explains why some cultures (the non-egalitarian ones) differ from others. In other words, cross-cultural studies always support the biological cause, whether they show consistent results, or divergent ones..


Do you think the reason most cultures show the same pattern is because pretty much every culture has mixed and learned from another? Wasn't there an amazon tribe somewhere that never had contact, ever, with any outside cultures? What did we find out from those guys?


It's hard to say. It could be an innate difference, and I certainly wouldn't rule that out, I'd just like to see some solid evidence of it through studies that attempt to distinguish between all possible causes of the behavior. At a guess, yes there is a lot of overlap between cultures, and added to specific differences between genders, we could get some consistent differences emerging across cultures.

I assume you're referring to the Piraha tribe? I'm not sure what they've found in relation to gender differences there, unfortunately.

Mayak wrote:I looked up domain-general processor, something about how all brain function is interdependent? I thought this was common knowledge?


Domain-general processes essentially refer to 'learning'. The idea is that the brain, at least for some tasks, reaches conclusions through general rules or adaptations. For example, suppose the brain develops a rule that says something like "immediate things are good, delayed things are bad", we would find that the emergent processes of self-control can come from this, and behaviors like alcoholism etc can come about. However, it would be wrong to claim that alcoholism (in this hypothetical situation) is innate just because general processes lead to its development.

Does that make sense?

Mayak wrote:
Mr.Samsa wrote:Lorentzen makes the good argument that he's not a blank slatist, he just accepts that there is currently no good evidence of a biological link - and he's entirely correct here. There are some studies suggesting it, and the studies are getting better and more interesting, but it's still a leap to accept that position from what we currently know.


Well, what have we currently found out about gene related behaviors in humans? You would think it would have been big news, the first behavior to be directly connected to a gene.


Yeah as far as I know, no human behaviors have been found to have a genetic link. The evidence supporting innate or evolutionary behaviors in humans is shaky enough at the moment. I recommend this book chapter, if you haven't read it before: Evolutionary Psychology and the Challenge of Adaptive Explanation(by Russell Gray).

Mayak wrote:Damn, Pinker is at Harvard, Baron-Cohen is at Cambridge, what gives? I'm even reading Baron-Cohens wikipedia page, and he's on the 'Chair of the NICE Guideline Development Group for adults with autism.' You would think the nurture guys would get all the prestige's positions at the worlds top universities? :grin:


Unfortunately, all the popular books at the moment are in the idea that those nature guys are currently battling those dastardly blank slatists, and hoping that the days of their oppression will finally be over... As such, they sell more books, and get the bigger positions (because if you have a big name associated to your university, you'll get more students, thus more money and research grants).

I'd be very surprised if anyone hired Pinker based on his academic ability and research skills. Baron-Cohen, on the other hand, is a great researcher and has provided some valuable insights in the field, but his specialisation is in autism and related areas, rather than evolutionary psychology.
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#6  Postby Beatsong » Sep 02, 2012 10:46 am

Mr.Samsa wrote:Simon Baron-Cohen then presents us with another study where newborn babies look longer at mechanical devices than they do at faces. This is interesting, except that we find that this difference disappears when the person holding the mechanical device (normally a mobile) or showing their face, doesn't know the sex of the baby.


Citation?

Those baby studies, and others like them, are pretty compelling and influential, and I wasn't aware that they'd been debunked like that.
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#7  Postby Beatsong » Sep 03, 2012 10:18 pm

I know this is a slightly old thread, but I've been reading around and I can't find any reference to the Baron-Cohen studies being disproved on the basis of observer bias.

In fact S B-C's own description of the experiment seems to account for the possibility of just that objection:

One experiment we conducted here in Cambridge was at the local maternity hospital. Essentially we wanted to find out whether sex differences that you observe later in life could be traced back to birth, to see if such differences are present at birth. In this experiment we looked at just over one hundred newborn babies, 24 hours old, which was the youngest we could see them, and we presented each baby with a human face to look at, and then a mechanical mobile suspended above the crib. Each baby got to see both objects.

Obviously these objects are different in interesting ways, because the human face is alive, and it can express emotion, it's a natural object. The mechanical mobile is man-made, it's not alive, and obviously it doesn't have emotions. We tried to make the two objects equivalent in some important ways. One is that they were both the same size; another was that they were a similar colour, in order to try and control features that might be grabbing the child's attention. But effectively what we did was film how long each baby looked at each of these two objects.

We asked the mothers not to tell us the sex of their babies, so that we could remain blind to whether this was a boy or a girl. And for the most part that was possible. Sometimes it was possible to guess that this was a boy or a girl, because there would be cards around the bed saying, "Congratulations, it's a boy." That potentially could have undermined the experiment, although we then gave the videotapes to a panel of judges to simply measure how long the baby looked at the face or the mobile. By the time the judges were looking at these videotapes they didn't have any of these potential clues to the sex of the baby, because all you could see was the eyes of the baby.

The results of the experiment were that we found more boys than girls looked longer at the mechanical mobile. And more girls than boys looked longer at the human face. Given that it was a sex difference that emerged at birth, it means that you can't attribute the difference to experience or culture. Twenty-four hours old. Now you might say, well, they're not exactly new-born, it would have been better to get them at 24 minutes old — or even younger. But obviously we had to respect the wishes of the parents and the doctors to let the baby relax after the trauma of being born. And let the parents get to know their baby. So strictly speaking, it might have been one day of social experience. But nonetheless, this difference is emerging so early that suggests it's at least partly biological.


(my bold)

And some interesting stuff about testosterone from the same interview:

Back to hormones. We've been conducting laboratory studies on the amniotic fluid in the womb — the fetus is effectively swimming in this amniotic fluid. We analyze how much testosterone, the so-called male hormone, is in the amniotic fluid. It's not actually a male hormone, because both sexes produce it, it's just that males produce a lot more than females. That's because it comes from the testes. Females also produce it in the adrenal glands. And even within the boys, or within the girls, you see individual differences in how much is produced.

The question is, does this translate into anything psychological if you follow up those children? We measured the amniotic fluid testosterone, then waited until the baby was born, and then looked at the baby's at 12 months old, 18 months old, two years old. It's a longitudinal prospective study.

What we found is that the higher the baby's level of fetal testosterone, the less eye contact the child makes at 12 months old. And also the slower they are to develop language at 18 months old. To me these are really fascinating results, because we're looking at something biological, in this case a hormone which presumably is influencing brain development to produce these quite marked differences in behavior.
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#8  Postby archibald » Jan 28, 2019 4:00 pm

Beatsong wrote:I know this is a slightly old thread......


I'll start with a similar opening remark to yours. :)

I know this is a very old thread......

I'm fresh from the Jordan Peterson thread, where this topic came up and was (at least until now) being discussed in that thread.

Here, I am not intending that the topic be about Jordan Peterson, although his views on the topic may feature.

To re-open the discussion, I'm going to post some stuff that I obtained via links in the above posts.

First, an audio file of the discussion involving Cordelia Fine and Rebecca Jordan-Young:

https://abcmedia.akamaized.net/rn/podca ... 101113.mp3

In which, as I see it, they cast some doubt on, are sceptical about, the science which purports to suggest that there are innate/biological differences in the brains of men and women which play out as behaviours and preferences (including for example, eventual career choices).

I think that is all they do. They do not (perhaps cannot) demonstrate anything conclusive as regards responding to the veracity of the suggestion, or more importantly the degree to which it is true, or false.

And that, in a nutshell, seems to be the current impasse. The answer to the question (the one raised by the suggestion), the claim if you like, is not known. It is contested. As such, a warning not to rush to conclusions via flawed science is appropriate.

Here's a link to a page in which the topic is discussed in some depth, particularly in the comments section (or the 'Club Discussion' section to be more precise) by several people who seem (to amateur me) to know a bit about the subject. Simon Baron-Cohen features.

https://www.edge.org/conversation/the-a ... ing-theory

Alas, reading that page seems to confirm that there are currently no easy answers, so if that's true, those hoping to find a resolution here can stop reading now. For anyone who, like me, finds the topic nonetheless fascinating even if it is intractable, please chip in. :)

Part of the reason I have so far declined to post a quote from the latter link is that I don't have a settled point of view from which to argue. So instead I will just restate something I said recently in the JP thread.

It seems much more plausible than not to me that there are innate/biological differences which are reflected in or play out as differences in behaviour (in general, statistical terms, no one is trying to over-simplify, and there is much overlap on the respective gender distribution curves). I can see how these could have evolved, been selected for (assuming they are heritable, which also seems plausible). My guess is that such factors are subtle and dispositional as regards causality in outcomes, and malleable, and that learning and environment play a large role in amplifying or modifying them, but that they are nonetheless there, at birth.

In other words, my starting position (which I am not wedded to) is (a) that The Gender Equality Paradox is a 'thing', it exists, and (b) that at least part of the explanations for it are innate/biological differences between the sexes.
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#9  Postby TopCat » Jan 28, 2019 5:02 pm

archibald wrote:In other words, my starting position (which I am not wedded to) is (a) that The Gender Equality Paradox is a 'thing', it exists, and (b) that at least part of the explanations for it are innate/biological differences between the sexes.

Whether it is a thing or not, and I'm not arguing either way, one thing I'm curious about is why the mean - or its standard deviation, which affects what goes on at the extremes - of any metric would be expected to be identical between men and women.

Having a Y chromosome and consequently bathing the growing foetus and its brain (as steroid hormones can apparently cross the blood brain barrier easily) in a vat of different hormone concentrations makes quite a few differences to the body.

So would it not be unsurprising if men and women were different in a variety of brain/mind respects as well as the more obvious physical ones?
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#10  Postby archibald » Jan 28, 2019 6:13 pm

TopCat wrote:Whether it is a thing or not, and I'm not arguing either way, one thing I'm curious about is why the mean - or its standard deviation, which affects what goes on at the extremes - of any metric would be expected to be identical between men and women.

Having a Y chromosome and consequently bathing the growing foetus and its brain (as steroid hormones can apparently cross the blood brain barrier easily) in a vat of different hormone concentrations makes quite a few differences to the body.

So would it not be unsurprising if men and women were different in a variety of brain/mind respects as well as the more obvious physical ones?


I'm not best placed to answer that, because I'm not qualified to do so.

But I'll give you my tuppenceworth anyway. :)

I agree that it would seem very surprising if physical differences, perhaps especially in terms of biochemicals, did not result in psychological differences and by extension different behaviours. And unless I'm mistaken, some of the chemical differences are there at birth, including in the brain, and are heritable.

So in principle I'd have to be dislodged (by empirical facts ideally) from a starting position of saying that there are differences in behaviours and psychology that are innate and/or the result of biology. Finding out that that was wrong would indeed be a huge eye-opener, to me personally. I am not ruling it out however.

But, the innate/biological claim as regards psychology and behaviour, if true, may be the easier part. The hard part might involve answering questions such as, 'how much influence does that innate biology actually have, especially compared to post-birth, environmental influences?' and 'What behaviours are we talking about anyway, and are there some which are influenced by biology and others that aren't, or aren't much?' 'Do they match traditional gender roles or not?' Etc.

Because for example, if, among populations, the effects are small/insignificant, subtle, merely dispositional, malleable, easily affected by environmental factors, not correlated to 'traditional' gender roles and so on, then the biggest mistake may be to make too much of them. Which might be an easy mistake to make, given the long history of beliefs and attitudes that the differences are marked.
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#11  Postby Thommo » Jan 28, 2019 7:10 pm

TopCat wrote:So would it not be unsurprising if men and women were different in a variety of brain/mind respects as well as the more obvious physical ones?


I agree with you, I think it would be surprising. In fact I think people were very surprised at just how equal the sexes turned out to be. It's presumably the fact that a lot of people were so surprised about so many aspects of gender inequality that leads to the belief that there are more surprises in store.

You only need to go back something like 60 or 70 years to find that it was commonly assumed that women could not run long distance races, let alone marathons (as recently as 1967 a woman was banned for trying to run one), due to physical incapability. We now accept that the very pronounced differences in stature, musculature and body fat (men tend to bottom out at about 4%, women at about 10% IIRC) actually only make women about 10% slower than men across most running distances. Given the much, much smaller differences in brain structure (and size, particularly the relevant measure of surface area is also much smaller) it would follow that we probably shouldn't expect too colossal of a difference when it comes to mental activities either.

So, I guess it's reasonable to think the balance point might not be at exact equality, that there might be some small residual differences in preferences and aptitudes in different areas (e.g. the systems vs. social preference discussed elsewhere), but on the other hand you probably can't find that balance point unless you push as far as you can go first.
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#12  Postby scott1328 » Jan 28, 2019 7:42 pm

I think the problem when attempting to compare disjoint groups is the arbitrary nature of the division into the groups.

It seems to me the error comes with the presumption that genetic gender is the correct way to split humans into groups for most if not all types of comparisons.

Much as it is incorrect to use perceived or presumed race to split humans into groups for most if not all types of comparisons.
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#13  Postby tuco » Jan 28, 2019 7:58 pm

Thommo wrote:
TopCat wrote:So would it not be unsurprising if men and women were different in a variety of brain/mind respects as well as the more obvious physical ones?


I agree with you, I think it would be surprising. In fact I think people were very surprised at just how equal the sexes turned out to be. It's presumably the fact that a lot of people were so surprised about so many aspects of gender inequality that leads to the belief that there are more surprises in store.

You only need to go back something like 60 or 70 years to find that it was commonly assumed that women could not run long distance races, let alone marathons (as recently as 1967 a woman was banned for trying to run one), due to physical incapability. We now accept that the very pronounced differences in stature, musculature and body fat (men tend to bottom out at about 4%, women at about 10% IIRC) actually only make women about 10% slower than men across most running distances. Given the much, much smaller differences in brain structure (and size, particularly the relevant measure of surface area is also much smaller) it would follow that we probably shouldn't expect too colossal of a difference when it comes to mental activities either.

So, I guess it's reasonable to think the balance point might not be at exact equality, that there might be some small residual differences in preferences and aptitudes in different areas (e.g. the systems vs. social preference discussed elsewhere), but on the other hand you probably can't find that balance point unless you push as far as you can go first.


I have no idea how this, brain and body differences, work but are you actually saying that since a huge difference in bodies results in small differences in performance the same goes for the brain? Because if so, I am not sure it follows like that. Maybe very small differences in the brain result in significant differences .. now were right? .. say in behavior. This is not possible?
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#14  Postby Thommo » Jan 28, 2019 8:03 pm

Not exactly no. And you're right, that wouldn't follow.

I'm cautioning against the idea that even a very large observable difference in average features of the brain would necessarily translate into a difference in behaviour (or performance) of equally large degree.

So, for example an average difference in brain sizes might not translate into any meaningful difference (within humans - not cross species) in preferences or abilities. That's not to say it will not, but that it might not. I'm counselling scepticism and empiricism. The only way you'll ever find out how equal people can be is if you try and achieve equality and see how far you get.
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#15  Postby tuco » Jan 28, 2019 8:05 pm

Got you and agreed.
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#16  Postby archibald » Jan 29, 2019 9:35 am

Thommo wrote:Not exactly no. And you're right, that wouldn't follow.

I'm cautioning against the idea that even a very large observable difference in average features of the brain would necessarily translate into a difference in behaviour (or performance) of equally large degree.

So, for example an average difference in brain sizes might not translate into any meaningful difference (within humans - not cross species) in preferences or abilities. That's not to say it will not, but that it might not.


Yup.

That man, the one voice-acted at the start of the radio discussion I posted above, he was the inventor of sociology or something, did you hear what he said? Here it is again:

https://abcmedia.akamaized.net/rn/podca ... 101113.mp3

Incredible, really, what one could openly say in those days. And so wrong. It's an example of why I think Jordan Peterson's view of patriarchy as 'mostly benign' is flawed. Not that I want to get back into the Peterson rut.

Thommo wrote:The only way you'll ever find out how equal people can be is if you try and achieve equality and see how far you get.


And here we could meet the objections to trying too hard to do that, of 'forcing the issue', especially with the 'dreaded' quotas.

My personal opinion is, on the whole, to give it a go, and yeah, some quotas if necessary, in certain situations (politics for example). I am, rightly or wrongly, optimistic that more female participation in things like business and politics (and in other areas) and heck possibly even domination, would be a good thing. Perhaps that's just me and my biases and optimism. Nor am I revering the feminine or (I hope) wearing rose-coloured spectacles about women.

To put it another way, I am quite happy to give them anything (assuming they do want it) and see how it works out. In many ways, men have had their turn for a long, long time and things could definitely have been done a LOT better imo. :)
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#17  Postby Evolving » Jan 29, 2019 9:42 am

archibald wrote:
That man, the one voice-acted at the start of the radio discussion I posted above, he was the inventor of sociology or something, did you hear what he said? Here it is again:

https://abcmedia.akamaized.net/rn/podca ... 101113.mp3


I tried, but it was too hard for me to understand.
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#18  Postby archibald » Jan 29, 2019 9:43 am

Evolving wrote:
archibald wrote:
That man, the one voice-acted at the start of the radio discussion I posted above, he was the inventor of sociology or something, did you hear what he said? Here it is again:

https://abcmedia.akamaized.net/rn/podca ... 101113.mp3


I tried, but it was too hard for me to understand.


The accent? :)

Or that it, the perspective, was so.....alien to you?
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#19  Postby Evolving » Jan 29, 2019 9:44 am

archibald wrote:...I am quite happy to give them anything...


That's a gallant thought, but let's just go for justice and fairness from now on.
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Re: The Gender Equality Paradox

#20  Postby Evolving » Jan 29, 2019 9:45 am

archibald wrote:
Evolving wrote:
archibald wrote:
That man, the one voice-acted at the start of the radio discussion I posted above, he was the inventor of sociology or something, did you hear what he said? Here it is again:

https://abcmedia.akamaized.net/rn/podca ... 101113.mp3


I tried, but it was too hard for me to understand.


The accent? :)

Or that it, the perspective, was so.....alien to you?


I was being ironic. As the possessor of a female brain.
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