Are Girls' Brains Different from Boys'?

Research on gender difference must have enough courage to ask important questions but be thoughtful enough not to jump to conclusions. Here are some guidelines for reading research.

What's the Latest Development?

At this week's annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, panelists were quick to recognize that sex-difference research is easily abused and can justify sexism. That drew a sharp question from two female researchers in the audience who expressed concern that political correctness too often prevents researchers from asking purely scientific questions. If a few guidelines are kept in mind while pursuing research, sexism can be easily avoided.

What's the Big Idea?

Given the complexity of the brain, any neuroscience explanation that relies on a single factor is probably misleading, says Melissa Hines, a psychologist at the U of Cambridge. Genetics matter but so does socialization. And socialization can matter a great deal in experiments themselves: Women have been found to perform worse on cognitive exams when they are told men are better at it. Given how rapidly our understanding of the brain has advanced in the last decade, we must be cautious when drawing social conclusions from purely physical data.

Photo credit:

NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller on ​the multiple dimensions of space and human sexuality

Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.

Flickr / 13winds
Think Again Podcasts
  • Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
  • What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
  • Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit