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:

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Why are women more religious than men? Because men are more willing to take risks.

It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.

Photo credit: Alina Strong on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
  • A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
  • The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
Keep reading Show less