from the world's big
A new study on brain differences between sexes sparks a persistent question.
- A new study found brain volume differences between men and women.
- The research focuses on regional grey matter volume, a contentious measurement in neuroscience.
- Without environmental conditions being considered, how trustworthy is our emphasis on biology?
Men vs. women: Why we’re imagining equality all wrong | Heather Heying | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd7ac9538bd187ab6f36bec7877b849f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/nzqxjx5pgJI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This new research not only found sex differences in terms of regional grey matter volume (GMV), but also tied those differences to sex chromosomes. Specifically, after discovering neuroanatomical sex differences, the team found "that sex differences in regional GMV are aligned with functional systems for face processing."</p><p>This sparked the question of the validity of using grey matter to measure social and physical functioning, as this <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/a-study-finds-sex-differences-in-the-brain-does-it-matter/" target="_blank">deep dive</a> in Wired details. Raznahan's research found larger volumes of grey matter in men than women, though previous research has found women are better than men at facial recognition. </p><p>Grey matter is often used as evidence of stronger neurological connections. The default example is the famous <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/97/8/4398" target="_blank">London taxi driver study</a>, which found that drivers, who have to memorize the entirety of the city to pass a rigorous test, have larger GMV in the brain's posterior hippocampi (spatial memory and navigation) than non-taxi drivers. This line of argument has also been <a href="https://psychcentral.com/news/2015/01/24/meditation-shown-to-alter-gray-matter-in-brain/80342.html#:~:text=Meditating%20for%20just%20eight%20weeks,Massachusetts%20General%20Hospital%20(MGH)." target="_blank">used by meditation researchers</a>, who have extrapolated from GMV volume to argue that meditation helps increase memory and empathy while decreasing stress. </p><p>Back to correlation and causation. Taxi drivers must study street maps for years; mediation is a specific discipline that has measurable effects on the nervous system (beyond grey matter). In both cases, the subjects have changed their relationship to their environment, thus hinting at correlation. If anything, you can argue environmental changes <em>cause</em> changes in GMV. </p><p>Raznahan's study is looking at genetic differences, yet environment still plays a role. The data was pulled from the U.S. and UK, predominantly white, wealthy countries. Comparing that data to other sets in African or Asian countries, for example, could result in a Bell Curve-type controversy—gender studies are already controversial enough. How then do you study biology when everything is polarized? </p>
Dozens of women and men attend a rally and march in Washington Square Park for International Women's Day on March 8, 2018 in New York City.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images<p>One political party in America grows angry any time a connection between income disparity and ethnicity is made. We seem unable to move beyond this political wedge, especially since it fires up the base, yet it holds the key to freeing scientists to take a holistic approach. You can't <em>only</em> look at changes in brain function when contemplating social differences. But you can investigate such differences if you're trying to understand brain disorders—the focus of Raznahan's work.</p><p>The gender question might always be with us. In 2014, Fallon Fox, a transgender MMA fighter, <a href="https://www.bjjee.com/articles/transgender-mma-fighter-who-broke-female-opponents-skull-are-we-getting-too-politically-correct-with-reality/" target="_blank">broke Tamikka Brents's skull</a> during a match. Brents later said she had "never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night." There are real biological differences between men and women. Arguing against that is antithetical to good science. </p><p>Neuroscience will remain a sticky topic for some time, however. The methods for measuring blood flow and brain volume are, as Davis suggests above, more art than science. Until better measuring sticks are developed for understanding brain functionality, the field will be more speculative than declarative. That's okay: scientists need to fail in order to grow. In a time when even minor failures result in ostracism, however, that's a tough line to walk. </p><p>Environment always matters. Humans are the products of the spaces they inhabit. Genetic disorders aside, our chemistry is linked to our environment. When neuroscience is able to utilize brain scans in conjunction with sociology, real progress will be possible. Until then, controversies will abound, even where they should be none. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
A new study from Ohio State University details implicit bias.
- New research from Ohio State claims we cannot separate how someone looks and sounds.
- Volunteers were asked to look at photos and listen to audio, and were told to ignore their face or voice.
- "They were unable to entirely eliminate the irrelevant information," said associate professor Kathryn Campbell-Kibler.
8 powerful speakers that might make you think differently about racism | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="310eb2418d44ed9aed7fb66364904aaa"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ox04P7Gy2eY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>In some cases, volunteers were told to evaluate how "good-looking" the people in the photos were; in others, they were asked to judge their accents. One cohort was not given guidance; they looked at a photo and listened to a voice. Others were told to ignore the face while listening, and vice-versa. Some were even told that the voice was not from the same person they were looking at. </p><p>It didn't matter. In most cases, volunteers expressed critical judgment of either their face or voice. As Campbell-Kibler <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200722083758.htm" target="_blank">says</a>, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Even though we told them to ignore the voice, they couldn't do it completely. Some of the information from the voice seeped into their evaluation of the face."</p><p>Detaching face from voice is a difficult endeavor. The first time I heard Welsh actor Matthew Rhys' <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bu77rb0mww4" target="_blank">true accent</a> was while watching "The Wine Show," which he filmed shortly after wrapping up work on "The Americans." It took me a few minutes to rationalize what I was seeing. Now I can't get his actual speaking voice out of my head while watching the drunken private investigator transform into the lawyer we knew Perry Mason would become.</p>
Jonathan Gartrelle (L), participating in a protest against police brutality, confronts a demonstrator taking part in a counter demonstration advertised as a Law and Order Rally that was also supporting President Donald Trump on June 14, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images<p>Rhys is paid to speak English with an American accent. The stakes are low for me as a viewer. Out in the real world, where racism is as prevalent as ever, the situation is different. Implicit bias affects everyone, which means racism and xenophobia are conditions we have to work at correcting in ourselves. It won't come natural. Campbell-Kibler continues,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We found that people could exercise some control over what information to favor, the voice or the face, depending on what we told them to do. But in most cases, they were unable to entirely eliminate the irrelevant information."</p><p>She notes that even though most participants were white, they were careful to not racially stereotype. Volunteers told to ignore faces while listening to accents performed best for this reason, though some admitted they had to make a conscious effort to do so. </p><p>Volunteers took no issue with judging the photos good-looking, believing looks to be subjective. Campbell-Kibler wants to follow up this research using videos instead of photographs to observe the impact of watching others on the screen. </p><p>The takeaway: we are influenced by all of the information available to us at all times. Our biases will make themselves apparent. Course-correcting is not natural, but thankfully, it is possible. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.
- Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
- The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
- What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
Choose your battles<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ1OTQ2NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDgwMTA5OH0.BP2vZe7gZdiaE_KA5Otr4pzYmAqpFQUGSRSVr28Bipo/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C90%2C0%2C32&height=700" id="46a4d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="912a183929345986b45c3455a6f369f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Aikido Morihei Ueshiba" />
Aikido Morihei Ueshiba (1883 - 1969, standing, centre left), founder of the Japanese martial art of aikido, demonstrating his art with a follower, at the opening ceremony of the newly-opened aikido headquarters, Hombu Dojo, in Shinjuku, Tokyo, 1967.
Credit: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images<p>Online debates often amount to little more than frustrated individuals pulling out their hair. In his book, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0062339346?tag=bigthink00-20&linkCode=ogi&th=1&psc=1" target="_blank">"Against Empathy,"</a> Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom writes that effective altruists are able to focus on what really matters in everyday life.</p><p>For example, he compares politics to sports. Rooting for your favorite team isn't based in rationality. If you're a Red Sox fan, Yankees stats don't matter. You just want to destroy them. This, he believes, is how most people treat politics. "They don't care about truth because, for them, it's not really about truth."</p><p>Bloom writes that if his son believed our ancestors rode dinosaurs, it would horrify him, but "I can't think of a view that matters less for everyday life." We have to strive for rationality when the stakes are high. When involved in real decision-making processes that will affect their life, people are better able to express ideas and make arguments, and are more receptive to opposing ideas. </p><p>Because we "become inured to problems that seem unrelenting," it's imperative to make the problem seem immediate. As Voss says, giving the other side "the illusion of control" is one way of accomplishing this, as it forces them to take action. When people feel out of control, negotiations are impossible. People dig their heels in and refuse to budge. </p><p>What seems to be weakness is actually a strength. To borrow another martial arts metaphor, negotiations are like aikido: using your opponent's force against them while also protecting them from injury. Forcing empathy is one way to accomplish this task. You may get more than you ask for without the other side ever realizing they surrendered anything.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
3 Tips on Negotiations, with FBI Negotiator Chris Voss<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b86d518e9f0c9f9d7a7c686e07798152"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-FLlBchonwM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Placing science and religion at opposite ends of the belief spectrum is to ignore their unique purposes.
- Science and religion (fact versus faith) are often seen as two incongruous groups. When you consider the purpose of each and the questions that they seek to answer, the comparison becomes less black and white.
- This video features religious scholars, a primatologist, a neuroendocrinologist, a comedian, and other brilliant minds considering, among other things, the evolutionary function that religion serves, the power of symbols, and the human need to learn, explore, and know the world around us so that it becomes a less scary place.
- "I think most people are actually kind of comfortable with the idea that science is a reliable way to learn about nature, but it's not the whole story and there's a place also for religion, for faith, for theology, for philosophy," says Francis Collins, American geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "But that harmony perspective doesn't get as much attention. Nobody is as interested in harmony as they are in conflict."
Yet, the real-world roles and expectations of fathers have changed in recent years.
From Homer Simpson to Phil Dunphy, sitcom dads have long been known for being bumbling and inept.