Scientists = Men, Say Biased Scientists
If men are better systematizers — better at unraveling the rules of the universe — then it’s only fair that science research labs are bastions of testosterone.
Biased (unscientific) research has made it seem so.
Take a look at these points from Dr. Cordelia Fine’s book, Delusions of Gender.
Mobile gazing = systematizer?
One well-known study confirms that men are superior scientists because boy babies stare longer at mobiles, compared with girls.
102 infants who were only a day and a half old — too young to have been affected by socialization — had the option of staring at a woman’s face or a mobile for one minute.
Males spent more time gazing at the mobile: 51% vs 41%
- Babies can’t see very well at that age
- Researchers knew the sex of the baby and may have unconsciously directed the boys’ and girls’ attention
- Looking at a mobile longer means you are a better systematizer?
- One minute observations of newborns justify women’s exclusion from science?
A more carefully designed follow-up study didn’t find a sex difference, anyway.
Mom’s totally unbiased opinion about baby boys and girls
In another study moms were asked questions like this: How easily can your children figure out controls of a DVD player.
Most moms thought their boys were better at this sort of thing.
Maybe they were. But:
- Parents are more likely to jump in and fix things for girls, while giving boys more time to figure things out
- Parents could misremember in ways that fit stereotypes
Messy = bad scientist. Have you seen Einstein’s desk?
Questions measuring one’s “Systematizing Quotient” include:
- Notices something in the house has been moved or changed
- Minds if things in the house are not in their proper place
Have you seen Einstein’s desk?
Boys toys = scientific brains
Boys toys have also been identified as “more systematizing.” Because they have parts that move:
- A trailer with four cars
- A garbage truck
- A set of three plastic pieces of equipment
But what about some of these “girl toys”?
- Barbie in a pink car
- Toy stroller
- Toy vacuum
Spatial and construction skills are also thought more “systematizing.” Yet Lincoln Logs were removed from studies because girls like them so much.
And gender-neutral play like puzzles and sketch pads didn’t count. Because they were gender-neutral?
And isn’t sewing a type of construction?
Contradictory data “confirms” that boys are better at science
Are boy monkeys, with their high testosterone, naturally drawn to toys with moving parts?
Vervet monkeys were offered a choice to play with the following toys:
- “Boy toys”: police car, a ball
- “Girl toys”: a doll, a pan
- Neutral toys: a picture book, a stuffed dog
(Would a monkey know that a pan is a girl toy? And used to cook dinner?)
- Males spent one third of their time playing with each type of toy
- Females spent more time with feminine toys
So actually, the males had no preference for “boy” over “girl” toys.
And when the toys were re-categorized as “animate” versus “object” there was no sex difference.
Meanwhile, a study of rhesus monkeys found that females and males were equally likely to play with wheeled toys.
These contradictory studies have been interpreted as evidencing inborn sex differences.
Testosterone associated with better, worse, and equal mental rotation
Meanwhile, studies of humans have associated testosterone with, alternatively, better mental rotation, worse mental rotation, and equal mental rotation.
Harvard psychology professor, Steven Pinker, acknowledges that the evidence is messy and contradictory. But he thinks something can be salvaged from it.
Taken together (and depending on what Prof. Pinker thinks can be salvaged) the studies actually evidence researcher bias.
Source: Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender.
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