Some months ago I read a fascinating article from the British newspaper, The Guardian, forwarded to me by a colleague who knows my interest in the area of what is commonly called “gender intelligence”, or the relationship between brain chemistry and structure and male/female behaviors. Written by Madeleine Bunting, the article claims that virtually all of the scientific studies purporting to show that there are indeed, biological differences between men and women, are either misleading or so badly bungled that their results have no merit. She claims that the so-called breakthroughs in neuroscience, genetics, and evolutionary psychology suggesting the feminist consensus of the last 30 or so years that gender is entirely a social construct may be inaccurate, simply wrong or bad science.
Citing results from a number of well-respected researchers in the US and the UK, Bunting raises an interesting question, namely why the question of sex differences exerts such a powerful hold on us? Regardless of whether you believe sex differences are real or not, what makes raising the question occur with such frequency and such passion?
Elizabeth Spelke, Ph.D., a widely respected professor at Harvard, has studied the field of cognitive development for many years. Her research demonstrates that children as early as 10 months old categorize the world by gender. It is interesting that infants in her studies apparently do not show the same categorizations by race. Spelke notes that humans are “…predisposed to see the social landscape in terms of gender” and that we keep on looking for differences because that is one of the basic ways we order our experience of the world.
So does it add or detract from our experience of the world, our relationships, our ability to lead and manage others to think in terms of sex differences? When we do, are we simply perpetuating stereotypes or are we honoring diversity? What is your view on this topic?