Event- “The missing five ounces of female brain” Issues in the Interpreting and Reporting of Sex Differences: From Scanner to Soundbite


Tuesday 25 May 2010, 1:00 – 2:00 pm

Dr Cordelia Fine will set out four scientific issues arising from the production and interpretation of information about sex differences in the brain, then turn to the worrisome issue of how these problems are overlooked and exacerbated in popular dissemination and digestion. Finally, Dr Fine will discuss evidence from social psychology suggestive that mishandled claims about “male” and “female” brains may have significant socially harmful effects.

I am looking forward to this seminar. It is always fun to think with a completely different case study and I am quite interested in the ‘loss’ that seems to happen when research is translated between the academic-specialist realm and the social-political.

Some anthropologists like to blame it on academic researchers not producing and disseminating their own research for non-specialist audiences (e.g. this post and discussion on one of my favourite blogs, Savage Minds). In my day-to-day conversations with people (yes, I probably need to work on my conversation skills) it is often suggested that people cannot understand the nuanced and complications that come with the real world. However, I like to think people have a willingness to learn once they realise that it matters. Take for example talk of interest rates and financial policy in Australia. I have sat at the dining table in a homeless service and listened to men with very little formal education arguing about the possible impact on the country of various government policies. Sure they sounded like they were talking in sound-bits from TV, but I think people are interested in understanding.

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