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Neil DeGrasse Tyson makes an excellent point, but Larry Summers is still right

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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A part of former Harvard president Larry Summers's speech continues to be misunderstood (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

[Editor's note: Following criticism of this post on social media, Scientific American posted the this statement.]

This is a guest post from my friend Chris Martin. Chris (chriscmartin.com, @ChrisMartin76 on Twitter) studied psychology and music at Davidson College, human-computer interaction at Georgia Tech, and psychology at the College of William and Mary. He is currently in a sociology doctoral program at Emory University, where he primarily conducts research on psychological well-being, but also studies attitudes toward affirmative action, the misperception of a White social ceiling, and other social psychological topics.

Chris thought of writing this post partly in response to a viral video documenting a characteristically articulate reply by Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the so-called “Larry Summers question”. The question was rather ill formed but Tyson made an excellent point about how – based on his own experience – women and minorities in the sciences are often expected by default to operate within the parameters of the paradigm defined by those in authority. However he still did not address the original question about Larry Summers and that’s what Chris wanted to address, especially since he thought that people who only watched the Tyson video may come away with incomplete and misleading information.

Recently, a panel of scientists was asked the “Larry Summers question” – why are there fewer women in science? For background, this is called the Larry Summers question because of this portion of the speech that Summers delivered at Harvard:

“It does appear that on many, many different human attributes-height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability-there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means-which can be debated-there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population. And that is true with respect to attributes that are and are not plausibly, culturally determined. If one supposes, as I think is reasonable, that if one is talking about physicists at a top twenty-five research university, one is not talking about people who are two standard deviations above the mean. And perhaps it’s not even talking about somebody who is three standard deviations above the mean. But it’s talking about people who are three and a half, four standard deviations above the mean in the one in 5,000, one in 10,000 class.”

Summers was right about this. Unfortunately, he has been misrepresented over and over again as having presented just one (rather than three) explanations for the gender gap; as having claimed that discrimination no longer exists; and for having said that there’s a difference in average ability. (If only we had accountability in journalism!)

Neil deGrasse Tyson responded to the question quite well, but since he’s not a social scientist, he wasn’t able to draw on psychological research on gender differences. His answer focused on stereotyping and self-fulfilling prophecy effect. I don’t blame him the slightest for lacking expertise in an area outside his specialty, but I do think people who only watch that video could come away with a misconception about the impact of stereotyping. I’m not going to discuss self-fulfilling prophecies here—they have a weak effect—but I will talk about how recent research has addressed this question.

To begin, it’s important to focus on how the question is typically posed in the 2010s: Why is there a shortage of women in the STEM disciplines? Like BRIC–and more recently, MINT—STEM is a cute acronym, but it doesn’t denote a connected set of fields. For one thing, the T stands for technology and the E stands for engineering, but one typically gets an engineering degree at an institute of technology—Cal Tech, MIT, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech. (Who overlooked this?) More significantly, math (M) connects to every empirical discipline, and even some non-empirical ones, so it doesn’t need to be lumped with the sciences. So I think we need to retire “STEM.”

Instead, let us limit ourselves to the sciences, which encompass both natural sciences and social sciences. Here are statistics on the sex ratio among graduate students. The order here is by level of analysis (with computer science thrown in somewhat arbitrarily next to physics). The first number is men; the second number is women.

Physics:   1694: 448

Computer Science:  1465: 380

Chemistry:  1520: 897

Biology:  3936:4494

Psychology   1047:2566

Anthropology:  186: 360:

Sociology: 230: 400

Political Science: 422: 303

For simplicity I’m excluding applied sciences—like engineering—but off the top of my head I can think of a few applied sciences where women outnumber men: medicine, veterinary medicine, public health. What these stats indicate is that there isn’t an aggregate gender divide that is replicated across all the sciences. –there isn’t some massive prejudicial force that prevents women from entering science in general.

This brings us to two related questions: Why is the percentage of women somewhat proportional to the “socialness” of the science? And why don’t women choose academic careers after they finish graduate school? To answer these questions, it’s worth looking at Steven Pinker’s contribution to the post-Larry Summers debate at Harvard. The full debate is also worth reading in full—and I apologize for giving Elizabeth Spelke, Pinker’s opponent, short shrift here–but this is Pinker’s summary of the psychological differences between men and women:

1. Men, on average, prioritize status, while women weigh status and family equally.

2. Women, on average, are more interested in people; men are more interested in things and abstract rule systems. 

3. Men are by far the more reckless sex.

4. Men, on average, have a superior ability to do three-dimensional mental transformations.

5. Men, on average, are superior at mathematical reasoning.

6. Men have more variability than women across traits, which means that men are over-represented in the upper and lower tails of ability distributions.

Even though this debate occurred about a decade ago, Pinker’s points hold up quite well. For an explanation of these differences –especially 1,2,3, and 6–that’s rooted in natural selection, I’d recommend the latest edition of Anne Campbell’s “A Mind of Her Own”. Anne Campbell is both a feminist and an evolutionary psychologist—there are numerous feminists who study the evolution of sex differences—and I mention Campbell’s book because the evolutionary explanation is beyond the scope of this blog post.

If we look at the first difference in particular—that men chase status at the expense of their relationships—we find one reason that men are not turned off by the brutal publish-and-perish culture of higher academia. The greater difference in risk taking may not carry as much impact, except in empirical research of a high-risk high-reward nature.

However, two of Pinker’s points need some revision. The dichotomy between “people” and “things” needs just a minor tweak. Women, on average, don’t seem to be more interested in people per se, but rather they do seem more interested in the natural world. On average, they also have a stronger nurturing tendency than men, because through evolutionary history a non-trivial number of men abandoned their children, leaving women to raise their children. Although I’m just speculating here, this might explain why women show more interest in veterinary medicine than human medicine, animals being childlike in their behavior.

More important, the point about mathematical reasoning seems wrong given new evidence. It’s the presence or absence of other strengths that seems to matter. Quite simply, women who have mathematical aptitude tend to also have non-mathematical aptitude. These women are probably drawn to fields like social and personality psychology, where both types of aptitude matter. However, men who have mathematical aptitude (and interest) tend to solely have this aptitude. To quote psychologists Jeffrey Valla and Stephen Ceci: “Asymmetry in interests and aptitudes is an underappreciated factor in sex differences in career choice. To the extent this is true, focusing on strengthening young women’s STEM-related abilities and ability self-concepts to increase female STEM representation may be an unproductive approach; to increase representation, it may be more effective to focus on harvesting the potential of those girls and women whose breadth of interest and high ability spans social/verbal and spatial/numerical domains.”

This approach has a limitation–we can’t choose the scientific phenomena that the universe contains. Putting multiverses aside, we may find many of these phenomena simply require numerical skills to be understood. Nevertheless, it’s a worthy approach for people who find non-identical sex ratios to be problematic, regardless of whether discrimination exists. (I don’t share that point of view, but I’m willing to submit to the democratic process in academia.)

The point of focusing on innate psychological differences is not to draw attention away from anti-female discrimination. The research clearly shows that such discrimination exists—among other things, women seem to be paid less for equal work. Nor does it imply that the sexes have nothing in common. Quite frankly, the opposite is true. Nor does it imply that women—or men—are blameworthy for their attributes.

Rather, the point is that anti-female discrimination isn’t the only cause of the gender gap. As we learn more about sex differences, we’ve built better theories to explain the non-identical distribution of the sexes among the sciences. Science is always tentative, but the latest research suggests that discrimination has a weaker impact than people might think, and that innate sex differences explain quite a lot. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s explanation, which admittedly wasn’t about gender in the first place, relies solely on the socialization model, a model that no longer holds water. To quote Campbell, “Evolution didn’t stop at the neck.” It affected our brains, differentiating the average man from the average woman.

Related References and Videos

Steven Pinker & Elizabeth Spelke | The Science of Gender & Science | Transcript and Slides

Steven Pinker & Elizabeth Spelke | The Science of Gender & Science | Video

How Can There Still Be a Sex Difference, Even When There Is No Sex Difference?

Feminist Evolutionary Psychology

Anne Campbell’s Website and Publications

Gender Differences and Similarities – Janet Hyde (Annual Review of Psychology)

Ashutosh Jogalekar About the Author: Ashutosh (Ash) Jogalekar is a chemist interested in the history and philosophy of science. He considers science to be a seamless and all-encompassing part of the human experience. Follow on Twitter @curiouswavefn.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. PBear 11:06 pm 04/22/2014

    Thanks for a very clear and coherent post. Personally I have always found Summers’ points both sensible and truthful to my experience. Personally I’ve always felt that (as a female Maths PhD) I was given all possible support, but ultimately moved out of the field out of interest in other areas and a desire for more concrete and practical work. I have always regarded as shameful the villification of Summers following his comments.

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  2. 2. Chryses 7:11 am 04/23/2014

    Tolerance of other reasonable POVs is hard to learn and easy to forget.

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  3. 3. carolcarre 3:53 pm 04/23/2014

    It is remarkable how easily people ignore the studies that show women excel when they are given permission to do so (this is called reduction of stereotype threat, see this for instance :http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103198913737 or http://www.stanford.edu/~niederle/NV.JEP.pdf). The facile all male patting of women on the head and saying “there there, you are really not capable so why bother your pretty head” is called mansplaining, and is totally infuriating. This slovenly article above is so full of outdated information it is painful. Evolutionary psychology is piously trotted out whenever some dominant social group wants to explain away their dominance (it’s all natural and evolutionary my dear) although it usually fails to hold up under close examination.

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  4. 4. Norapsyc 4:54 pm 04/23/2014

    While Chris Martin’s post claims to discredit Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s response, his argument is not substantiated, nor is it the consensus of the field of psychology.
    Martin argues “the socialization model no longer holds water”. We see empirical evidence in support of socialization in diverse realms of psychology- from learning, to human motivation, to interpersonal relationships. People are affected by the limitations set by their environment and society. Women and minorities continue to be affected by lay beliefs that certain minority groups and one gender are better at math than other minority groups and the other gender.

    At the same time, while Martin dismisses socialization as playing a role in development and beliefs about ability, he puts forward an evolutionary claim that has no empirical support: “Although I’m just speculating here, this might explain why women show more interest in veterinary medicine than human medicine, animals being childlike in their behavior.”

    I hope children are taught more diverse perspectives on ability and occupation then this narrow-sighted argument. If you are unsure if your perspective is absolute truth, please consider how your argument could hurt people in traditionally oppressed groups.
    Saying “Larry Summers was right” without substantiating these claims, while discrediting the perspective that tradition and prejudice (e.g., pre-judgement on another’s abilities in a domain based on their gender)can have a negative impact on oppressed group’s development is unfair. Both research and experience support considering an alternate perspective.

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  5. 5. Hoosierbluesman 11:04 pm 04/23/2014

    It’s one thing to poke the hornet’s nest when you can make measured, well cited and compelling claims about the relatively small spaces where disagreement remains in this literature. It’s another, entirely, to claim – with only a reference to a wikipedia article about a documentary no less – that primarily structural or socioocultural models of gender differences “no longer hold.” As I am sure the author well knows, this claim is not only provocative (as is the headline that “Summers is right”), it’s not in the mainstream of the researchers who have spent their careers working on these questions. None of the statistics provided about “sex ratios” preclude structural explanations- which is what the literature in this area overwhelmingly suggests is the primary cause of these differences. Citing the work of one “feminist” evolutionary psychologist does not grant absolution from the disrepute invoked by making this kind of pernicious argument.

    The omissions are too many to cite here, but a couple of important ones to mention that speak directly to some of the claims made here:

    1. Claude Steele’s work on Stereotype Threat and its implications for differential academic and occupational performance.

    2. Stainback and Tomaskovic-Devey’s work on the structural effects of sex-segregated labor markets on differences in job selection and advancement.

    3. Phillip Cohen’s prolific research on the normative and structural determinants of gender inequalities. (Young women display the same interest and aptitude in STEM careers until middle school, for example).

    To be clear, I’m not (nor do I know of any serious scholar who works in this area) claiming that biology/nature/etc plays no role, just that the overwhelming evidence is that these differences are almost exclusively the result of norms, culture, and opportunity structures- not hardwired neurological sexual dimorphism.

    There is, of course, a long (if repugnant) tradition of attempting to naturalize/biologize inequalities such that they can be dismissed and ignored- and especially to justify the systems that are actually the causes of those inequalities. It’s the author’s right to stand in that tradition and the right of SA to publish it, but it’s also the responsibility of those of us who know better to challenge these assertions.

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  6. 6. aliceparker 3:52 am 04/24/2014

    What Hoosierbluesman said. That. is. all.

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  7. 7. ChrisMartin76 6:53 pm 04/24/2014

    There are several points that people have brought up, so I’ve tried to organize my responses into categories.

    Scope Conditions

    My blog post was about the academic world in liberal Western societies. My post was not about the general labor market, and I unfortunately have no expertise in that area except that I know women are underpaid for equal work.

    Socialization Model

    By “socialization model” I was referring narrowly to the “standard social science model” or SSSM –a term coined by Tooby and Cosmides. According to this model, all human behavior can be explained through forms of socialization–self-fulfilling prophecies, stereotyping, and such. This model has been falsified. For instance, stereotypes are primarily the effect of differences, not the cause of differences. I didn’t mean to state that no socialization ever occurs—that would be absurd.

    Stereotype Threat

    I’m aware of the research on stereotype threat, and I would actually like universities to build systems that minimize stereotype threat. However, the stereotype threat research has been exaggerated on occasion, such that some sources wrongly claim that when stereotype threat is eliminated, men and women perform equally well. This can be traced back to Steele’s original article in which a graph of *adjusted* means looks like a graph of raw means. See Jussim’s discussion of this issue – pp 419-420 in Social Perception and Social Accuracy. Stereotype threat researchers also frequently commit a flaw in their statistical methods – see Yzerbyt’s work on covariates. Finally, stereotype threat occurs when it is triggered; there are numerous cases where triggers are absent.

    On the Claim without Empirical Support

    I’m aware of the lack of empirical support – that’s why I prefaced by claim with “although I’m just speculating here.”

    Anne Campbell’s work and the Hjernevask documentary

    Superfically, the link to a wikipedia page about a documentary does seem odd, and I realize this. The reason I linked to the wikipedia page is that you can view the documentary by clicking on the episode links there. As a complement to reading Anne Campbell’s work, this documentary is worth watching because it allows people on both side of the socialization debate to present their views. You can hear each side marshal evidence to support their case, and weigh it on your own. Episodes 1, 2 and 7 are the most important. If you think the work of “just one” evolutionary psychologist is insufficient, the documentary is exactly what you should consider watching. It showcases the views of many other psychologists. However, I highlighted Anne Campbell’s book because I found her scientific prose to be much clearer than that of the typical science writer. Also, her book is in its second edition, which says something about its impact.

    In addition, the Hjernevask documentary discusses the gender equality paradox, which I would label the gender equality falsification. The more modern a country is, the less interested women are in technical careers. Check out the first episode of Hjernevask – at 5:44 and 16:00.

    Structural Explanations

    The structural explanations by Phillip Cohen on the emergence of a difference in the middle school years are precisely what you’d predict from an evolutionary perspective. From a socialization perspective, you’d expect the differences to emerge in primary school. From an evolutionary perspective, you’d either expect the difference to be present at birth or you’d expect it to appear at a critical stage, such as puberty. We know that the visible changes that occur to the reproductive system that occur during puberty aren’t socially produced (although the age at which they occur varies marginally based on social causes). We should therefore expect to see puberty-related changes to the nervous system, especially those segments of it that are functionally part of the reproductive system.

    The Construction of a Social Crisis

    As I explained, there’s no deficit of women in the sciences. If you limit yourself to the big three sciences– physics, chemistry, and biology—you find one in which women outnumber men. If you cherry pick fields based whether they have a deficit of women, you can however, construct a crisis, especially if you stick an acronym that hides the cherry picking. For instance: “An alarming fact about society is that women outnumber men in the MESH fields (medicine, education, social sciences, and health). This is a terrible injustice, and we must do something about it. We should not tolerate anti-male sexism any more, etc. etc. etc.”

    Ideology

    In my experience, the accusation “you have an ideological ax to grind” always means “I have an ideological ax to grind.” And as it happens, there’s also a long (and repugnant) tradition of attempting to engineer society with a disregard for human nature and a disregard for its negative impact on human lives. Do you think it would be scientifically productive for me to accuse you of belonging to that tradition?

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  8. 8. RobHeath 12:25 pm 04/25/2014

    Is it “scientifically productive” … ? Huh?
    What an odd (and slightly petulant) way to conclude a rebuttal, sir. Hoosierbluesman is entirely correct – “it’s … the responsibility of those of us who know better to challenge these assertions.”
    I am not a scientist (and can therefore expect to be disregarded), and I don’t know the special jargon here, nor can I drop the names of esteemed researchers or the titles of a slew of studies.
    I do, however, recognize the smell of manure when I encounter it.
    Perhaps because I’m just a “lay person”, I can say with certainty that these definitions of “science” and “scientist” might work in a strictly academic environment, but do not hold up in the so-called “real world.” Nobody-but-nobody considers the “soft” sciences to be true sciences – sorry, Psychologists, Sociologists and Political Scientists (though I suspect these folks are acutely aware of this sad fact already.)
    The omission of Engineering, however, (as an “applied science”) is bizarre, dishonest and, might I say, unconscionable? It isn’t unreasonable to surmise that the slightly larger number of female biological science graduate students are there as part of ongoing studies in medicine. Is the practice of medicine not “applied science”?
    The glib and dismissive, “among other things, women SEEM to be paid less for equal work” (emphasis mine) cannot be undone by the more positively-phrased “I know women are underpaid for equal work” in the author’s rebuttal. It’s disingenuous to gloss over this significant detail, especially in light of the author having acknowledged that male parents have a disproportionately greater habit of abandoning their offspring, leaving female parents as sole financial supports for these children.
    Regarding “structural explanations” – the author knows little about gender socialization, which is an intensive and ongoing process. The ‘gender deviant’ who is tolerated in primary grades will be bullied and ostracized by middle school, and will have either conformed or dropped out by senior school.
    Finally, I frankly don’t understand the purpose of the article. Is it to defend a pal? To defend an ideology?
    It is Mr. DeGrasse-Tyson who is right, sir.
    Females (and people with brown skin) are not only not encouraged to pursue a number of professional fields, they are actively discouraged from pursuing such fields.
    That is exactly why females (and people with brown skin) are underrepresented in fields such as pure science.

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  9. 9. YangHui 3:24 pm 04/25/2014

    It is often very difficult to separate not just cause from effect, but culture from nature.
    For example, in this case there are far more men than women in the hard sciences, and at least part of this effect is because men on average are better at math than women are, making them more likely to succeed in math intensive field.
    However, this particular example is almost certainly a result of the fact that men receive much more encouragement to learn and excel in mathematics in primary and secondary education, while there is almost a stigma against being a smart girl, with many pretending to be worse in math and other such subjects than they actually are (which no doubt is detrimental to their learning in the long term). The fact that there is an average difference between men and women by no means shows an inherent difference, but is probably reflective of culture.
    Obviously there are other factors, many of which are probably more important, such as the fact that women are expected to contribute more to raising families than more are and that the social status of women is less tied to intelligence and more tied to physical appearance (although obviously the latter matters for men too).

    Personally, I’ve always found the best analogy to be height. People from rich regions are on average much taller than people from poor areas, while height is highly heritable in both regions. However this is not because people from rich countries have more genes for tallness (usually, although its true in a few cases), but because these genes are distributed throughout both population, but worse nutrition affects everybody in poor countries in similar ways; someone who has genes for tallness but is malnourished will be taller than someone with short genes but similarly malnourished, but both will be shorter than someone with tall genes and good nutrition. The fact that we observe a persistent difference between the intelligence (in terms of math) of men and women or indeed, between whites and asians and other races, is more because members of underprivileged groups are less likely to have received proper intellectual nourishment than a reflection of inherent difference.

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  10. 10. PBear 5:59 pm 04/26/2014

    @RobHeath: The statement that “Females … are not only not encouraged to pursue a number of profession
    al fields, they are actively discouraged from pursuing such fields” simply rings terribly untrue to me in this day and age. There are zillions of special scholarships encouraging women to do maths and engineering, the male colleagues and professors in my experience (in a variety of schools in the area of maths/ID/engineering) are most of the time extremely supporting, so who exactly is doing the discouraging?

    I think this kind of old style gender war no longer applies…

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  11. 11. macgupta 11:54 pm 04/26/2014

    “STEM is a cute acronym, but it doesn’t denote a connected set of fields. For one thing, the T stands for technology and the E stands for engineering, but one typically gets an engineering degree at an institute of technology—Cal Tech, MIT, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech. ”

    —- How does the fact that one gets an engineering degree at Caltech (or Rutgers or Stanford) have anything to do with whether STEM is a connected set of fields?

    Science and Mathematics are at the foundation of all engineering and technological-non-engineering (e.g., Computer Science, biotech) fields. Science and Mathematics are intimately connected as well. Why is SciAm giving blog space to someone who does not seem to recognize that?

    I assert the meaningfulness of STEM as a engineering degree holder (B.Tech) from an Indian Institute of Technology, a science degree holder (Ph.D.) from Caltech, and as a technology professional (Telecom Enterprise Architect). The unity of STEM is a daily lived experience; that I can master only a tiny area of STEM is both a regret and a reason to wake up every morning.

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  12. 12. ChrisMartin76 11:48 am 04/28/2014

    The point is that technology and engineering are for all practical purposes the same thing. So we could STM or SEM, but STEM is based on acronymic convenience.

    In addition, the fact that natural science influences engineering doesn’t mean that engineering is the only applied output of natural science. Natural science is just as connected to medicine and health, so the exclusion of medicine involves cherry picking.

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  13. 13. sjceci 4:10 pm 04/30/2014

    I enjoyed this summary of the sex differences literature very much. It seems fair to me and it is refreshing to see such even-handedness. Two very small quibbles, one of which is with whomever you relied on for evidence of average sex differences in mathematical ability. The difference between the sexes at the mean is virtually non-existent in most nationally-representative data sets and in the few analyses where there are mean sex differences, the magnitudes are trivial, with tiny effect sizes. In contrast to mean differences, however, sex differences favoring males become increasingly large at the right tail (and left tail). The best estimate is that at the top 1% of the math distribution, the male-to-female ratio is 2:1 and at the top .01% (1 in 10,000) it is ~4:1. Jonathan Wai and his colleagues at Duke have two papers using national data (ACT and SAT scores) that show this (one is in the journal Intelligence, circa 2010); Janet Hyde and her colleagues in their Science article circa 2009 show roughly a 2:1 ratio at the top 1%, too, as do many others.

    My colleagues and I have an integrative review that, among other things, looks at sex differences in hiring, pay, tenure, promotion, productivity, citations, etc. While we find some differences that cannot be accounted for by various control variables, these are the exception, not the rule. We concluded that the overriding picture for men and women in academia is one of gender neutrality in hiring, tenure, promotion, and salary. The paper is under embargo so I cannot list it yet, but it should appear next Fall in the APS journal, Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

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  14. 14. Hoosierbluesman 7:59 pm 05/11/2014

    One might consider this column in the same light as the recent effort to biologize racial inequality by journalist Michael Wade. These kinds of arguments seem always to be advanced as some sort of courageous effort to confront the oppressive PC establishment (or to save us from the ever-meddling would-be social engineers). As with all such modern efforts to rationalize inequality by naturalizing it, nothing could be further from the truth.

    Here, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates is helpful:

    “It’s comforting to think that the academics who show no interest in the “dark arts” do so out of fear of the leftist cabal. More likely, they do so to avoid being associated with a specious field of study whose primary contributions to the world include justifying slavery and inspiring genocide. ”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/05/the-dark-art-of-racecraft/275783/

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  15. 15. JMValla 8:03 am 06/4/2014

    This isn’t slavery, it’s not genocide, it’s a bit of human nature amplified by sociocultural influences. On average women = men in spatial numerical domains. It’s that far right tail, your Hawkings and Einsteins, where males are more common.

    It’s also that far right tail where you find people like on the autism spectrum (a condition with a 4:1 male:female ratio that’s highly linked to prenatal testosterone exposure) like Stephen Wiltshire, who is able to reconstruct the spatial scaling of entire cities on massive panoramic canvasses after a 15 minute helicopter ride. Is autism, and Mr. Wiltshire’s savantism, also a sociocultural construction? Would you liken our appreciation for his gifts to slavery or genocide?

    And for the women who are at the far right tail, there’s simply greater interest in applying those skills to fields where they can help people and society more directly than fields like theoretical physics. I can’t tell you how many brilliant women I’ve met in neuroscience, medicine, biology who started out studying engineering or physics but switched because they want to help the human condition. How is caring about people akin to slavery or genocide?

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