Posted by Ming Ling on October 28, 2010
On “Not so fast — sex differences in the brain are overblown“:
People love to speculate about differences between the sexes, and many brain imaging studies have reported sex differences in brain structure or activity. But these results may not withstand the the tests of larger sample sizes or improved analysis techniques, and it’s too soon to know what such research says.
Cordelia Fine. From Scanner to Sound Bite: Issues in Interpreting and Reporting Sex Differences in the Brain. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2010; 19 (5): 280 DOI: 10.1177/0963721410383248
- Small, nonrepresentative samples.
- Insufficient understanding of “how neural structures contribute to complex psychological phenomena” (and runaway speculation).
- Popular writers misunderstanding or misinterpreting findings.
- Popular consumption equating “in the brain” with “innate” and giving undue weight to brain studies.
Interesting tidbits from the CDIPS article:
- “The anterior cingulate, for example, is activated by so many tasks that one cognitive neuroscientist known to the author refers to this region as ‘the on button’ (Geoffrey Boynton, personal communication).”
Hmm, I thought the ACC was the “oh, $@*&!” area.
- One popular writer attempted to explain something by “working from an implicit metaphor of the brain as pinball machine”. Uh-oh, reasoning-by-analogy gone awry again!
Posted in Teaching & learning | Tagged: Gender, Neuroscience | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Ming Ling on October 26, 2010
Before you read any further, first think about a time that you felt in control of an important situation.
OK, got it? Now go ahead and visit “How people respond to feeling a lack of control” (Ed Yong’s summary and commentary on Whitson & Galinsky’s 2008 Science paper).
(I suspect the psychiatrists here will tell me that they already knew this phenomenon and have used it to help their patients develop healthier attitudes and more productive habits.)
I think it’s interesting to consider how this phenomenon could be related to Steele’s research on stereotype threat and Dweck’s research on beliefs about intelligence as fixed vs. malleable. Someone who feels less control over a threatening situation may be more susceptible to perceiving false patterns that interfere with deeper learning. Steele’s and Dweck’s (and their colleagues’) manipulations (of presenting them positive but not overly demanding stereotypes, or encouraging them to think of intelligence as malleable) strengthen students’ feelings of control. Such an approach could help learning, not just performance, and through a specific mechanism.
J. A. Whitson, A. D. Galinsky (2008). Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception Science, 322 (5898), 115-117 DOI: 10.1126/science.1159845
Posted in Reasoning | Tagged: Beliefs about intelligence, Feelings of control, Stereotype threat | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Ming Ling on October 26, 2010
Topologists at play: the game of Sprouts
- Start with some dots on the paper. The more dots you have the longer the game takes so you will probably just want to start with two or three.
- Players take turns either connecting two of the dots with lines or drawing a line that loops back and connects a dot with itself.
- The lines can be straight or curved but they can’t cross themselves or any other lines.
- Each dot can have at most three lines connecting it.
- When you draw a line put a new dot in the middle.
- The first player who can’t draw a line loses.
Good game for kids to play after finishing a quiz, on a rainy day, or perhaps on a long car trip. They can even play a solitary version with two different colored markers.
Posted in Parenting, Teaching & learning | Tagged: Educational games, STEM education | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Ming Ling on October 24, 2010
On “The Last Word on Fetal T: Rebecca Jordan-Young’s masterful critique of the research on the relationship between testosterone and sex difference“:
Try talking about whether single sex education is better for boys, or why there aren’t more female science professors at Harvard, or whether male financiers are innately more aggressive, and sooner or later someone will evoke that handy, biological explanation: fetal testosterone.
Gender differences exist along a continuum, their influences and causes subtle and complex, and more research still should be done.
P.S. A “continuum” does not imply a flat distribution.
Posted in Teaching & learning | Tagged: Gender | Leave a Comment »