Cognitive Psychologist Cordelia Fine irreverently examines the ways that fMRI brain scans are used in analysis of male and female brains, and exposes the existence of sexism in the practice, in her new book “Delusions of Gender.”
According to the Washington Post, brain scans do not take color videos of the human brain in action. What they measure is the magnetic quality of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen and is consumed in particular regions of the brain. If the measurements is different from what a scientist expects, they assign a color to that region and the image is interpreted as being connected to behavior.
This is Fine’s central critique of brain scanning. She calls it “blobology,” the science of creating images in brain scans and then correlating them to human behavior, especially when those images are ambiguous to begin with. It leaves room to use neurological difference between males and females to justify sexism. And according to Fine, our brains are gender neutral. Fine vigorously attacks the notion that sex hormones shape the brain which subsequently determines behavior and intellectual ability.
“Neurosexism” is not a recent develop. Famous 20th century neurologist Charles Dana posited that based on “research” that showed several differences between men and women’s brains and nervous systems, women were neurologically wired to lack the intellect for politics and governance. Dana’s findings were made public in a 1915 New York Times commentary of women’s suffrage.
What do you think? Are brain scans and the way we think of neurological differences between men and women informed by our socially imbibed beliefs about gender roles?