Gender stereotypes and nature vs. nurture
Leading neuroscientist Professor Simon Baron Cohen will be taking part in a debate at this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas on whether science has been used to promote gender stereotypes.
Neuroscientists have been criticised in recent books by feminist writers such as Natasha Walter’s Living Dolls for bolstering gender stereotypes.
Simon Baron Cohen, professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, says critics who argue that gender difference is all a question of socialisation are in danger of oversimplifying the interaction of biology and experience. He says: “Some gender differences in the mind and behaviour may in part be the result of our biology (prenatal hormones and genes) interacting with our experience. The old nature vs. nurture debate is absurdly simplistic and a moderate position recognises the interaction of both.
He adds that he is wary of neuroscience research being used to bolster traditional gender stereotypes. He says: “The main goal of neuroscience is to understand the mind, and is certainly not to bolster traditional views.”
The aim of the Festival, which is in its fourth year, is to celebrate the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Most of the over 170 events running during the Festival are free, but some debates may need to be prebooked.
More information: www.cam.ac.uk/festivalofideas
*Gender differences: nature vs nurture takes place from 7.30-9pm at the Babbage Theatre, Downing Street on 30 October.