Meet the Panelists (02:53)
Consultant psychiatrist Mark Salter explains the debate format and introduces neuroscientist Gina Rippon, psychology professor Simon Baron-Cohen, and Darwinian philosopher Helena Cronin.
Gina Rippon: The Pitch (05:01)
Rippon says questioning differences between female and male brains is an outdated concept. She argues that men and women do not fundamentally behave differently, have different cognitive skill levels, or are very different biologically. Gender should be perceived on a spectrum.
Simon Baron-Cohen: The Pitch (03:52)
Baron-Cohen agrees with Rippon that mental gender differences should be seen on a spectrum and are subtle. However, anatomically and biologically, men and women are different. He discusses the influence of the Y chromosome and testosterone on the brain during early fetal development.
Helena Cronin: The Pitch (03:50)
Cronin argues that differences in gender mating consequences have arisen from evolutionary pressures. Natural selection has favored men that compete for mates; women care for offspring. Natural selection has shaped psychology as well as anatomy.
Theme One: Are Mental Differences Based in Biology? (04:07)
Rippon agrees that certain gender behavior is based in biology, but argues that brain plasticity can change our self-perception and abilities. We are socially and culturally conditioned to accept gender roles.
Brain "Pruning" (02:19)
Rippon argues that outside influences shape our brain structure. Baron-Cohen argues that during early development, we form more neurons than we retain. Testosterone reduces the rate of apoptosis; male brains have a third more neurons than female brains.
Gender Brain Differences in the Boardroom (03:53)
Baron-Cohen argues that gender equality is a political issue. Research into sex differences only indicates group averages; presuming individual performance based on gender is stereotyping. Cronin argues that workplace gender discrimination is a political tool; life priorities prevent most women from choosing to become executives.
Individuals vs. Group Averages (02:29)
Rippon argues that public perception of sexual differences results in gender discrimination, and urges scientists to move on from researching mental gender differences to studying human behavior.
Gender Brain Differences in the Sciences (03:09)
Baron-Cohen discusses how autism and language disabilities disproportionately affect males. More men study engineering, computer science, and mathematics, while more women study medicine, psychology, and veterinary science. Rippon argues that women are socially conditioned to avoid mathematics from an early age.
Theme Two: The Biology of Discrimination (04:05)
Cronin believes it only makes sense to look for gender differences where they are evolutionary expected. She argues that biology is crucial for understanding how men and women live together in the modern world, and reprimands Rippon for suggesting she held 18th century ideas on gender.
Brain Size Matters (03:06)
Rippon says that male brains are not proportionately bigger than female brains, on average. She argues against referring to "logical" or "systems" brains as male. Baron-Cohen argues for studying sex-linked hormonal and genetic mechanisms to understand gender risk for developmental disorders.
Theme Three: Evolution and the Future of Gender (04:40)
Rippon references a study finding girls' spatial cognition improved after playing Tetris to illustrate brain plasticity. Cronin argues that highlighting gender differences is crucial for policy formation. Rippon calls for looking at appropriate skill sets, rather than gender. Baron-Cohen encourages using biology to level the educational gender playing field.
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