The Science of Gender and Science: Pinker vs. Spelke


Published on

Presentation by Stephanie Mitchell for WRTG 3020 Fall 2010.

  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

The Science of Gender and Science: Pinker vs. Spelke

  1. 1. The Science of Gender and Science: Pinker vs. Spelke<br />By: Stephanie Mitchell<br />
  2. 2. The big question is…<br />Are males innately better at science than females?<br />
  3. 3. What spurred Pinker’s and Spelke’s debate?<br />In 2005, Harvard’s president, Lawrence “Larry” Summers made controversial comments during a debate about the differences between the sexes and how the differences could relate to women in the science field. He implied that women arenot as capable as men when it comes to having a career in the sciences.<br />
  4. 4. As a result, Pinker and Spelke, both professors of psychology at Harvard, presented their views on the subject. The debate was held on May 16, 2005.<br />
  5. 5. About Steven Pinker<br />Steven Pinker is a professor in the Psychology Department at Harvard University. His field of expertise is evolutionary psychology. He has won many awards for his research from the National Academy of Sciences, as well as the Royal Institution of Great Britain in addition to having six books published. <br />
  6. 6. About Elizabeth Spelke<br />Elizabeth Spelke is also a professor in the Psychology Department at Harvard, as well as the Co-Director of the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Institute. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Time magazine has cited her as one of America’s Best in Sciences and Medicine.<br />
  7. 7. Pinker vs. Spelke<br />
  8. 8. In the first corner…Pinker!<br />Message: There might be some innate differences between males and females when it comes to excelling in science.<br />
  9. 9. Argument<br />Men and women have different vocational interests.<br />
  10. 10. Men are more interested in things.<br />Women are more interested in people.<br />Fields for “things” include math and science.<br />Fields for “people” include education and the “softer” sciences.<br />Among the Ph.Ds awarded in 2001, 65% in education, 54% in life sciences, 47% in life sciences, 26% in physical sciences, and 17% in engineering went to women.<br />
  11. 11.
  12. 12. Argument<br />Men show more variability than women.<br />
  13. 13. For example…<br />There are 30 men for every woman who is 5’10” tall.<br />There are 2,000 men for every woman who is 6’0”!<br />In a bell curve, more men are seen at both extremes: “More prodigies, more idiots.”<br />
  14. 14.
  15. 15. An IQ test was administered in Scotland…<br />Females predominated the middle range, but males slightly predominated both extremes.<br />
  16. 16.
  17. 17. Study<br />There were six large and stratified probability samples. Out of 37 tests (Including all of the tests in math and science), 35 of the tests had a larger male variance.<br />
  18. 18. Take-home message…<br />Because men are more variable, there will be more “prodigy” men than “prodigy” women. People in the math and science fields come from the high end.<br />
  19. 19. Argument<br />Men are better at mentally rotating objects, which could be linked to scientific achievement.<br />
  20. 20. “…mental manipulation of objects in three dimensions figures prominently in the memoirs and introspections of most creative physicists and chemists, including Faraday, Maxwell, Tesla, Kéekulé, and Lawrence, all of whom claim to have hit upon their discoveries by dynamic visual imagery and only later set them down in equations.”<br />
  21. 21. Argument<br />Males tend to score higher on the SAT-M than females do.<br />
  22. 22. Statistics<br />Men tended to score 40 points higher from 1972-1997.<br />At the 760 cut-off of the SAT-M, the ratio for males to females is currently 7:1. Seven males to one female will get the maximum score of a 760.<br />
  23. 23.
  24. 24. The SAT was designed to test students’ math knowledge with unfamiliar problems. This is more representative of how math is actually used in real-world science.<br />
  25. 25. Argument<br />The SAT is a good indicator of what men and women are capable of.<br />
  26. 26. More Statistics<br />People in science careers predominantly scored in the 90th percentile of the <br />SAT-M.<br />The test predicts occupation choice, salary, prestige of degree, doctoral degrees, etc.<br />Predictive power works for both men and women.<br />
  27. 27. Argument<br />There is a misconception that teachers call on more boys in class, giving them an advantage for learning. Studies have shown that teachers call on students based on the student’s motivation and their actual performance. Therefore, girls are not being purposely held back from success.<br />
  28. 28. In the other corner…Spelke!<br />Message: Differences only exist because of discrimination against females.<br />
  29. 29. Argument<br />The SAT-M is subjective.<br />Males and females solve math problems differently. The only reason we see differences on timed tests is because some strategies are faster than others.<br />
  30. 30. The SAT can be manipulated…<br />Boys are quicker at solving certain math problems, girls are quicker at solving others.<br />Depending on how many of each type of question is represented in the SAT-M, boys can score higher or girls can score higher!<br />
  31. 31. Argument<br />We cannot just look at job outcomes to decide which gender is better at math or science.<br />
  32. 32. If we looked at engineering, we could conclude that men are better at math because more men are engineers than women.<br />If we looked at accounting, we would say that women excel more at math because 57% of current accountants are women.<br />
  33. 33. Argument<br />Boys and girls are often perceived as being different…but that is not the case!<br />
  34. 34. Research from the 1970’s states that boys innately learn about mechanical relationships while girls innately learn more about emotions and people.<br />
  35. 35. When in reality…<br />“Male and female infants are equally interested in objects. Male and female infants make the same inferences about object motion, at the same time in development. They learn the same things about object mechanics at the same time.”<br />
  36. 36. Study<br />“…in one study a child on a video-clip was playing with a jack-in-the-box. It suddenly popped up, and the child was startled and jumped backward. When people were asked, what's the child feeling, those who were given a female label said, "she's afraid." But the ones given a male label said, "he's angry." Same child, same reaction, different interpretation.”<br />
  37. 37. “In other studies, children with male names were more likely to be rated as strong, intelligent, and active; those with female names were more likely to be rated as little, soft, and so forth.”<br />
  38. 38. Even parents are guilty…<br />
  39. 39. Study<br />Parents were asked if their child would be able to crawl down a sloping ramp.<br />Parents of boys were certain that their son could do it.<br />Parents of girls were not so sure if their daughter could do it.<br />Boys and girls have equal physical abilities at 12 months of age. There were no differences.<br />
  40. 40. Finally…<br />There was a study that asked parents how well they think their child is doing at math. Parents of boys were more likely to confidently say that their son was doing well. Parents of girls thought their daughters were not doing as well.<br />
  41. 41. If parents think girls are not as capable as boys at math and science, why would girls consider going into the science field?!<br />
  42. 42. So…<br />Who wins? You can decide for yourself, but I side with…<br />
  43. 43. Spelke: The differences are due to discrimination!<br />She had multiple examples to back up a single point.<br />All of the studies showed the same results.<br />She has been following literature on the topic for many years. This is her field of expertise. Pinker’s expertise is evolutionary psychology!<br />
  44. 44. You can read/view the debate at…<br /><br />