There’s been a lot of conversation about the value of scientific peer review lately. Less than a week ago, the New York Times reported that: “Two major [coronavirus] study retractions in one month have left researchers wondering if the peer review process is broken.” Much more concerningly to me, “[a]n unscientific and racist article” (quote from here) was published in Philosophical Psychology in December 2019 and the editors refused to let a group of scholars publish a critical commentary in a timely fashion. On a related note, the transphobic Gliske paper about which I had posted previously was retracted in April after months of controversy about how it could have possibly passed peer review.
Why does peer review not prevent the fruits of scientific racism, transphobia, and so many other damaging -isms and phobias from getting published?
My short answer is: it’s in the name.
By virtue of my profession, I do not believe in scientific truths that are independent of space and time. Nonetheless, while I was nearing the completion of my dissertation (aka the first draft of my book project), I had to answer frequently to questions such as the following: Is there a true theory of handedness? What does handedness truly tell us about the brain, mind, and person? Is there any truth in the stereotypes associated with handedness? My highly contingent and situated answers to questions of this sort are the following (copied from my final dissertation chapter): Continue reading
When I was still sleeping this morning, Melinda Wenner Moyer published a spot-on article in The CUT, “These Ideas About Sexual Attraction May Be Based on Shoddy Science.” Moyer traced the controversy around French psychologist Nicolas Guéguen’s questionable research on social interactions between men and women. She did an excellent job at connecting evolutionary biologists’ tendency to sexual stereotyping with the current conversation around sexual harassment and other forms of sexualized violence. You should definitely read for yourself, but here’s a little teaser:
We are finally, as a country, publicly acknowledging that men have been treating women like shit for ages. Now, even the science that lends support to our iconic gender stereotypes—the science that reinforces the idea that men are biologically programmed to be sex-crazed and that women are basically sex objects—is coming crashing down, too.
I can’t stop thinking about Neuroskeptic’s post “You Are Your Brain, So Don’t Blame Your Brain,” which I read over a year ago. The idea that the brain is the cause and essence of all things human resonates with my research on growing neuro-centrism(s) in the past 150 years. Here’s a short overview of the debate that Neuroskeptic intervened in.
In October 2016, Neil Garrett et al. published a paper titled “The Brain Adapts to Dishonesty” in Nature Neuroscsience. The abstract reads as follows: Continue reading
Do you remember my post about the all-too-easy concept of attending to sex and gender in biomedical research (“What Kind of Sex Do We Need in the Lab?”)? Sarah Richardson and her colleagues just published a very insightful, informative, and important piece that is much more scientifically sophisticated than my short statement. “Focus on Preclinical Sex Differences Will Not Address Women’s and Men’s Health Disparities,” so the title. Check it out!
Thanks are due to Londa Schiebinger who, as so often, drew my attention to the publication through her Gendered Innovations newsletter.
Here is a critique of Ingalhalikar et al.’s study I should have linked to almost a year ago: Daphna Joel and Ricardo Tarrasch‘s “On the Mis-Presentation and Misinterpretation of Gender-Related Data: The Case of Ingalhalikar’s Human Connectome Study.” Anelis Kaiser just drew my attention to it. Check out their remarks on presentation of data and statistics in this very short and crisp letter.
Out of loyalty, I won’t share much of the email exchanges I’ve witnessed over the course of the past two days—both amongst neuroscientists and amongst the “queer folks.” But here’s what happened: Ingalhalikar et al. published an article in late 2013 revealing the allegedly true cause for the cognitive, behavioral, and emotional differences between men and women. At least, that’s how the popular press translated the reported results of sex differences in structural brain connections between female and male brains. I reviewed the study and many voices have been much more critical than mine.
In the meantime, Jürgen Hänggi et al. have published a paper suggesting that the above-mentioned structural brain connections correlate with brain size. This bolsters Neuroskeptic’s and others’ assumption that the measured effects in Ingalhalikar et al. 2013 are themselves a consequence of the bigger average brain size in men, and not any direct cause of stereotypical behavior. Continue reading
Cordelia Fine, one of those people whose books you love even more after you’ve met them in person, recently contributed to two blog posts: to the Neuroskeptic‘s for PLOS and to Uta‘s for Social Minds. You don’t even have to read very closely in order to realize that she discusses the same study in both interviews: Ingalhalikar et al. 2014, carried out at Penn and reviewed by myself for credit in my neuroscience class recently. Read the three pieces and let’s talk about audience-targeted writing afterwards. (And if you want to know why many more books like Cordelia Fine’s are wanting, read the comments to Neuroskeptic’s piece on the bottom of the page.)
As part of the requirements for one of the psychology classes I’m taking in the context of the SCAN certificate program, I had to review a neuroscientific journal article. Martha Farah herself suggested I review Ingalhalikar et al.’s famous connectome study. Recently (almost a year ago …), this study led to many headlines suggesting that men’s and women’s brains are “wired differently.” My 2,000-word review is geared towards a neuroscientific audience. I am providing the final two paragraphs below, and you can download the entire .pdf here. Continue reading