Insights from Social Psychology and Neuroscience on Bias

good day and welcome to today’s office
for disparities research and workforce diversity 2019 webinar series titled
insights from social psychology and neuroscience on bias at this time all
participants are in a listen-only mode questions can be submitted any time via
the Q&A pod located in the lower right hand corner of your screen please note
this call may be recorded it is now my pleasure to turn the call over to issue
Mary please go ahead great thank you good morning everyone
good afternoon and good evening I am Ishmael Amara of the National Institute
of Mental Health I would like to welcome you to today’s webinar on insights from
social psychology and neuroscience on bias this is the second of two webinars
in our ni image 2019 webinar series for the office for research on disparities
on workforce the first webinar held last month was on the influence of exercise
on brain development and the differential effect that this has on
girls versus boys we archive all of these webinars so that you can view them
later you’ll see the web page on the screen at the end of the webinar today
and but before we start just a couple of logistical and things we will take
questions online so we ask you to use the Q&A box on your screen any time
during the presentation I will compile these questions and dr. ribbon our
speaker will answer these questions at the end of the presentation now it gives
me great pleasure to introduce our speaker of today dr. Gina ribbon and dr.
ribbon is an international expert on brain imaging techniques and she is the
professor emeritus of cognitive neural imaging at Aston brain centre at esli
University in Birmingham in the United Kingdom dr. Ruben is a leader in
neuroimaging field particularly easy EEG and m EG she uses these techniques and
cognitive neuroscience paradigms to investigate developmental disorders such
as autism when she’s not in the lab she’s out in the world debunking the
SEC’s different myths the idea that there is such thing as male or brain
female she recently published a book this topic title gender brain the new
neuroscience that shatters the myth of female brain she’s going to speak to us
today about her insights from social psychology and neuroscience and bias dr.
ruben welcome and thank you for presenting this webinar thank you very
much thank you for the introduction and hello everybody i gather you’re in all
sorts of different parts of the world so as ish said good morning good
afternoon and good evening as ich mentioned also i’ve got a wide raging
interest in the way in which different brains get to be different and whether
or not there are such types of brains as a male brain and a female brain and book
that i’ve just written is called the gendered brain in the UK and for some
reason gender and our brains in the US and is fairly wide-ranging but a key
thing is how messages in the outside world may change a brain and may change
the behavior associated with it and whether or not that some kind of
explanation for the kind of gender gaps that i’m interested in looking at and a
key interest of mine is the under-representation of women in science
why it is that there are so few women in science big gender gaps across across
the world and whether understanding some of the neuroscience and some of the
social psychology behind aspects of behavior may explain this and that’s
what today’s seminar is going to be about so just briefly to show you the
kind of interrupt the kind of changes that i’m interested in is looking at
some of the gender gaps and just quickly getting my slide changing here which it
doesn’t seem to be changing just moving on to my second slide which isn’t moving
i don’t if somebody is listening in to this but and
do you know I could see your slice moving and okay they’re coming through
very slowly on my computer I’m just going to go back now that’s better
okay apologies everybody and the kind of gender gaps I’m interested in is one of
the slides I’m showing here is some data from the World Economic Forum looking at
global gender gap differences and pointing out that economic and political
empowerment gaps are very slow to change but the interest that I have in
particular as I mentioned is the fact that if we look at the world of science
it’s a world of gender gaps and these are some UK data looking at the
participation in different science subjects of eighteen-year-old students
in their last year at school and showing that there’s huge gender gaps if you
look at the right-hand end of the graph you can see that very few girls do
computing or physics or mathematical subjects and this then translates into
the fact that people who do computer a level or go into the core science
technology engineering and medicine subjects a few of those are associated
with girls and also in engineering and technology very small percentage of
girls participate and this is a great loss to science because we need lots of
scientists so is a large number of the population and not engaging we need to
look at that and it’s also a loss to the people who don’t engage because becoming
part of the scientific community is both economically and intellectually and very
important and it’s difficult to understand why why not everybody is
trying to do science so what I’m going to try and do today is actually look at
the sort of neuroscience exploration initially behind any gender gaps
whatever they are it could be gender gaps in science it could be a gender
gaps and achievement and as the slide I’m showing here is actually just a
visual depiction of what I call a very simple chain of argument the fact that
whatever it is that determines under comical differences between males and
females images shown on the left-hand side also determines the fact that they
have different kinds of brains so the what we now know is the genotype because
this is a very old argument what we now know is the genotype will determine it
you have a female brain and if you have a female brain then there’s all sorts of
psychological characteristics go with that for example you’re supposed to be
very empathic but not very good at reading maps and that will then lead to
a particular role in society whereas if you have a male body that means you also
have a male brain and that male brain will bring with it characteristics of
being very good at spatial cognition the map reading argument but you’re not very
good at listening or understanding emotions and that again will determine
particular roles in society and this argument has been around for a very long
time and the way in which you can depict it is that this is a biologically
determined pathway you have a male brain at birth which arrives with particular
kinds of skills as that male brain grows the owner of that brain goes through
life gets educated acquires different kinds of skills and they’re very
important skills and they may well determine for example that they become
great scientists and win Nobel prizes etc whereas the female version doesn’t
come equipped with such useful skills certainly in the 19th century it was
believed that female brains shouldn’t be exposed to dangerous things like
education because it would affect their reproductive capacity and so effectively
this brain becomes different it the skills it brings with it means that your
perhaps emotionally labile but very good at understanding emotions good at caring
good at in quotes being a womanly companion to men for example and I’ve
depicted it here and obviously character Turing it but the idea is that there’s
two types of brain a female brain and the male brain and those brains have
different skills different capacities which will determine different
involvement in in science or in a particular field that you might be
interested in now one of the reasons that I’m interested in this particular
topic is the idea that once the world recognizes that
with respect the kind of cognitive skills which are necessary for
involvement in science then we should start to see that you don’t treat women
differently from men because of the cognitive skills they have they have the
performance capacity then they we should start see these gender gaps in science
disappearing and one of the issues that’s emerged recently is that what’s
called the gender equality paradox and that’s if you look at countries where
the gender gaps are relatively small since Scandinavian countries
paradoxically the representation of women in the under-representation of
women in science is greater so there is a kind of underlying currents that
perhaps the essentialist argument has got something to say it’s nothing to do
with science same with the world saying you can’t do science it’s saying that
when all of those kind of different society pressures are removed women are
still choosing not to do science and perhaps it is to do because they have
personal strengths in different areas and very often the choice of arts and
humanities is quoted so we have this paradox where and this is a quotation
from the authors the difference is emerge from a seemingly rational choice
to pursue academic paths that are a personal strength so there is a feeling
that we are looking at females who have a female brain you have different
strengths and make different choices now one of the lines I was challenging in my
book was actually looking at the chain of argument that leads to these kind of
statements and so what I’ll be doing for the rest of the seminar is really
examining what it is what claims there are that women are underrepresented in
science for a range of reasons I think there’s two particular arguments that
I’m going to go through first of all that women are unsuitable for stem and
this is rather the essentialist argument that they have in quote the wrong sort
of brain or they have the wrong sort of skill set because of this skillset
brains brought with them perhaps they have the wrong temperament or
personality maybe the kind of personality that’s determined what how
they behave in the world is not suitable for science or they have the wrong
preferences they actually choose for example an example that’s often given
where they would prefer to work with people rather than things and I would
say that if I give one pause for thought to think that science is characterized
as just being interested in working with things as something to do with working
with people so that I think it’s a kind of essentialist argument that women
don’t do science because they can’t do science my argument is very much is that
we also need to look at the world in which these brains are functioning male
or female and say how suitable how welcoming is science to certain
character types of people such as women if science is viewed as a male domain
that scientists mainly expected to be men and there’s expectations of a
certain kind of innate brilliance which is associated with males then it may
well be that that’s why females and their brains don’t fit into science or
you can look at what I call science is chilly climate the fact that there’s
evidence of gender bias that there’s different explanations for when women do
succeed in science or women working in science get acknowledged in different
ways so this seminar will really be working through these characteristics
and say how does science back up with respect to answering these questions so
first of all let’s have a look at the idea that maybe women have the wrong
brain maybe there are male brains and female brains and male brains are better
suited for science and on the left-hand side there’s just a couple of examples
of the many many thousands of neuroscience papers which have been
produced since neuroimaging really entered the mainstream science in the
1990s and this hunts for the difference between males and females which really
started 200 years ago continued but using these new kind of techniques and
if you had a quick glance at the number of papers published which report sex
differences you think there’s thousands of them you know in amazing on your
science is really proved that male females brains are different from female
brains but if you look more carefully at the body of evidence you’ll see that one
study will report one of the papers I’m showing here a sex difference in adults
and brains gathering information from over 5,000 participants and in this case
they will report a difference in the amygdala and the hippocampus various
sorts of structures in the brain whereas you know in other papers other papers
will say yes we found amazing sex differences but they’re in different
parts of the brain so we have to acknowledge that after 30 more years we
still haven’t come up with any consistent description which would allow
anybody looking at a brain looking image of a brain to say oh that’s a male brain
and that’s a female brain so a very basic concept that there are different
kinds of brains associated with being male or female if some saying that we
need to challenge we need to say there really isn’t any consistent evidence
that male brains are different from female brains and the other thing to
realize is that if we’re looking at a body of literature the way in which what
we call publication bias works is that if you have a hypothesis there is a
difference and you find a difference wherever it is that’s much more likely
to be published than if you don’t actually find a difference your
hypothesis isn’t proved or you may find that this is a very long paper and lots
and lots of similarities or lacks a lack of differences have been reported but
that’s not what’s emphasized and on the right-hand side of the slide I’m just
giving an indication that sometimes scientists themselves are not that
reliable or perhaps a rather unconscious incautious in emphasizing their findings
so this was a paper which had a big impact five or six years ago reporting
differences in worrying about patterns of connections in between male and
female brains very popular in reported in science at popular journals widely
and the suggestion was that male brains were connected anterior to posterior
whereas female brains were much more likely to have connections between the
right and left hemispheres and this fitted in nicely with existing metaphors
the popular press got very excited and there was lots of headlines last the
truth now we know why men and women are different but what the scientists
themselves and and certainly also the communicators of
this work didn’t emphasize was that the data we were looking at were hugely
overlapping and this is true of all sex differences research and this is
something we nearly really need to remember is that when we talk about
differences we’re not talking about distinctions you know a male brain is
like this and a female brain is like that we’re looking at data where there’s
a huge amount of variability within each group but if you put the two sets of
data together on the relevant axes you’ll see there’s a huge overlap and
the differences between those two groups are very tiny so actually knowing
whether you’ve got a male or a female and how they will perform on a science
task or what particular structure in the brain you might be interested in these
are very tiny differences so we’re talking about group averages and even at
the group level these are very tiny and I think that’s very important in trying
to understand any discussion about sex differences but in particular when we’re
talking about sex differences in the involvement in science so moving on the
suggestion is perhaps we should be looking at the kind of characteristics
that are associated with having a particular sort of brain a book by Simon
baron-cohen a very eminent neuroscientist in the UK who also like
myself works in the authors world of autism has written a book for popular
consumption which is again an amalgam of lots of research about sex differences
starts the book the female brain is predominantly hardwired and that’s quite
important because it suggests you can’t change it for empathy the male brain is
predominantly hardwired for understanding and building systems and
so there’s a clear message that if you have the kind of brain that is a
systemising brain what he calls the systemising brain then it’s much more
likely that you will be at ease and successful in a scientific environment
later on in the book he does actually say Oh your sex doesn’t dictate your
brain type not all men has a male brain and not all women have a female brain
and I think that’s another important message that the language used in the
area sometimes is misleading because you think well why do we call it a male
brain if you don’t have to be a man to have
that kind of brain so really what this individual is talking about is the
difference between certain kind of skill sets being empathizing or systemising
and research from that lab has actually later found that a kind of cognitive
style which is whether or not you score high on tests of empathy or you score
high on tests of systemising that style is much is a good predictor of entry
into physical sciences and humanities this is a survey done on applicants but
it’s actually independent of sex differences so again that’s an important
message that sometimes what looks like a sex difference is actually some kind of
cognitive difference and we need to make sure that people understand that’s the
difference that we’re talking about so again not the wrong sort of brain the
wrong sort of skill set maybe it’s the case that as was early suggested women
weren’t very good at the kind of hard skills which were necessary for science
and a lot of this was supported by what I call the Experimental Psychology z–
go to generating a go to list for researchers and for people interested in
this area to say these are reliable differences between the various skills
temperaments and personalities of males and females and again the impression
when you looked at the data was you know there was a good story here they were
clear differences and that was what was taught to psychology students etc
including people like myself but now that researchers are going back in
looking much more carefully at the findings and really saying how often
were these findings reliably replicated how big we see effects lies what they’re
actually finding is that what we’ve always believed will read profound
differences between males and females in terms of males being better at
mathematical skills and spatial cognition actually this is not a finding
that has been supported and there’s been a couple of great studies really
summarizing all the research in this area one by Janet Hyde talking about
gender similarities and differences and another study by a group headed by ethan
zell who looked at all sorts of data evaluating where they you found in
gender similarities as well as differences using very complicated
analytical techniques and actually they say that all the differences we believed
in have kind of either disappeared over time or actually if you look at the data
never really existed in the first place and so we really should be talking about
gender similar similarities males and females are much more similar in the
skills they have than they than they are different and that’s again important to
remember when people start using arguments about why women don’t do
science okay so the other thing is if we have a
belief that the brain is fixed the essentialist pathway I showed at the
beginning that is some kind of invariable unfolding of a biological
template and that template determined particular skills and we could say well
we’re fixed on particular trajectories our brains you know whether or not we
think it will be useful for more women to do science their brains are on a
different biological trajectory but one of the things we discovered in the last
thirty years that our brains are so called plastic so much longer really
throughout our lives than we have realized when new baby brains were
developmentally very plastic pathways were being formed dependent on the kind
of experiences they had they were still fairly fixed in the kind of skills that
were required but the understanding was that you reach the developmental
endpoints fairly early in your life and after that your brain was pretty much
fixed and those those brains brought with them the skills that you had but we
now know that the brain is very very responsive to all throughout our lives
two different experiences and some of the examples I’ve given here are of
neuroscientists looking at people learning particular skills showing how
the brain changes and also showing how the behavior associated with those
brains change so I’ve got pictures of taxi-drivers brains of black cab drivers
in London go to a really complicated video spatial memory training which goes
on for three or four years sometimes it takes as long as six which means they
are brilliant at navigating their way around London so if ever you come to
London and leap in a cab your black cam driver will be able to uh nearing ly
take you to wherever you want to go shorts as possible time and people
looking at taxi drivers brains have shown how particular parts the brain
associated with this task change becoming lodged as these skills required
interestingly once taxi drivers retire then those changes disappear and there
are no differences between them and controls and the other examples are
shown here is just really the kind of skills learning to juggle which is quite
a complicated and motor hand-eye coordination task all learning to play
Tetris which is a quite a complicated spatial cognition task all of these you
can show that you can change the brain if you give people the right kind in
kind of training opportunities and that’s quite important to hang on to
because it means that if you haven’t got the skills for whatever reason when you
enter a particular professional when you wish to enter a profession you can still
acquire them and your brain will change appropriately so it’s not so so if we
don’t have a skill is because our brain doesn’t allow us to have it and can’t be
changed and I think this is a nice example where something that looks like
a sex difference and has long been claimed as a sex difference and a sex
difference which is relevant to involvement in science when you look
more closely you realize that this has changed quite dramatically and not as a
function of the sex of the brain’s owner but the kind of training opportunities
that the brains owners had and this task here is called at a mental rotation task
and it’s a it’s a good method claimed to be a very good measure of spatial
cognition you have to equal to two dimensional representation of a
three-dimensional object and you have to mentally rotate that object to see if
the the two figures you’re looking at are the same except one has just been
rotated through say 90 degrees so it’s actually for anybody like me who
actually does struggle with this task is quite complicated and quite hard work
but it’s shown over the years that claim to be a robust sex difference males on
average input to remember that perform better but if you then look at the kind
of training opportunities that some parts of our our population has you
realize that this may actually function be a function of the differences you see
and there was a big study carried two years ago looks at spatial cognition
skills in large numbers of males and females found a sex difference
overlapping and on average but it was a clear sex difference but then they
thought well we’ll have a look at visual spatial experience we’ll ask people if
they played with construction toys when they were children if they play video
games now what kind of video games is they have a hobby
which gives them some kind of spatial hand-eye coordination training for
example and they found that once you got a measure of spatial experience the sex
difference disappeared so what looked like a male/female difference was
actually to do with a spatial training experience and if you look for example
at the kind of toys that children are exposed to this is I think very telling
so if you look at Lego if you look at the kind of models which are associated
with Lego or the kind of video game Super Mario is a very good example
you’ll find that these experience with these kind of toys and games is a very
reliable predictor of how well you’re going to perform in a spatial task
so do I think there’s some kind of asymmetry in the world with respect to
these training opportunities and the answer obviously is yes and if you look
at the kind of Lego that girls are given much less complicated bigger bits
because of course girls will find these sort of things hard and what they can
build is is things like a hairdressing salon or a poodle parlor for example but
my favorite and with tremendous relevance to this particular seminar is
if stem Barbie Mattel realizing that there was an under-representation of
women in science decides they could solve this problem by producing a Barbie
doll engineer Barbie who you will see here she’s wearing a very short lab coat
and even short-term anishka underneath it does have DNA on the skirt show she’s
sciency but gender in terms of the kind of gender stereotypes that are
inadvertently at one of hopes in forming this our Barbie engineer can build a
pink washing machine or a pink jewelry carousel or a pink table for cutting out
dress patterns so I think you don’t have to look very
far in the outside world to see that training opportunities are different for
boys and girls right from the toys they play with to the expectations of the
kind of things that they want to get involved in so again something it’s
important to remember something it looks like sex difference may well be playing
out the world’s gender stereotypes finally of this sort of essential
argument looking at the idea that males and females have different preferences
women prefer we working with people and that’s why they don’t go into science
whereas men prefer working with things and that’s why they’re very good at
science and this is quite an interesting example here of the metric we use to
make these kind of claims the questionnaire that is the basis of these
claims is actually for me a flawed questionnaire and it’s something which
is very often quoted in explaining why women don’t do science and this people
versus things task was devised and way back in the 1980s looking at
occupational choice and trying to determine this was really developed for
careers advisors and saying let’s have a look at the kind of things that people
liked doing and we’ll fit them into the right occupation and what they said was
that the tasks which were thing type tasks they measured things interests in
people like bricklayers and laboratory technicians and off drivers and found
they mainly worked mainly with things and whereas people who are interested in
working with people they looked at the interests of elementary school teachers
and social workers and vocational counselors counselors but the trouble is
that the time in which they were looking these were already gendered occupations
a little image I’m showing here is that only 2.4 percent of bricklayers were
women and also looking at elementary school teachers for example 82 percent
of them at that time or female so you’ve already you’ve got a task which is
already gendered the choices that they’ve made are determined and in some
cases these are legal issues you know these were perhaps Union issues that
women weren’t allowed to join a union which meant you could be a construction
worker so what you’re saying here is playing out of a social
difference between males and females so the task itself is already gendered so
when people say isn’t it amazing we give males and females just this particular
questionnaire and females always come out strongly on preferring people and
men on preferring things but actually I think it’s a flawed metric and it’s
actually already gendered and that’s why we find the difference that that we
claim to be due to particular kinds of preferences so again moving on we need
to say that okay we don’t seem to have an explanation essentialist explanation
from research as to why women don’t do science so let’s move on quickly to see
whether or not science is if a suitable place for women a welcoming place for
women and at this point we need to slightly step aside from the general
argument and I’ll give you some of the background which is really sort of a
fundamental aspect of my book and that is reminding us that our brains are not
just wired to be amazingly skilled cognitive operators our brains are also
wired to make us social and the diagram I’m showing here is a complicated
anatomical diagram of cross-section of the brain but the key issues to notice
is that if you look at the prefrontal cortex evolutionarily younger part of
the brain we’ve always assumed that it was the evolution of this increase in
size which made us very good at science II type things being creative solving
problems as well as developing language and being able to organize our worlds in
a particular way become existing at the executive function within the brain but
we now know that it’s also equally important for the fact that human beings
are very social beings we solve problems collaboratively we generally work
collaboratively we have big social networks and the success of the human
race has been linked very closely to the social part of the brain so being social
is as much a brain process as the kind of cognitive skills we have and this is
linked to the same kind of functions that we’ve always had even earlier
evolutionary fun so parts of the brain associated with
emotion still give us positive or negative feedback depending on the
outcome of our behavior so this could be social behavior if you feel good about
belonging to a group you want to belong to a particular in-group you want to
understand the rules of that group via social context or social script
associated with that group your behavior when you belong to the group and
accepted by the group it will be rewarded and there’s a part of the brain
here which I characterize as a bit like a traffic light system it’s a bridge
between the that the new part of the brain the prefrontal cortex and the old
parts of the brain which drive our behavior by emotional responses and this
is like a traffic light system particularly in this it will stop
behavior which results in negative feedback so we have a system within the
brain which I call an inner limiter a bit like you can take a mechanistic calm
metaphor which will drive us away from behavior which doesn’t give us positive
feedback and if you’re looking at social behavior you can see that there is a
very powerful social driver in the world and looking at the next slide these are
evidence of brain changes which are associated with social experiences
negative social experiences and some of this work is from my lab so we can have
a look at the experience of being socially rejected and this this is
actually a very powerful effect which we can show in a scammer you can give
somebody a really simple cartoon type involvement in a game and you can be
part of that game but gradually the other players start to exclude you and
even though you know it’s a video game I’ve played this game myself you think I
know this is a video game but I’m a bit missed that people aren’t passing the
ball to me etc and we can see that as your social esteem drops or you find
yourself getting more and more annoyed particular part of the brain will change
and similarly if you have experienced a drop in self-esteem through some kind of
rating system or you’re asked to rank where you are in at your own particular
environment in your in your group in your
employment etc or if you’re very critical you make a mistake and you
blame yourself for it all of these are social activities all
of these associated with activity in our in a limiter and they are very powerful
the and what is interesting in terms of the driving effects of being belonging
or not belonging is that the areas of the brain which are activated by these
negative social experiences such as social rejection are the same areas of
the brain which are activated by real pain
so being rejected from your social group or not being accepted by a social group
is a very powerful driver within the brain and associated with that is
certain changes in behavior which is interesting to understand in terms of
why some individuals withdraw from situations where you know cognitively
they’re completely competent but if they have a poor self-image or they’re very
sensitive to being rejected and not feeling welcome they have high levels of
self-criticism and they may what we call self silence they withdraw and say I
don’t think I want to engage with what’s going on and they may leave and this is
played out in all sorts of fora but also interestingly in science in terms of
when women decide that science is not for them either they are involved in
science and leave or they look at science and think I don’t particularly
want to be involved here so it’s key to understand that our brain the world is a
brain influencer and this is something that we’ve really found out in the last
thirty years that we shouldn’t just be looking at cognitive skills and
particularly structures in the brain we also need to understand how the brain is
very very sensitive to what’s going on in the world around it and examples of
this is the fact that you can give somebody exactly the same task but if
you give a negative context you say this is a task example I’m giving here is of
another spatial task if you say to a group of three groups of women this
particular study involved you could say to one group this is the task that women
are very good at but I just want to see what happens when you try and solve the
problem or you give another group what we call a
if message this is the task which perspective-taking tasks to be light
which women are very good at and we would like to see how your your brain
changes as a function of that what you’ll see is that the behavior you get
many fewer errors when you’ve got a positive measure mess message and you’ve
got more errors when you get a negative message and also the brain activity
reflects that so if you get a positive message the appropriate areas of the
brain are activated you solve the problem efficiently if you’re given a
negative message you may struggle to solve the problem and there’s much more
activity again in our in in a limiter error evaluate system so exactly the
same task but the brain responds differently depending on the attitude
and again I think that’s something it’s important to hang on to in understanding
what’s going on in the under involvement of women in science and what I’m showing
in the next few slides is just some other examples of the same issue and
I’ve given references on the slide so that people couldn’t follow this up so
that if a you look at people who have math exam anxiety for example and there
that you divide them into groups one group is told we’ll be comparing your
school to other students for the purpose of studying gender differences in maths
or with the neutral group we want to examine psychological processes
associated with effort for problem-solving you’ll find the brain
activity associated with making mistakes is very different in the group who have
a negative message and you also find behaviorally in this particular task
that help is offered to people who are making mistakes that people who are
given a negative context for the task cannot take that help and tend to self
limit their behavior and withdrawal from the task because that’s also an option
they’re given so we have very good evidence that brains will respond
differently to other social context that they find themselves in and this is
another example here where the example is this task is diagnostic as the type
of problems solving strategies you prefer or the other message this task is
diagnostic of your maths ability so again same task but we get different
responses from the brain and we can also see how early this starts I was involved
in it vision program in the UK which was
called no more boys and girls and actually looking at the effective jared
gender stereotyping in the classroom the fact that there was lots of gender
stereotyping quite unconscious the teacher called the girls Sweet Pea and
the boys mate and cherries boys much more often than girls to carry out
particular tasks and goals were asked to answer the questions so this is all
unconscious but they did find that once people’s attention was drawn to this and
that involved the children as well just a six-week experiment they took every
opportunity to remove gender stereotyping and the boys and the girls
behavior changed quite dramatically big increase in self-esteem which was low in
seven-year-old girls and also a greater indication of boys and using emotional
language much more effectively and enjoying they had had a mixed football
team and enjoying not just being boys playing football but enjoying playing
footballs with a mixed team and we know in education that teachers tend to over
mark boys and under mark girls and particular issues particularly science
and if you generate this as a bias core you can follow it up longitudinally and
show that in fact this is a quite profound effect on how people will
actually the choices they will make in terms of high school subjects we have
six year-old girls who if you give them a choice between toys or games they’re
really really clever people or games for people who work hard the girls will be
much more likely to choose the games that for people who work hard and when
they’re asked a reason for their choice they say it’s because girls aren’t
really really clever and I’m a girl so I wouldn’t like that toy which I think is
a rather sad reflection on the effect of gender stereotypes and similarly
nine-year-old girls you’ll find that they have a very powerful belief that
maths is avoiding and that they would probably won’t do maths when they grow
up or they’ll do as little maths as they can because they’re not boys and
therefore they’re not really good at math and math is the kind of thing that
boys do so again we have an indication that these all start fairly early on
being aware that I should move on here and what we then need to look
is whether or not there’s a belief in science about you know who can do
science and there’s a bit of a rogue’s gallery here and on the Left we have a
picture of Charles Darwin who 200 years ago great scientist he was at a very
powerful belief that women were actually inferior and you think okay that’s 200
years ago but the other pictures are a bit of
rogues gallery of men quoting the fact that women shouldn’t be encouraged to go
into science or the fact that there weren’t high low high achievers in
science was possibly to do to do with the lack of aptitudes at the high end to
quote Larry Summers and Google memo memo writer saying that women were actually
you know Google was wasting his time with diversity initiatives because
biologically women had different preferences and abilities which weren’t
really suited for what Google was looking for and similarly a physicist in
CERN standing up and saying physics was wasting their time educating girls in
physics because actually biologically they had a different interest and
wouldn’t make good physicists and he did kindly make an exception of Marie Curie
who has two Nobel Prizes that she was of course an exception okay so we’re
getting a feeling hopefully that we need to understand that science has a
particular view of women there was a great study done and again I given the
reference here by Sarah Jane Leslie and her team looking at all sorts of
different academic disciplines and asking both males and females within
those disciplines what they felt were necessary characteristics to be high
achievers in their particular discipline and she called it expectations of
brilliance and she generated a score which showed that there was a very
powerful belief in some disciplines that there was some kind of innate
characteristic some innate ability that people were born with which meant they
were likely to be high achievers and when she correlated that score and with
the size of under-representation of women in science and this in fact is a a
measure of the number of females doing PhDs
she showed that the disciplines just focusing on the left hand side in this
case in science the disciplines which had
it’s powerful belief that being brilliant was something you were born
with were also the disciplines which had the biggest gender gaps so again if
you’re in it in an environment which doesn’t believe that you are going to be
a great success this is a pretty negative information and similarly
there’s many social psychology studies are given references here which show
that there’s a kind of underlying bias that if you’re given exactly the same CV
and and you’re as an academic male or female supposed to be racing these TVs
in terms of who you’d like to employ to work in your lab what kind of starting
salary they might have what kind of training opportunities you would give
him how well you think they would succeed identical Stevie’s one the name
was John and the other one the name was Jennifer
it was clearly indicated that there was a bias and Jennifer was offered a much
lower starting salary much less likely to succeed not given many training
opportunities but interestingly rated highly on likability so they liked
Jennifer but they didn’t actually think that she was going to to be very
successful and similarly writing letters of
reference there’s a clear gender bias in raving about the the genius the
insightful logical problem-solving of male applicants and the neat handwriting
and well turned out Ernest or female applicants so within the environment of
science there’s very clear evidence of differences between males and females
and just finally moving on is to say that there’s also the idea that if women
get into science and they achieve well then that’s due to different reasons and
this is nice kind of dichotomy between the light bulb achievement where if a
male achieves it’s because they’re a genius they’ve had this amazing insight
and will solve a problem in a flash that’s been worrying science for
centuries possibly whereas if women do very well it’s because they’ve worked
very hard they’ve got a good team they’ve been plugging away at the
problem for ages and the images here just to illustrate this
bekata me between hedy lamarr who was a very famous film star in her time but
also an amazing inventor and she worked together with a male mr. George Ann tail
radar a radio specialist trying to solve the problem of enemy aircraft and enemy
shipping intercepting messages in the Second World War and they came up with
this radio frequency hopping solution which meant that you could send a
message but if you kept changing the frequency it couldn’t be tracked by the
enemy so both of those were equally involved in producing this amazing
solution but Hedy Lamarr’s contribution is frequently rated as working really
really hard with a great team whereas George Ann tales that contribution is
very often described as an amazing flash of genius so even if women get into
science and are successful there are different explanations given and we are
moving on to the end here to say remember what we’re talking about we’re
talking about the gender equality paradox why it is that women who are
apparently if you look at their performance scores equally capable and
Society in terms of measures of gender gap appear to be offering them every
opportunity why it is that they don’t choose to go into science and I think if
we look at some of the neuroscience evidence see in a limiter that I’ve
talked about the way in which if you don’t feel you belong in a group or if
you feel that group is likely to reject you and what I call the kind of if if
women are believed to be inferior or incompetent or even invisible then this
is a powerful brain changing effect and it will behave it will drive behavior in
a particular direction and I think that’s really important that we need to
remember that we should be looking at science itself as well as the
individuals to try and explain why people don’t get involved so looking at
the explanations that come with I don’t think that they’re that women are in any
way unsuitable for science I appreciate that I’m quite possibly biased but I
think there’s a lot of evidence to support the idea that this essentialist
argument needs to be dismissed and I think there is strong evidence that
women don’t enter science science is a no-go area for women and
this is something that we need to acknowledge to say this is a brain
changing effect so we are looking at the biological process but it is not
actually something which is fixed and inevitable is something we should do
something about and I’ve just put some papers here which I think are really
interesting for people interested in this area to say there are unasked
questions in answering this issue is it to do with self confidence are there
gender gaps in confidence which might explain gender gaps in wages is it the
case that if you look at women who are withdrawing from science could it be not
to do with a incompetence but actually to do with they’re quite sensitive to
being rejected from social groups and if they are in a group such as science
which doesn’t be welcoming this is something we should look at and the idea
of what is called here is threatening academic environments predict how how
high women’s self-esteem and their engagement in science might be so if you
look at the environments you can see a lot of the explanations here so if to
say that at the end of the day when we’re looking at explanations for this
under representation of women we need to move on from this essentialist argument
which was talking about the male and the female brain and suggesting actually you
know these brains are differently organized have different skills and they
will succeed in different fora and that’s where we should stop but to say
actually whether these differences come from let’s have a look at the world
let’s have a look at the gendered explanations in the world
so my take-home message is if for you if you like is brains will reflect the
lives they’ve lived so if you haven’t had the right kind of training
experiences then maybe your brain appears not to have the kind of
necessary skills but that’s something we can challenge and finally agendas world
produces agendas brain and that may underpin a lot of the
under-representation that we’re looking at so I’m going to stop there and I
think issue is going to forward to me some of the questions that you’ve asked
and I understand also that you have access to email surfaces of questions
you’d like to ask and I’m happy to take them
/ – you wish and thank you very much Gina thank you and for an insightful
presentation we don’t have too many questions so it seems maybe you have
answered all the questions that people have and but if you still have questions
we still have another ten minutes for an dr. Gribben to answer your questions the
first question that I that came through the Q&A is something that’s on
everybody’s mind and and it’s how do we start to make change in their
environment to minimize this bias and are there strategies that you can think
of – like tackle the social this this in a social context that that that we can
use either from and from from institutions like NIH where we are the
funders or like even universities or other places in society yet I think I
think that’s a great question and and what even great about it is that there
is something we can do about it and sometimes it’s just knowledge it’s
making the policy deciders if you like in an institution or the the management
depending on what you’re looking at aware of the unconscious bias and
actually where as the power of this bias to change the behavior in their
workforce so it’s not just a kind of being PC and we were chasing a gender
equality is something we should be doing is it of course it is something we
should be doing but this is why and I think demonstrating that we are looking
at a brain changing process actually seems to have quite a powerful effect
and one of the areas I’ve been involved in in the European Union while we still
belong to it and with the idea that funding was only given to mainstream
science if they could also demonstrate that they were trying to encourage
diversity now my focus obviously has been on gender gaps but the the basic
principle of how social our brains are and how we
like to be long can apply to any minority and therefore understanding the
diversity or looking at people who are underrepresented is a brain changing
process but if you go to mainstream France and say I mean I’ve given talks
to string theorists and particle physicists etc and saying actually your
and your science will be much more creative your teams would be much more
productive if they were more diverse but there may be problems for encouraging
people to join your teams because of these sorts of issues so if you dress
address the issues and make sure that you are aware of role models and how
people like to work in teams etc and make these available then you will
become more diverse and so you know what they’ve done in in in Europe is actually
use this you know used obviously finances are driving forth yes we will
give you money for your mainstream science project but you also need to
demonstrate that you’re attacking attacking any diversity issues that you
have and I assume that the unity NIH NIH running these kind of diversity seminars
are also making both the individuals themselves because a lot of it is
self-fulfilling prophecies as I said if you’ve got nine-year-old girls thinking
they can’t do maths because they’re a girl you’d then of course get a
self-fulfilling prophecy so making sure that people are aware of their own power
and to change their involvement in an environment as well as environment
itself I think that’s that’s very helpful thank you and I think you
answered this question but the other side of this coin is the individual and
some of the questions there and have been asked is how do you as an
individual try to overcome the negative effect of this yes if you could say yeah
think about that okay yes I mean I think the concepts of resilience is is
something which is popular in in social psychology and in clinical psychology as
well and again sometimes it’s just making individuals aware that they will
unwelcoming situations and looking at the difference between at the brain
level between self-criticism and self reassurance is very interesting because
if you can train people to say look mistakes will happen or you may feel
you’re not very welcoming a welcome in a group it may be that you need techniques
or self reassurance and you need to sort of take a step back and is there
something to do with me and don’t listen too hard to your inner critic but just
to say I’m working in an environment which is not very welcoming and if
you’re you know an activist sort of person you may say well we need to
change this we need to have a diversity group or to look at the environment even
if it’s a physical environment what kind of role models are what kind of pictures
are there on the wall which sounds very trivial but it’s been demonstrated
you know behavioral level that this is is quite powerful so I think individuals
can make a difference both to themselves being aware that this is what they are
going to encounter or maybe even are encountering and similarly empowering
individuals so they can reflect on times when they were successful has been
demonstrated to be very effective in overcoming stereotype threat so for
example girls who suffer from maths anxiety if rather than you know plugging
them into many many more training sessions in maths if you actually say
you need to think more of yourself you need to boost your self-esteem and it’s
been found that once somebody has a boost in self-esteem and it doesn’t have
to come from us that this can actually change their performance and they start
to succeed thank you and we’re getting more questions I think I guess maybe
your your answers are eliciting more questions and one thing that I want I
wanted to say is like if we don’t have time to answer some of these questions
and dr. Britain has volunteered for me to send her some of these questions and
she provide answers through email and one one question that came up as and
from couple of people is they wanted to know if there are studies out there that
showed this bias in parents themselves and
before before people go in to like science or even like education systems
yes yet indeed certainly developmentally a strong
belief in what we call gender essentialism the fact that the kind of
mantra that boys be boys that girls be girls is it is a powerful predictor of
how stereotypically gendered children are interestingly again maths anxiety
something I’m interested in the role of the mother if the mother tends to be
very maths anxious that’s been demonstrated to be strongly correlated
with girls being maths anxious so it’s a kind of role model issue and so parents
have a very strong role and that could be right back to this idea of training
opportunities you know our boys that play with Lego and and girls that play
with dolls and dress up as princesses etc so parents do have a role to play
and just mentioned an active role obviously they have a very positive role
but children are quite hard it’s quite strange and sometimes a parents will do
their best to present a positive role model even you know you have a female I
have I have a friend who’s a female neurosurgeon and her three-year-old son
believes that only boys can be doctors so you can present role models very
powerfully but there’s all sorts of other messages the children are getting
from media social media in particular video games toys that their families
give them you know what happening in nursery etc it’s children a very
powerful gender detective so it is it is quite hard I speak as a parent as well
so I know it’s quite hard to make a difference but parents can and I think
that that’s important to realize that in talking about people people not choosing
not to do something because they’re a girl or a boy is a good thing to avoid and thank you we have one more minute
before we end this bra and I had there are a couple of people who are asking if
this webinar would be available yes it will be available with the transcript if
you have any questions that you still want us to answer after you digest the
material please feel free to either send it to me or dr. Riven herself
you should be able to find our emails at the lab at there you go
this is just our contact so please email us if you have any questions and we will
have this presentation and soon as soon as we do the transcript and I would keep
me out sorry I say I would cheekily add that hopefully quite a lot of the
answers are available in my book yes it’s called gender in our brains by
the way yes if you google lots of ribbon and you will help rock will come up in
the search and it’s a great book I recommend anyone who has a chance to
read it to read it there are a lot of more information more experiments and
studies that have done on this both in a neural image in neuroimaging world and
also in psychology world so and yes please go and if you would like to read
more on on this meet dr. women’s and book I think we are at the hour so and
if there is nothing else and dr. Rubin that you want to add I think we’ll call
it an end of this webinar and again we please email us any other questions that
we were not able to get to and we will and I’ll go forward it to dr. Rubin and
and and hopefully she will be able to answer your questions okay thank you
again or thank you for listening yeah thank you very much and thank you for
everyone who joined and participated in this been webinar

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