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Notes Towards Week 8 (Oct. 25): Parts I, III, IV with Kaye

car ad via chelseam  /exchange/node/11111#new

colorblind via essietee:

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I. coursekeeping
snacks by Amophrast and leamirella; next week phenom1 &

G&S Tea
this Thursday afternoon, 4-6 in Quita Woodward--with info
on all the classes for next semester and more updates on Butler.

Also the Judy Butler coffee hour
for G&S concentrators, minors, majors
is 4-5:30 on Thurs, Nov. 10 in Uncommon Grounds (not 3-4:30 as advertised last week!)

Each of you should have gotten an e-mail by now
, telling you that tickets for the three Butler lectures must be picked up from the Conferences and Events office (lower level of the Campus Center, past the ATM machine), y'day through this Friday between 8am and 5pm.  Please bring a picture ID with you.  If you are unable to pick up your own ticket(s), please send an email to and indicate who your proxie will be.  Obviously, this request must be received prior to your designated substitute picking up the ticket! Any tickets not claimed by Friday at 5pm will be released to the waitlist, which is over 200 people.  If, for any reason, you are unable to attend after you have claimed your tickets, please return them to the Conferences and Events office.

This week we conclude the "biology" section of the course; so @ 5 p.m. this
Sunday your second web event is due; we'll talk about that @ the end of class.

Next week we move into the "activism" act of the course

(and respond to the request of many of you that we have a more global focus):

Therese Hesketh and Zhu Wei Xing. Abnormal sex ratios in human populations: Causes and consequences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103, 36 (2006): 13271-13275 (in our password-protected file).

Christophe Z. Guilmoto.  "The sex ratio transition in Asia."  Population and Development Review  35, 3 (2009): 510-549 (in our password-protected file).

Generations Ahead, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice. Taking a Stand: Tools for Action on Sex Selection. 2010.  32 pp.(in our password-protected file).

Center for Genetics and Society.  Sex Selection.

Sunita Puri, "I know it's a girl, and I need your help to get it out of me." Slate. August 2, 2011.

Abortion Conspiracy Part 1:  The Billboard Campaign (15’). 

Abortion Conspiracy Part 4:  Racial Uplift (13.25’).

Ruth Padawer. "The Two-Minus-One Pregancy." The New York Times Magazine. August 10, 2011.

II. Anne on mid-semester evals

III. testosterone, continued

I was excited to find the article in PNAS by Sapienza entitled, "Gender differences in financial risk aversion and career choices are affected by testosterone," for I wanted to see if they had any insights that might help me understand the data I had gathered for a presentation to Haverford's Board Council for Women last fall.

Gender differences in majors, study abroad, cpgc internships, honors at Haverford College

(see powerpoint excerpt from presentation to Board Council for Women)

additional data from HC (see excel chart attached)

However, as we discussed last week, the data in the Sapienza et al. article did not support such a broad, generalizable claim that the organizational or activational effects of testosterone can explain career choices.

I want to spend a little time with AmyMay's posting in which she draws from her work as a psychology major and her understanding of data analysis:

"I had a lot of issues with the study we read on gender differences in testosterone and financial risk aversion.  One of the bigger issues I saw was the sample population they used.  Though they defend their choice of participants ideal for this study, since they were already familiar with financial risk, were fairly demographically homogenous, and provide some measure of risk among professional financial decision makers.  However, this group may also be overly homogenous in testosterone levels, offering only a sliver of possible data. ...

I also have an issue with their implication of biological destiny.  Yes, as they say in their rebuttal, they use plenty of statistician lingo to dance around the subject (i.e. using suggest instead of demonstrate, as they mention.)  However, a responsible scientist (in my opinion) should be aware of the sociopolitical context of their research (shout out to Barad here.)  Scientists and statisticians with the know-how to parse out the distinction between “demonstrate” and “suggest” are not the only people who will pick up this article.  ...

Sapienza et al fails to fully address the problems inherent in a correlational design (inconclusive direction of causality, the possibility of a third variable causing variation in both X and Y, etc.) ...

Given what we have been talking about recently with respect to the God-effect and the hegemony of scientific fact, it seems irresponsible for researchers to leave such points unaddressed (or insufficiently addressed) in their research. ..."

YES...this study has serious flaws...

YET...scientific studies keep coming. 

Gavi:  But I'm often struck in class by the resentment and frustration shown toward scientific thinkers; this feeling about doctors/scientists is one I sometimes share, but also wonder about. Scientists used to be seen as (and are sometimes still seen as) debunkers of common misperceptions, vanguards of forward thinking, driven relentlessly by a desire to get at the (or a) truth. I'm curious as to when non-scientific academic thinking began to butt heads with scientific principles, and I'm interested in why we humanities/social science majors sometimes see a conflict of interest regarding these fields.

Let's try to move beyond this conflict of interest.

Is there anything valuable we can learn about the hormonal effects on behavior and sexual differences from scientific studies (beyond that scientific knowledge production has cultural biases and that we should not accept at face-value the claims published even in reputable scientific journals)?

"Testosterone decreases trust in socially naive humans" is a different and (in my perspective) a more valid study.

What are the materials and methods used in this study?

grayscale frontal pictures of unfamiliar faces with neutral emotional expressions

some of the differences in Materials and Methods between this study and the earlier one on risk aversion?

  • overview by Ethics Committee
  • smaller sample size, n = 24
  • only women
  • Intervention:  administered testosterone or placebo under the tongue
  • assessed cognition not behavior (measured trustworthiness using grayscale frontal pictures of unfamiliar faces)
  • asked whether subjects were more or less likely (or no change) to rate faces as trustworthy 4 hours after receiving testosterone
  • others????


graph of testosterone and trust


Let's explore whether their claim that "Testosterone decreases trust in socially naive humans" is supported by their study (methods, data).

Let's use Spanier and Horowitz's rubric to evaluate the Bos et al. article from a gender/sexuality studies perspective:

  1. Reification (Group 1)

  2. Choice of definition of difference (Group 2)

  3. Questionable categories (Group 3)

  4. Assuming "universal" behaviors (Group 4)

  5. "Nature at base" as an invalid concept

  6. Correlation vs causation (Group 5)

  7. Vague "potential" as genetic basis for determinism

  8. Irrelevance of multiple genes explanation

  9. Assuming "biology" means fixed (Group 6)

  10. Heterosexual conceptual error specific to sexuality studies

Count off by 4's (divide into 6 groups) and examine the Bos article in terms of these criteria.  Start with the criterion listed for your group, read its description in Spanier and Horowitz, and  If you have time, move on to any of the other criteria..

Back to the full group and answer a different set of questions that will build on your small group work.  Bring it forward as relevant.

Do the authors make too strong of a claim based on their methods and their data?

What kinds of language (statistical lingo or qualifying words) do the authors use in presenting their conclusions?

What are the potential implications of this study? 

How might it be "spun" in the NYT or Rolling Stone or Bust or ????

Last week I asked you to consider the radical possibility that biological determinants might be more readily changed than social determinants.  

Does this study prove that trusting behavior in healthy yet naive young adult women can be changed biochemically?

For those of you who want to learn more about the biological determinants of sexual differentiation during gestation, check out the link provided by sel209 on the gender testing of athletes:   This is a great interactive format for understanding that there is no simple test for male/female and how the SRY gene (on the Y chromosom) and the gene encoding the androgen receptor (and the X chromosome) influence sexual differentation of gonads and external genitalia.

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V. break

VI. Anne on storming the brain

gendered majors_HC 2010.ppt486.5 KB
Copy of HC data 1992-2011_bar graph.xlsx13.23 KB