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Comparing men and women: A proposal concerning the genes vs gender issue in studies of cognitive abilities

Chandra, Sharat H (1999) Comparing men and women: A proposal concerning the genes vs gender issue in studies of cognitive abilities. In: Current Science, 77 (12). pp. 1582-1583.

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Abstract

In the ongoing genetic analysis of complex human behaviour, one contentious issue is the origin of differences between men and women in certain cognitive $skills^1$. For instance, there is consensus that men do better than women in certain tests of visuospatial $ability^{2,3}$. Among American preadolescents with very high scores in standardized tests of mathematical reasoning $ability^4$, boys outnumber girls 13:1. Environmentalists argue that this difference is due to gender bias, both at home and in school, with smart boys getting more attention and support than girls. However, there are other tests of higher order cognition, such as verbal fluency and the production of rapid and fluent speech, in which women appear to do better than $men^{5,6}$, an observation for which plausible environmental arguments are few. The polarization of biologically-oriented and socially-oriented researchers over these and related results is a reflection of the difficulties in distinguishing between the effects of genes from those of gender and politics on quantitative measures of cognition. These difficulties have prompted some authors to assert that the genes vs gender issue will remain with us for many years. In their attempts to estimate the contribution of intrinsic factors to such complex human behaviour, geneticists have relied extensively on the analysis of twins and sib-$pairs^7$. But this approach is inadequate for sorting out the effects of genes from those of gender because of the extent of underlying genetic variation between sibs and between dizygotic (DZ) twins. Here I draw attention to a rare and apparently little $known^8$ condition – monozygotic (MZ) twins discordant for sex (46, XY male – 45, XO female)$^9$ – which might provide better resolution of the relative contributions of genes and gender than has been possible with standard twin-pair and sib-pair comparisons.

Item Type: Journal Article
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to Indian Academy of Sciences
Keywords: Behavior;Genetics;Reproductive System;Reproduction
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Microbiology & Cell Biology
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2007
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 04:39
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ernet.in/id/eprint/12039

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