Boys and girls are born different says study

New life: The study was called “heroic” for finding a way to scan the brains of unborn babies.

Is this true? A new study has found clear differences in the brains of male and female babies while they are still growing in the womb. It feeds into a debate that is hundreds of years old…

What’s happening

It was probably the first thing your parents were told when you were born: “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!”

All sort of stereotypes might have followed: girls wear pink, boys play with cars. But are our brains really that different? Now, a new study suggests that the answer is yes.

Find out more

The scientist Moriah Thomason conducted brain scans of over 100 babies while they were still growing in the womb. In other words, this was before they could be influenced by stereotypes about gender. She found that there were “many differences” in the way male and female brains developed.

The brain works by making connections between things. It is a network. One of the biggest differences Thomason found was that girls had more “long-range” networks than boys.

It is difficult to know exactly what this means. However, she said it could be related to the idea that boys’ brains are more easily influenced than girls’. Boys are more “programmable” when they are born, while girls are born more “robust”.

Are boys and girls just naturally different?

Some say…

Yes, and now we have the science to prove it. This does not mean that one is better than the other, or that they should be treated differently by society. It just means that they work and develop in slightly different ways. It is not very surprising when you think about it. Their bodies are different, so why would their brains be the same?

Others think…

There is no real difference, and there is not enough evidence in this study to prove otherwise. The neuroscientist Gina Rippon says we must “shatter the myth of the female brain” which has existed for centuries. The myth was first used to argue that women should not be allowed to vote or do the same jobs as men. It is sexist to keep peddling it.

You Decide

  1. Do boys and girls act differently?

Activities

  1. As a class list some of the ways that boys and girls are seen as “different”. This might include stereotypes you have heard or your own observations. Then discuss: are these ideas fair?

Some People Say...

“Women have a much better time than men in this world; there are far more things forbidden to them.”

Oscar Wilde

What do you think?

Word Watch

Stereotypes
Widely held beliefs about certain categories of people. They are often untrue or oversimplified.
Womb
The organ which babies grow inside.
Developed
Grew.
Network
A group of lots of interlocking connections.
Programmable
A computing term for something which can receive and respond to instructions. In this case, it means a brain which is adaptable or responds to outside events.
Robust
Strong and difficult to change.
Neuroscientist
Scientist who studies brains.

Subjects

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