The brain-sex theory of occupational choice: a counterexample

Esgate, A. and Flynn, M. 2005. The brain-sex theory of occupational choice: a counterexample. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 100 (1), pp. 25-37.

TitleThe brain-sex theory of occupational choice: a counterexample
AuthorsEsgate, A. and Flynn, M.
Abstract

The brain-sex theory of occupational choice suggests that males and females in male-typical careers show a male pattern of cognitive ability in terms of better spatial than verbal performance on cognitive tests with the reverse pattern for females and males in female-typical careers, These differences are thought to result from patterns of cerebral functional lateralisation. This study Sought Such occupationally related effects using synonym generation (verbal ability) and mental rotation (spatial ability) tasks used previously. It also used entrants to these careers as participants to examine whether patterns of cognitive abilities might predate explicit training and practice. Using a population of entrants to sex-differentiated University Courses, a moderate occupational effect on the synonym generation task was found, along with a weak (p<.10) sex effect on the mental rotation task. Highest performance on the mental rotation task was by female Students in fashion design, a female-dominated occupation which makes substantial visuospatial demands and attracts many students with literacy problems such as dyslexia. This group then appears to be a counterexample to the brain-sex theory. However, methodological issues Surrounding previous Studies are highlighted: the simple synonym task appears to show limited discrimination of the sexes, leading to questions concerning the legitimacy of inferences about lateralisation based on scores from that test. Moreover, the human figure-based mental rotation task appears to tap the wrong aspect of visuospatial skill, likely to be needed for male-typical courses such as engineering, Since the fashion-clesign career is also one that attracts disproportionately many male students whose sexual orientation is homosexual, data were examined for evidence of female-typical patterns of cognitive performance among that subgroup. This was not found. This study therefore provides Do evidence for the claim that female-pattern cerebral functional lateralisation is likely in gay males.

JournalPerceptual and Motor Skills
Journal citation100 (1), pp. 25-37
ISSN0031-5125
YearFeb 2005
PublisherAmmons Scientific
Publication dates
PublishedFeb 2005

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