Mount Holyoke College Phys 211/Gndst 243
Spring 2012

The course readings are meant to cover many perspectives and generate discussion. Readings and discussions throughout the semester emphasize being healthy skeptics of reports of experimental research and secondary sources. Within the readings, we find one author citing another, slightly misprepresenting the findings of the first. We see contradictory claims, both from independent researchers and among review articles and books. The conclusion is not to dismiss that which you initially disagree with, but to find ways of evaluating others' claims, despite a lack of expertise in the subject matter. Some of the experimental techniques and statistics are quite sophisticated, but through class discussion and focusing on the important aspects of the study, the inexperienced reader can


1)     The Debate

a.       Larry Summers speech (2005)

b.     Tierney, NYTimes article

c.      B. Barres, “Does Gender Matter?” Nature, 442, 133 (2006)

d.     Responses to Barres, Nature, 442, 510 (2006)

e.      P. Lawrence, “Men, Women, and Ghosts in Science,” PLoS Biology, 4(1), 13 (2006)

2)     The Debate continued, Brain Anatomy

a.      “Introduction: Striving for Perspective in the Debate on Women in Science,” in Ceci and Williams (C&W)

b.     Haier, “Brains, Bias, and Biology,” Ch 8  (C&W)

c.      Gur and Gur, “Neural Substrates for Sex Differences in Cognition,” Ch 14  (C&W)

3)     Individual Experience

a.      Guest: Gioia De Cari, writer/actress of Truth Values: One woman’s romp through MIT’s male math maze

b.     Chapters from She’s such a geek and Flor y Sciencia

4)     Innate Differences

a.      The Essential Difference, Simon Baron-Cohen

5)     Journal Articles with systemizing and empathizing

a.      Connellan, Baron-Cohen, et al., “Sex differences in human neonatal social perception,” Infant Behavior & Development, 23, 113 (2000)

b.     Billington, Baron-Cohen et al., “Cognitive style predicts entry into physical sciences and humanities: Questionnaire and performance tests of empathy and systemizing,” Learning and Individual Differences, 17, 260 (2007)

c.      von Horn et al., “Empathizing, systemizing, and finger length ratio in a Swedish sample,” Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 51, 31 (2010)

6)     Evolutionary Psychology

a.      David Geary, “An Evolutionary Perspective on Sex Differences in Mathematics and the Sciences,” Ch 23 (C&W)

b.     Excerpts from Evolution for Everyone, David Sloan Wilson (2007)

c.      Alexander, Hines, “Sex differences in response to children’s toys in nonhuman primates,” Evolution and Human Behavior, 23, 467 (2002)

d.     Optional: Alexander, “An evolutionary perspective of sex-typed toy preferences: pink, blue, and the brain,” Archives of Social Behavior, 32(1), 7 (2003)

e.      Nora Newcombe, “Taking Science Seriously: Straight Thinking about Spatial Sex Differences,” Ch 5 (C&W)  critique of evolutionary theories

7)     Hormones

a.      Hines, “Do Sex Differences in Cognition Cause the Shortage of Women in Science?” Ch 7 (C&W)

b.     Berenbaum and Resnick, “The Seeds of Career Choices:  Prenatal Sex Hormone Effects on Psychological Sex Differences”, Ch 11 (C&W)

8)     Interpreting a Single Study

a.      Jonah Lehrer, “The Truth Wears Off:  Is there something wrong with the scientific method?”  The New Yorker, December 13, 2010

b.     PZ Myers, “Science is not dead,” Pharyngula Blog, December 30, 2010

c.      Silberman, “Placebos are getting more effective.  Drugmakers are desperate to know why.  Wired Magazine, August 24, 2009

d.     Bartal et al., “Empathy and Pro-Social Behavior in Rats,” Science, 334, 1427 (2011)

9)     Career Choice

a.      Lubinski, Benbow, “Sex differences in personal attributes for the development of scientific enterprise,” Ch 6 (C&W)

b.     Ferriman, Benbow, et al., “Work Preferences, Life Values, and Personal Views of Top Math/Science Graduate Students and the Profoundly Gifted,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(3), 517 (2009)

c.      Beltz et al., “Gendered occupational interests: Prenatal androgen effects on psychological orientation to Things versus People,” Hormones and Behavior, 60, 313 (2011)

d.     Weinberger, “Is the Science and Engineering Workforce Drawn from the Far Upper Tail of the Math Ability Distribution?  Working paper (2005)        

10) Social Factors, Reviews

a.      Spelke, Grace, “Sex, Math, and Science,” Ch 4 (C&W)

b.     Spelke, “Sex differences in intrinsic aptitude for mathematics and science?” American Psychologist, December 2005, 953

c.      Hyde, “Women in Science: Gender Similarities in Abilities and Sociocultural Factors,” Ch 10 (C&W)

d.     Hyde, “The Gender Similarities Hypothesis,”  American Psychologist, September 2005, 581

11) Social Factors

a.      Valian, “Women at the Top in Science – and Elsewhere,” Ch 1 (C&W)

b.     Condry and Condry, “Sex Differences:  A Study of the Eye of the Beholder,” Child Development, 47, 812 (1976)

c.      Hill et al., “18-  and 24-month olds’ discrimination of gender-consistent and inconsistent activities,” Infant Behavior & Development, 30, 168 (2007)

d.     Tenebaum et al., “Parent-Child Conversations about Science: The Socialization of Gender Inequities?”  Developmental Psychology, 39(1), 34 (2003)

12) Stereotype Threat

a.      Spencer, Steele, Quinn, “Stereotype Threat and Women’s Math Performance,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 4 (1999)

b.     Dar-Nimrod and Heine , “Exposure to Scientific Theories Affects Women’s Math Performance,” Science, 314, 435 (2006)

c.      Stoet and Geary, “Can Stereotype Threat Explain the Gender Gap in Mathematics Performance and Achievement?”  Review of General Psychology, 16(1) 93, 2012

d.     Miyake et al., “Reducing the Gender Achievement Gap in College Science: A Classroom Study of Values Affirmation,” Science, 330, 1234 (2010)

13) Bias

a.      Take the Implicit Association Test    (find the science/humanities male/female one)

b.     Nosek, Banaji, Greenwals, “Math = Male, Me = Female, Therefore Math != Me,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(1), 44 (2002)

c.       C. Goldin, “Orchestrating Impartiality:  The impact of “blind” auditions on female musicians,” The American Economic Review90(4), 715 (2000)

d.     Nosek et al., “National differences in gender-science stereotypes predict national sex differences in science and math achievement,” PNAS, 106(26) 10593 (2009)

14) Evidence of Bias in Academia

a.      M. Carnes, “NIH Director’s Pioneer Awards:  Could the selection process be biased against women?”  Journal of Women’s Health14(8), 684 (2005)

b.     A. Budden, “Double-blind review favours increased representation of female authors,” TRENDS in Ecology an Evolution23(1), 4 (2008).

c.      MIT Report on the Status of Women, 2002 (Overview)

d.     N. Hopkins, "Diversification of a university faculty: Observations on hiring women faculty in the schools of science and engineering at MIT, " MIT Faculty Newsletter, Vol. XVIII No. 4, March/April 2006.

15) Guest:  Moon Duchin, Professor of Mathematics, Tufts University

a.      Niederle and Vesterlund, “Explaining the Gender Gap in Math Test Scores: The Role of Competition,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 24(2), 129 (2010)

16) Skype Guest: Rebecca Jordan-Young, Professor of Gender Studies, Barnard College

a.      Jordan-Young, Brainstorm: The flaws in the science of sex differences, Ch 8 and Ch 9 (2010)

17) Unlocking the Clubhouse

a.      Margolis and Fisher,  Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing, (2002)

18) Guest:  Buju DasGupta, Professor of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

a.      DasGupta et al., “"Seeing is believing:  Exposure to counterstereotypic women leaders and its effect on the malleability of automatic gender stereotyping."  Journal of Experimental Social  Psychology40, 642  (2004)

19) A few more papers

a.      Dweck, “Is Math a Gift?  Beliefs that Put Females at Risk” Ch 3 (C&W)

b.      Kuck, "A review and study on graduate training and academic hiring of chemists," Journal of Chemical Education84(2), 277 (2007)

c.      Sorby, “Assessment of a “New and Improved” Course for the Development of 3-D Spatial Skills,” Engineering Design Graphics Journal, 69(3) 10 (2005)

d.     Hoffman et al., “Nurture affects gender differences in spatial abilities,” PNAS, 108(36), 14786 (2011)

20) Debate continued; Single-sex education

a.      Eccles, “Where are all the Women?  Gender differences in participation in physical science and engineering,” Ch 15 (C&W)

b.     Halpern, “Science, Sex, and Good Sense:  Why women are underrepresented in some areas of science and math,” Ch 9 (C&W)

c.      Halpern et al., “The Pseudoscience of Single-Sex Schooling,” Science, 333, 1706 (2011)

d.     Eliot, “The Trouble with Sex Differences,” Neuron, 72, 895 (2011)

e.      Hoffnug, “Career and family outcomes for women graduates of single-sex versus coed colleges,” Sex Roles, 65, 680 (2011)

f.      Whitten, “What works for undergraduate women in physics?” Physics Today, 56, 46 (2003)

21) Conclusion from Ceci & Williams


Students are asked twice to follow up on a citation in one of the assigned papers and to share it with the class.


On some days, students were given a choice among papers or explicitly told to skim some of the papers.