Neuroethics

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 319–330

New Research, Old Problems: Methodological and Ethical Issues in fMRI Research Examining Sex/Gender Differences in Emotion Processing

Original Paper

Abstract

Neuroscience research examining sex/gender differences aims to explain behavioral differences between men and women in terms of differences in their brains. Historically, this research has used ad hoc methods and has been conducted explicitly in order to show that prevailing gender roles were dictated by biology. I examine contemporary fMRI research on sex/gender differences in emotion processing and argue that it, too, both uses problematic methods and, in doing so, reinforces gender stereotypes.

Keywords

Neuroimaging fMRI Epistemology Sex/gender differences Philosophy of science 

References

  1. 1.
    Sayers, J. 1990. Biological Politics: Feminist and Anti-feminist Perspectives. London: Tavistock Publications.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Tavris, C. 1993. The Mismeasure of Woman. New York: Touchstone Books.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Larimore, W., and L. Barb. 2008. His Brain, Her Brain: How Divinely Designed Differences Can Strengthen Your Marriage. Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan Press.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Fine, C. 2010. Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Brizendine, L. 2007. The Female Brain. New York: Broadway Books.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Baron-Cohen, S. 2004. The Essential Difference: Male and Female Brains and the truth about Autism. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Young, R.M., and E. Balaban. 2006. Psychoneuroindoctrinology. Nature 443: 634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Liberman, 2007. The first time? Language Log. http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004691.html accessed October 18, 2011.
  9. 9.
    Grossi, G., and C. Fine. (forthcoming). The role of fetal testosterone in the development of “the essential difference” between the sexes: Some essential issues. To appear in R Bluhm, A Jacobsen and H Maibom (Eds), Neurofeminism: Issues at the Intersection of Feminist Theory and Cognitive Neuroscience. Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Brody, L. 1999. Gender, Emotion, and the Family. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Poline, J.-B., B. Thirion, A. Roche, and S. Meriaux. 2010. Intersubject variability in fMRI data: Causes, consequences, and related analysis strategies. In Foundational Issues in Human Brain Mapping, ed Stephen J Hanson and Martin Bunzl. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Guy, C.V.O., and K.R. Paap. 1997. Functional neuroimages fail to discover pieces of mind in parts of the brain. Philosophy of Science 64: S85–S94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Uttal, W.R. 2003. The new phrenology: The limits of localizing cognitive processes in the brain. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Coltheart, M. 2006. What has functional neuroimaging told us about the mind (so far)? Cortex 42: 422–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Coltheart, M. 2006. Perhaps functional neuroimaging has not told us anything about the mind (so far). Cortex 42: 323–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Roskies, A.L. 2009. Brain-mind and structure-function relationships: A methodological response to Coltheart. Philosophy of Science 76(5): 927–939.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Roskies, A.L. 2010. Saving subtraction: A reply to Van Orden and Paap. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61(3): 635–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Schneider, F., U. Habel, C. Kessler, J.B. Salloum, and S. Posse. 2000. Gender differences in regional cerebral activity during sadness. Human Brain Mapping 9: 226–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Schienle, A., A. Schäfer, R. Stark, B. Walter, and D. Vaitl. 2005. Gender differences in the processing of disgust- and fear-inducing pictures: an fMRI study. NeuroReport 16: 277–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Domes, G., L. Schulze, M. Böttger, A. Grossmann, K. Hauenstein, P.H. Wirtz, M. Heinrichs, and S.C. Herpertz. 2010. The neural correlates of sex differences in emotion reactivity and emotion regulation. Human Brain Mapping 31: 758–769.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    McRae, K., K.N. Ochsner, I.B. Mauss, J.J.D. Gabrieli, and J.J. Gross. 2008. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations 11(2): 145–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Derntl, B., U. Habel, C. Windischberger, S. Robinson, I. Kryspin-Exner, R.C. Gur, and E. Moser. 2009. General and specific responsiveness of the amygdala during explicit emotion recognition in females and males. BMC Neuroscience 10: 91. doi:10.1186/1471-2202-10-91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Shirao, N., Y. Okamoto, T. Mantani, Y. Okamoto, and S. Yamawaki. 2005. Gender differences in brain activity generated by unpleasant word stimuli concerning image: an fMRI study. The British Journal of Psychiatry 186: 48–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Hofer, A., M.S. Christina, A. Ischebeck, M.A. Retenbacher, M. Verius, S. Felber, and W.W. Fleischhacker. 2006. Gender differences in regional cerebral activity during the perception of emotion. NeuroImage 32: 854–862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Lee, T.M.C., H.-L. Lieu, R. Hoosain, W.-T. Liao, C.-T. Wu, K. Slyuen, C.C.H. Chan, P.T. Fox, and J.-H. Gao. 2002. Gender differences in neural correlates of recognition of happy and sad faces in humans assessed by functional magnetic resonance imaging. Neuroscience Letters 333: 13–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kaiser, A., S. Haller, S. Schmitz, and C. Nitsch. 2009. On sex/gender related similarities and differences in fMRI language research. Brain Research Reviews 61(2): 49–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Sander, N., B.U. Forstmann, and E.-J. Wagenmakers. 2011. Erroneous analyses of interactions in neuroscience: a problem of significance. Nature Neuroscience 14: 1105–1107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Ino, T., R. Nakai, T. Azuma, T. Kimura, and H. Fukuyama. 2010. Gender differences in brain activation during encoding and recognition of male and female faces. Brain Imaging and Behavior 4: 55–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Cooney, R.E., J. Joorman, F. Eugène, E.L. Dennis, and H.I. Gotlib. 2010. Neural correlates of rumination in depression. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience 10(4): 470–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Durston, S., and Casey, B.J. What have we learned about cognitive development from neuroimaging? Neuropsychologia 44(11):2149–2157.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    deVries, G.J. 2004. Minireview: Sex differences in adult and developing brains: compensation, compensation, compensation. Endocrinology 145(3): 1063–1068.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Fivush, R., M.A. Brotman, J.P. Buckner, and S.H. Goodman. 2000. Gender differences in parent-child emotion narratives. Sex Roles 42: 233–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Adams, S., J. Kuebli, P.A. Boyle, and R. Fivush. 1995. Gender differences in parent-child conversations about past emotions: A longitudinal investigation. Sex Roles 33: 309–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Egan, F., and R.J. Matthews. 2006. Doing cognitive science: A third way. Synthese 153(3): 337–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Bressler, Stephen L, and A. Randall McIntosh. 2007. The role of neural context in large-scale neurocognitive network operations. In Handbook of Brain Connectivity ed Viktor K Jirsa and A Randall McIntosh. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Klein, C. 2010. Images are not the evidence in neuroimaging. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 61(2): 265–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Hanson, S.J., and M. Bunzl (eds.). 2010. Foundational Issues in Human Brain Mapping. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ashby, F.Gregory. 2011. Statistical analysis of fMRI data. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Scott, H.A., A.W. Song, and G. McCarthy. 2008. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 2nd ed. Sunderland MA: Sinauer Associates, Inc.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Weisberg, D.S. 2008. Caveat lector: The presentation of neuroscience information in the popular media. The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practices. 6(1): 51–56.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Beck, D.M. 2010. The appeal of the brain in the popular press. Perspectives on Psychological Science 5(6): 762–766.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Weisberg, D.S., F.C. Keil, J. Goodstein, E. Rawson, and J.R. Gray. 2008. The seductive allure of neuroscience explanations. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 29(3): 470–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    McCabe, D., and Castel, A. Seeing is believing: The effect of brain images on judgments of scientific reasoning. Cognition. 107: 343–352.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Brescoll, V., and M. LaFrance. 2004. The correlates and consequences of newspaper reports of research on sex differences. Psychological Science 15(8): 515–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Racine, E., O. Bar-Ilan, and J. Illes. 2005. fMRI in the public eye. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 6(2): 159–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Roskies, A.L. 2008. Neuroimaging and inferential distance. Neuroethics 1(1): 19–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Meynell, L. 2012. The politics of pictured reality: Locating the object from nowhere in fMRI. Forthcoming in Neurofeminism: Issues at the Intersection of Feminist Theory and Cognitive Science edited by R. Bluhm, A.J. Jacobson, and H. Maibom. Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Illes, J., M. Moser, J.B. McCormick, E. Racine, S. Blakeslee, A. Caplan, E.C. Hayden, J. Ingram, T. Lowater, P. McKnight, C. Nicholson, A. Phillips, K.D. Sauvé, E. Snell, and S. Weiss. 2010. NeuroTalk: Improving the communication of neuroscience. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 11(1): 61–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Shields, S.A. 2002. Speaking from the Heart: Gender and the Social Meaning of Emotion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Plant, E.A., J.S. Hyde, D. Keltner, and P.G. Devine. 2000. The gender stereotyping of emotion. Psychology of Women Quarterly 24: 81–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Timmers, M., A.H. Fischer, and A.S.R. Manstead. 2003. Ability versus vulnerability: Beliefs about men’s and women’s emotional behavior. Cognition and Emotion 17: 41–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Religious StudiesOld Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA

Personalised recommendations