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The New 
Science of 
Sex Difference 
Lisa Wade, PhD
Genes• Hormones • Brains
Genes• Hormones • Brains 
Culture • Interaction • Structure
Genes
Genes 
• Sex-linked 
• Sex-limited 
• Sex-influenced
Genes 
• Sex-linked 
• Sex-limited 
• Sex-influenced
Genes 
• Sex-linked 
• Sex-limited 
• Sex-influenced
Genes 
• Sex-linked 
• Sex-limited 
• Sex-influenced
Genes 
• Sex-linked 
• Sex-limited 
• Sex-influenced
Genes 
• Sex-linked 
• Sex-limited 
• Sex-influenced
Genes 
Blueprint?
Genes 
“…the organism has choices… If a 
problem is encountered, the thing has to 
figure out a solution. Sometimes the 
solution is fantastic, other times it is less 
so… If we didn’t have extensive overlap 
and redundancy in our genome, we 
wouldn’t be here at all.” 
- geneticist Mario Capecchi
Genes 
• 5% = the story 
• 95% = the storyteller
Genes 
• 5% = the story 
• 95% = the storyteller 
“What is written in our genes… is a very 
open-ended story.” 
- sociomedicist Rebecca Jordan-Young
Genes 
• 5% = the story 
• 95% = the storyteller 
“The sheer possibility of outcomes is 
“transcalculational, a mathematical term 
for mind boggling.” 
- geneticist Richard Strohman
Genes 
• 5% = the story 
• 95% = the storyteller 
Epigenetic tags: chemical changes to 
DNA that tell genes what to do.
Genes 
• 5% = the story 
• 95% = the storyteller
Genes 
GENES 
ARE 
AMAZING!
“…any living cell carries with it the 
experience of a billion years of 
experimentation by its ancestors. You 
cannot expect to explain so wise an old 
bird in a few simple words.” 
- biologist Max Delbrück 
Genes
Hormones 
1) Messengers in our chemical 
communication system.
Hormones 
Male vs. 
Female 
Hormones
Hormones 
• Organizational effects 
• Activational effects
Hormones 
• Organizational effects 
• Activational effects
Hormones 
• Organizational effects 
• Activational effects
Hormones 
• Organizational effects 
• Activational effects
Hormones 
1) Messengers in our chemical 
communication system. 
2) Mechanisms of social interaction.
Hormones 
1) Messengers in our chemical 
communication system. 
2) Mechanisms of social interaction.
Hormones 
1) Messengers in our chemical 
communication system. 
2) Mechanisms of social interaction.
Brains
Brains 
• Small average sex differences in: 
– brain anatomy 
–composition 
– function 
– size 
– tissue ratios
Brains 
Brain 
lateralization
Brains 
• Brain plasticity: our brain’s ability to 
respond to the environment.
Brains 
• Functional plasticity: producing the same 
outcome in different ways.
Brains 
Brains might produce male- and female-typical 
outcomes, but they may “just as 
well do the exact opposite, that is, they 
may prevent sex differences in overt 
functions and behaviors by compensating 
for sex differences in physiology.” 
- neuroendocrinologist Geert De Vries
Brains 
The difference between people w/ and 
with/out training > than that between men + 
women.
Brains 
The Flynn 
Effect
Brains 
“The brain is basically a social organ.” 
- sociologist David Franks
TAKE HOME POINTS
TAKE HOME POINTS 
• We now know how social difference 
and inequality become embodied.
TAKE HOME POINTS 
• We now know how social difference 
and inequality become embodied. 
“Biology is, literally, the flesh and 
blood of society.” 
- Me
TAKE HOME POINTS 
• We now know how social difference 
and inequality become embodied. 
• So we can make powerful arguments 
against the naturalization of biological 
states.
TAKE HOME POINTS 
• We now know how social difference 
and inequality become embodied. 
• So we can make powerful arguments 
against the naturalization of biological 
states. 
• We can better understand how 
difference and inequality emerge, 
persist, and are changed.
TAKE HOME POINTS 
• We now know how social difference 
and inequality become embodied. 
• So we can make powerful arguments 
against the naturalization of biological 
states. 
• We can better understand how 
difference and inequality emerge, 
persist, and are changed. 
• Helps explain why sex differences 
research has been so… anticlimatic.
TAKE HOME POINTS 
• Now we can use biological research to 
add urgency to feminist efforts…
TAKE HOME POINTS 
• Now we can use biological research to 
add urgency to feminist efforts… 
• … by showing just how deep oppression 
goes and how very unjust it is.
Lisa Wade, PhD 
• lisa-wade.com 
• t:@lisawade 
• fb:/lisawadephd 
Thanks! 
Image credits to attackofthecute.com, theilovedogssite.com, 
schizophrenia.com, ileeh, zastavki.com, + freshboo.com.

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Lisa Wade - The New Science of Sex Difference

  • 1. The New Science of Sex Difference Lisa Wade, PhD
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • 4.
  • 6. Genes• Hormones • Brains Culture • Interaction • Structure
  • 8. Genes • Sex-linked • Sex-limited • Sex-influenced
  • 9. Genes • Sex-linked • Sex-limited • Sex-influenced
  • 10. Genes • Sex-linked • Sex-limited • Sex-influenced
  • 11. Genes • Sex-linked • Sex-limited • Sex-influenced
  • 12. Genes • Sex-linked • Sex-limited • Sex-influenced
  • 13. Genes • Sex-linked • Sex-limited • Sex-influenced
  • 15.
  • 16. Genes “…the organism has choices… If a problem is encountered, the thing has to figure out a solution. Sometimes the solution is fantastic, other times it is less so… If we didn’t have extensive overlap and redundancy in our genome, we wouldn’t be here at all.” - geneticist Mario Capecchi
  • 17. Genes • 5% = the story • 95% = the storyteller
  • 18. Genes • 5% = the story • 95% = the storyteller “What is written in our genes… is a very open-ended story.” - sociomedicist Rebecca Jordan-Young
  • 19. Genes • 5% = the story • 95% = the storyteller “The sheer possibility of outcomes is “transcalculational, a mathematical term for mind boggling.” - geneticist Richard Strohman
  • 20. Genes • 5% = the story • 95% = the storyteller Epigenetic tags: chemical changes to DNA that tell genes what to do.
  • 21. Genes • 5% = the story • 95% = the storyteller
  • 22.
  • 23. Genes GENES ARE AMAZING!
  • 24. “…any living cell carries with it the experience of a billion years of experimentation by its ancestors. You cannot expect to explain so wise an old bird in a few simple words.” - biologist Max Delbrück Genes
  • 25. Hormones 1) Messengers in our chemical communication system.
  • 26. Hormones Male vs. Female Hormones
  • 27. Hormones • Organizational effects • Activational effects
  • 28. Hormones • Organizational effects • Activational effects
  • 29. Hormones • Organizational effects • Activational effects
  • 30. Hormones • Organizational effects • Activational effects
  • 31. Hormones 1) Messengers in our chemical communication system. 2) Mechanisms of social interaction.
  • 32. Hormones 1) Messengers in our chemical communication system. 2) Mechanisms of social interaction.
  • 33. Hormones 1) Messengers in our chemical communication system. 2) Mechanisms of social interaction.
  • 35. Brains • Small average sex differences in: – brain anatomy –composition – function – size – tissue ratios
  • 37. Brains • Brain plasticity: our brain’s ability to respond to the environment.
  • 38.
  • 39. Brains • Functional plasticity: producing the same outcome in different ways.
  • 40. Brains Brains might produce male- and female-typical outcomes, but they may “just as well do the exact opposite, that is, they may prevent sex differences in overt functions and behaviors by compensating for sex differences in physiology.” - neuroendocrinologist Geert De Vries
  • 41. Brains The difference between people w/ and with/out training > than that between men + women.
  • 43. Brains “The brain is basically a social organ.” - sociologist David Franks
  • 45. TAKE HOME POINTS • We now know how social difference and inequality become embodied.
  • 46. TAKE HOME POINTS • We now know how social difference and inequality become embodied. “Biology is, literally, the flesh and blood of society.” - Me
  • 47. TAKE HOME POINTS • We now know how social difference and inequality become embodied. • So we can make powerful arguments against the naturalization of biological states.
  • 48. TAKE HOME POINTS • We now know how social difference and inequality become embodied. • So we can make powerful arguments against the naturalization of biological states. • We can better understand how difference and inequality emerge, persist, and are changed.
  • 49. TAKE HOME POINTS • We now know how social difference and inequality become embodied. • So we can make powerful arguments against the naturalization of biological states. • We can better understand how difference and inequality emerge, persist, and are changed. • Helps explain why sex differences research has been so… anticlimatic.
  • 50. TAKE HOME POINTS • Now we can use biological research to add urgency to feminist efforts…
  • 51. TAKE HOME POINTS • Now we can use biological research to add urgency to feminist efforts… • … by showing just how deep oppression goes and how very unjust it is.
  • 52. Lisa Wade, PhD • lisa-wade.com • t:@lisawade • fb:/lisawadephd Thanks! Image credits to attackofthecute.com, theilovedogssite.com, schizophrenia.com, ileeh, zastavki.com, + freshboo.com.