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Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 3:41amSanction this postReply
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Robert, it's late at night, so I won't attempt to respond to your article now, except to say that I was fascinated by it. And I do want to tell you what a pleasure it was to read an article by an Objectivist containing novel ideas that was based solely on empirical evidence and did not derive from a single Objectivist principle, (I know, I know, "reason and objectivity." But I think you understand me.) It came as a real shock to me that I was moved almost to tears -- not by the content of the article but by its empiricism. I have felt that I was drowning in a sea of Objectivist rationalism.

Barbara

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Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 5:28amSanction this postReply
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Thanks for posting this, Robert.

I hope my fellow SOLO Local Club Coordinators chew and digest this information so they can share their thoughts about how we can employ this empirical data to our advantage.

I especially want to read comments from SOLO members raised outside the United States, particularly in non-Western countries, regarding how men and women process information.  Riding the Waves of Culture by Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars provides much insight into how different cultures affect cognitive development.

(Edited by Luther Setzer on 4/07, 6:01am)


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Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 6:26amSanction this postReply
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Barbara dear, I want to thank you for your wonderful response. I am very touched by it, and deeply appreciate that you appreciated the essay most for its "empiricism."

Let me confess to you and to other readers here that, regrettably, a significant part of that empirical evidence, for me, consists of the scars that I've accumulated over the years from my own foolish mistakes about male-female issues. (And to you psychological voyeurs out there -- no, I won't be more specific than that!)

Luke, thank you very much for dredging up this old, long-forgotten commentary and suggesting that I post it. I gave it only a very quick editing once-over, so there may be some rough edges that eluded me. (I'm sure that they won't elude others here, and that I'll hear all about them in coming days.)

(Edited by Robert Bidinotto on 4/07, 8:06am)


Post 3

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 6:27amSanction this postReply
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I believe that philosophy per se attracts far more males than females. So it doesn't surprise me that it's true for Objectivism. Objectivism probably attracts as many females as it does because, like you say, Ayn Rand's most successful vehicle for conveying her philosophy was her fiction, not her nonfiction.



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Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 6:35amSanction this postReply
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Robert,

Thank you for posting this.  I like the way you handled the subject, and the insights you provided. 

It's interesting to me that I found myself thinking throughout the article "This is fascinating.  Can you alternate between both cognitive styles?  How can you accomplish that?" 

Identifying a problem, unabashedly entertaining the possible causes, isolating those causes that make sense, and suggesting solutions - what a great approach!

Jason


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Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 6:42amSanction this postReply
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Merlin, I would hypothesize that one reason philosophy attracts more men than women is precisely because it is an analytical discipline.

Jason, thank you for the kind comment. As to whether someone can be...well, cognitively ambidextrous, to coin a phrase--facile in both analysis and creativity--of course. As one example, consider the originator of the philosophy we celebrate here.


Post 6

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 7:20amSanction this postReply
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I must admit that this text represents perfectly my own assessments of many women of the other sex. They really tend to be more interested in good stories about the implications of a value, rather than see just a catalog of factual evidence without the "personal" example.

This field of woman thought is called "CARE-Ethics" in Germany and was a field of sociology and psychology that was investigate in the latter part of the last century.
One of my Gymnasium teachers in philosophy was one of the major contributors and defenders of CARE-ethics or mainly women ethics and methology.

I will see whether I can obtain a bit of information about it and give you some examples about the science done on this subject.


Post 7

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 7:30amSanction this postReply
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Amen to your article.  For years, I have been put down for insisting that men and women will react differently.  That hasn't always gone over too well.  The fact is, women usually think in "broader" (sorry, no pun intended) terms while men think  more "inward," i.e., they'll focus on one thing and run with it without alway seeing the larger picture.

I'm guessing we need both kinds of "thinking," so no one should claim he/she thinks better.

Let's just be grateful for anyone who thinks at all!!.

Ginny


Post 8

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 7:31amSanction this postReply
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Very enlightening, Robert.  I should add that another exampling of the combining left/right brain is in the area of Art, where - to work off of Rand's statement that 'art is the technology of the soul' - the artist is as such a Spiritual Visualizer, an integrator of those two different manners or modes of thinking... this has been especially noticed in the commentings about Michael's works.... and it explains a commenting made many years ago about my works, that I couldn't be an Objectivist artist because my works 'had feeling'....

Post 9

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 7:36amSanction this postReply
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Excellent Robert! But when you write:

"...at minimum you should to your ďprogram mixĒ the kinds of values (social and experiential) ...
That means adding films, arts excursions, fiction discussions, poetry readings, self-help speakers, parties, dances, etc., to what you do."

Are you suggesting that objectivist meetings should incorporate more [GASP] fun???!?

If so, then AMEN!

PS. I don't know that women like self-help speakers just because of what comes out of their mouths.
Rather that the successful male of the self-help species tends to be 6 ft tall, well built, well groomed, well dressed, confident, and charming. In other words they are rather rootable - from the female's point of view.
I personally think they should all be shot, but then I may be biased.


Post 10

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 7:39amSanction this postReply
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Thanks, Max. Anything you could add to this would be appreciated.

I think one of the biggest impediments many Objectivists might have to accepting what I'm saying here is, ironically, the very psychoepistemological method I am describing! Our mental methodologies are our characteristic, habitual ways of processing information. If they confront information presented in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable format, the data tends to get filtered out, and any conclusions drawn from it are resisted.

For example, if one operates on the premise that there is only "one right way" to think -- the typical m.o. of the "analytical" mindset -- then much of what I have said, which is not deductively but empirically based, won't seem "convincing."

On the other hand, one of the greatest obstacles to understanding Objectivism by those with a more "synthetic" m. o. is that typical presentations of the philosophy are in the form of deductive arguments, definitions,  syllogisms. These don't seem "real" or convincing to more empirically grounded people: they far more readily grasp (and find convincing) presentations loaded with concrete examples, colorful metaphors, allegories,  and stories, or which are related to their own personal experiences.

Knowing this -- and figuring out which kind of persons we are dealing with -- will go a long way toward making our own communication more effective, broadening its appeal and enhancing public understanding.


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Post 11

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 7:43amSanction this postReply
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*Sigh*

 

Why didnít this topic go away? Why this article has to be thrown on my face and all other female SOLOists here? Who are you intended audience?

 

I just want to say one thing. Yes, there are massive and distinct biological difference between men and women. However, in your article, Robert, have you carefully examined which of those differences are indeed inborn characters and which are the results of the influence of the environment?

 

For example, when you said ďdiffering cognitive styles that are typically (though not exclusively) preferred by the two sexes, respectivelyĒ and ďMen tend to be more focused in single directions, women more exploratoryĒ. Ok, Iíll assume itís may be true. But when you continued ďMen, for example, tend to be more aggressively career-focused and -driven, with relationships taking a back seat; women, the reverse. Men tend to be less altruistic, more aggressive, more interested in financial success, more fascinated by technology, less interested in spirituality, than are women.Ē How did the studies sift out the environment influence in such observations? Especially for those girls growing up in a culture dominated by the male mind set in Western history, literature, and just everyday contact with people like you and Luke?

 

I have obviously lived in a completely different world. Luke asked for opinions from people raised in different cultures, and perhaps from another gender? Why donít we just look at some concrete examples here? Why donít we dissect that of Ayn Randís life? I can attest that women like Rand do exist; they are among scientists, professors, entrepreneurs, etc. They are among my mentors, my colleagues, my friends, other scientists that I know, and female SOLOists Iíve seen here.

 
But whatís the point?! Youíve already claimed that these would be the exceptions, which only proves the rule. Yes, we may be exceptional, and you are obviously not.


Post 12

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 7:46amSanction this postReply
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Ginny: All I can say in reply is Viva la difference!
 
Robert Malcolm: You are dead-on correct about this integration as a necessary aspect in art. In fact, I heartily recommend Arthur Koestler's The Act of Creation, in which he explores the Synthesizer/creative mental methodology, finding it shared in artistic creation, scientific invention and in humor. A brilliant book.

Robert Winefield: "Fun"? You're right...gee, what was I thinking?

You're also right about the real appeal of hunky male self-help speakers to women.

Damn them to hell!


Post 13

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 7:49amSanction this postReply
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Thats very interesting, as ACT OF CREATION is a book read ever so many years ago, and still on my bookshelf.....

Post 14

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 8:04amSanction this postReply
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Hong, I'm not entirely clear about your point, and I apologize for that.

I do think most of the women here are exceptional, in their philosophical interests and in their more analytical tendencies.

I don't think that the male-female differences in typical cognitive styles are entirely accountable by reference to cultural environment/upbringing, however. For one thing, that explanation leads us only to an infinite regress in time: What is the original historical source of these supposed culturally-dependent differences? Second, it doesn't explain why these distinctions appear to be trans-cultural, in fact virtually universal (except, perhaps, for very tiny subcultures scattered here and there). If there wasn't some biological basis for them, why would similar cultural manifestations of these differences appear to arise spontaneously, in so many diverse, segregated cultures across the globe?

I conclude that there must be some biological component to these psychological differences (or tendencies, if you will). That does NOT mean one sex is more "rational" than the other. Thinking requires both inductive perceptual experience and abstract deductive analysis. That an individual (or sex) may find one or the other element of this complex process more comfortable and pleasant, or may have a greater facility for it, doesn't equate to "irrationalism" -- any more than being right or left-handed equates to a "handicap." I prefer to think of it as a strength, not a deficit.

I don't know if I am remotely addressing what may be bothering you about my little essay; so please feel free to steer me closer to your areas of concern.


Post 15

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 8:07amSanction this postReply
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Hong,

This is obviously a touchy subject, and I respect that; but it shouldn't be dismissed. 

I don't for a moment get the impression that Robert is arguing that there are inevitable, uncontrollable differences in the way men and women think.  What I gather from his article is this:  There are differences in the way that men and women think in our current society and possibly in our societal history. There are host of reasons why these differences may exist, and I don't think Robert is assuming they are biological reasons - they could very well have to do with the enforcements and responses men and women receive growing up; given different treatment by parents/role models or a different "growing-up" environment, and a man or a women could turn out differently.  Conscious choice at some point, and a conscious effort to think in a different manner, can't be ruled out either.

But Robert isn't trying to address how boy children and girl children are treated or should be treated.  He's addressing a problem in Objectivist circles and he's proposing solutions for things as they are now; and given things as they are now, there are definite differences between the majority of men and the majority of women.  Are they inborn?  Most likely not.  Do they exist? Most emphatically yes.

Jason


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Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 8:11amSanction this postReply
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Jason, I posted my preceding remarks just as you were posting yours. I think that the question of the source of the cognitive distinctions, while an interesting question, is far less important than how we think about them, and what we do about them. In that, we are exactly on the same page. We need to take the fact of these differences into account when we communicate, and when we set up social institutions, if we wish to do both more successfully.

Post 17

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 8:19amSanction this postReply
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Hong wrote:
I have obviously lived in a completely different world. Luke asked for opinions from people raised in different cultures, and perhaps from another gender? Why donít we just look at some concrete examples here? Why donít we dissect that of Ayn Randís life? I can attest that women like Rand do exist; they are among scientists, professors, entrepreneurs, etc. They are among my mentors, my colleagues, my friends, other scientists that I know, and female SOLOists Iíve seen here.
Hong, your argument comes full circle.  The study Robert cited centered on American men and women.  My question is: Why do American men and women process information differently?  Does this happen globally in all cultures?  How much gets dictated by genetics?  How much by upbringing?

Other SOLO Forum discussions have addressed confirmation bias in such studies regarding predispositions of the genders to various fields of interest.  Adam Reed noted in that discussion:
The scientific evidence for the alleged innate differences is much weaker and much more fragmentary than evidence against. Even the vaunted superiority of boys on tests of mathematical abilities is very dependent on where you test: in Iceland, girls consistently outscore boys on all tests of the several mathematical abilities.
As a side note, I have read that homosexual men and women have brain structures considerably different from their heterosexual counterparts.  For example, straight women and gay men tend to have more connections between the two hemispheres of their brains than do straight men.  I recall some structural brain difference between gay women and straight women as well, but I cannot remember the details.  Perhaps our resident neuroscientists can comment on this.  Do these discoveries mean anything at all regarding cognitive methods?

I would also like to note that even in the Objectivist community, prejudices exist regarding gender and career.  One of my fellow engineers, a highly competent woman, left her husband to join her lesbian lover.  When I shared this with a female Objectivist in an online chat, her first reply was: "Female engineers are like that."  Aaaaarrrrrrgggghhhhh!  Nearly all of the women engineers I know are very straight and many of those are married with children.  Sometimes, there is just no telling what persons labelling themselves as "Objectivist" really think.


Post 18

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 8:25amSanction this postReply
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P. S. to my post to Hong:

Re-reading your post, I just want to emphasize that I have no emotional investment in the outcome of the "nature-nurture" debate on this matter, one way or the other. Really. I'm presenting facts and observations that to me seem to suggest that there is a "nature" component at work here, as well as the more obvious "nurture" influences. But if it is one day proved that it's all one or the other, I don't really care.

My primary interests are in recognizing the fact of such differences -- whatever their source -- and the facts that these differences have many important cultural manifestations, and have many implications for effective communication and social organization.


Post 19

Thursday, April 7, 2005 - 8:28amSanction this postReply
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Luke wrote,
As a side note, I have read that homosexual men and women have brain structures considerably different from their heterosexual counterparts.
There have indeed been studies done on this subject; the differences found weren't very considerable actually; and the studies themselves are highly questionable.  There were inconsistencies and contradictions, as well as concerns over how the samples subjects were obtained.

Jason


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