Male and female children prefer different toys and games, even when they are only a few months old. As they grow up, the differences between the sexes also show up in their school and job choices. Are we really all that different? And if so, why? Is it nature or culture that determines these differences? The process of sexual differentiation, that transforms an embryo into female or male, is activated by innate factors but is completed by hormones. Less is known about what causes other differences, such as cognitive ones, but recent studies have shown that such differences have been diminishing significantly over the last few decades, especially in countries featuring greater equality between the sexes. Not nature alone, then?
Raffaella Rumiati teaches Cognitive Neuroscience at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste.