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Evolution, brains and the predicament of sex in human cognition1

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This article aims to help to break the academic impasse which still stifles the possibilities for an informed debate between feminist psychologists, anthropologists, archaeologists and biologists on one side and evolutionary psychologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, neuroscientists and biologists on the other. Arguing that mainstream feminist theory inherited a theory of knowledge in which the body is divided into an under-theorized biological body/brain and a free-floating cultural grid that structures collective representations, the author seeks to show why Cartesian dualism remains unsolved, in spite of its contested ontological status in feminist research. The diverging analysis and conclusions in two recent books on sex and cognition by Doreen Kimura and Lesley Rogers are then analysed. The paper concludes that a natural history approach to spatial abilities remains valid and worthy of intensified investigation even if the current evidence of sex differences in certain brain functions is not very robust and the assumption of a rigid sexual division in a distant hominid past remains dubious at this stage of research.
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Keywords: evolution; feminist theory; sex; spatial cognition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Chr. Michelsen Institute

Publication date: 2003-12-01

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