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No evidence that testosterone reduces cognitive empathy (upenn.edu)
427 points by elorant 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 236 comments



Abstract of the original paper:

> The capacity to infer others' mental states (known as ‘mind reading’ and ‘cognitive empathy’) is essential for social interactions across species, and its impairment characterizes psychopathological conditions such as autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia. Previous studies reported that testosterone administration impaired cognitive empathy in healthy humans, and that a putative biomarker of prenatal testosterone exposure (finger digit ratios) moderated the effect. However, empirical support for the relationship has relied on small sample studies with mixed evidence. We investigate the reliability and generalizability of the relationship in two large-scale double-blind placebo-controlled experiments in young men (n = 243 and n = 400), using two different testosterone administration protocols. We find no evidence that cognitive empathy is impaired by testosterone administration or associated with digit ratios. With an unprecedented combined sample size, these results counter current theories and previous high-profile reports, and demonstrate that previous investigations of this topic have been statistically underpowered.

From: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2019.106...


This abstract exhibits a trifecta of clarity, specificity, and interest.

Bravo.


So... is this a tentative win for the nurture crowd then? Or did they strictly only show that there is no correlation between testosterone, without going into alternative options?

EDIT: glaugh's comment[0] explains why it is not. TLDR: this research debunks earlier research with a similar scope, but more long-term effects of testosterone are not accounted for.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21143846


Nature versus nurture is such a boring debate, honestly. The driving force behind the nature versus nurture debate seems to be people attempting to use science to justify their positions on pop philosophy, but the science rarely actually connects to the pop philosophy position. It's basically: take a specific scientific fact, try to use it to prove a very nonspecific idea (nature or nurture?) and then use that nonspecific idea to prove a very specific idea (for example: criminals can be rehabilitated because it's their nurture, not their nature, that causes them to commit crimes). But that's just thinly-veiled Bulverism: we can just study those specific ideas directly (we know that current rehabilitation methods work well for some crimes and not for others) and the very general ideas of nature versus nurture add nothing to the conversation.

Tell that to the people who study the heritability of intelligence. There are some nasty pieces of work in that field.

EDIT: I should clarify: I agree with your point. This is not stopping actual brain scientists from making really disturbing claims about genetic determinism, completely oblivious to their own political leanings. I'm speaking from experience of having shared departments with them.


>(we know that current rehabilitation methods work well for some crimes and not for others)

Somewhat off-topic but I find this interesting, can you elaborate on which ones we know this for?


I don't have anything resembling a full list, but rehabilitation seems to be effective for drug-related crimes[1]. I was going to say that sex offenders seem resistant to rehabilitation, but apparently that is no longer the case[2] (good news!). The cited meta-analysis of studies from 1995-2002 found little-no benefit from rehabilitation then, but the 2015 meta-analysis I linked shows rehabilitation to have "proven" or at least "promising" results--this is probably due to progress in rehabilitation methods.

It's widely believed that serial killers can't be rehabilitated, but as far as I can tell there really isn't data to back that up (most of them stay in jail forever, so we don't have recidivism data). So I don't think we can add serial killers to the list of non-rehabilitatable (sp?) crimes.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recidivism#Drug-related_crime

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25575803


I don't think nature vs. nurture is a good way of thinking about complicated biological phenomena. For example, take height. We know from recent GWAS[0] that many genes are associated with height[1]. We also know that poor nutrition in early life will lead to severe stunting, regardless of genetics.

My model for thinking about these things is genes delimit the scope of possibilities, environment (some of which is prenatal or early childhood and very hard to change) determines what possibilities turn into reality.

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genome-wide_association_study

[1]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30124842


Another victim in the "replication crisis" bloodbath for psychology.

Personally, I'm probably going to wait 5 years before I believe any psychology science claim. Especially if it confirms something I already believe in :)


Yes, this has been a disaster that will be written about in the history books. I hope they take down all the TED talks about these papers that have been debunked.

In hindsight, it is kind of funny in a dark-humor way.


What is the rate of failure for "harder" sciences, does anyone know?

In saying that I think there will be a self correcting mechanism in more physically based science. If something can be replicated it can be built upon and new discoveries made. If something can't be replicated it will end up being forgotten about.

Also I do think that science needs a way of reporting failed studies and failed replication. At the moment all the glory and funding go to studies that produce positive results. Producing a failed result is still valid science and should be doccumented.


In all my time in academia, in my discipline (cross between engineering and physics), I never heard anyone try to replicate a study. No advisor would allow students to "waste" time on it.

They were also pretty open in vocalizing that they didn't believe the result in paper X in journal Y. They knew the problem existed.


There has been some attempt at this, with the SURE journal for unsurpising economics outcomes being one example.

Unfortunately, this approach seems to be at odds with the incentive structure in academia


Pretty sure dead and unconscious things are way easier to do objective science on.

Psychology must be one of the hardest disciplines to design experiments for.


It's a kind HN received wisdom that all psychology studies are false or invalid.

Personally, I see this blanket dismissal as one of the blind spots of our otherwise intelligent community.

Perhaps because so many of us are engineers, and that it strokes our egos to see the softer sciences fail?


> It's a kind HN received wisdom that all psychology studies are false or invalid.

Not ALL, but the replication crisis has demonstrated that at least 2/3 of such studies can't be replicated.

If you had a communication channel where 2/3 of your packets failed to deliver, I'd say a statement like "this channel isn't reliable" is very justified.


That's 2/3rd of medical research paper where the standards are the highest. I'd be shocked if the rate was only a mere 66% everywhere else. You'd have to be a fool to take on faith anything published today that wasn't replicated, hopefully more than once.

According to [1], replication rates in psychology varied from 23% to 38%. Social psychology was around 25%, while the more rigourous cognitive psychology was around 50%.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis#Psychology_...


Psychology is like trying to debug a program with nearly zero tools, not even a reliable ‘printf(..)’. I don’t think it’s ego-stroking so much as it is just frustration at the seemingly intractable complexity of human behaviour.

> trying to debug a program with nearly zero tools, not even a reliable ‘printf(..)’.

That's called kernel development (from scratch) :P


Dismissal ("that's not true") is different than skepticism ("I can't trust this to be true"). You're "ego" quip is not very charitable of this community--a more likely and more charitable interpretation is that people don't trust the fields that fail to reproduce, especially those fields that appear to be more interested in advancing an agenda than research (e.g., all of the drama around the implicit association test and it's alleged ability to predict racism, etc).

> You're "ego" quip is not very charitable of this community

And the blanket dismissal often posted here in a knee jerk reaction isn't very charitable to a whole body of research, that is arguably harder to operationalize than the hard sciences.

I'd prefer a more substantial discussion of the findings or paper at hand rather than to just bring up the replication crisis anytime any psychological finding is mentioned on HN.

I think many people on HN, myself included, are kind of addicted to appearing clever.

This tends to produce responses that earn us clever points with the least effort possible.

We've heard about the replication crisis a thousand times, we've heard about the Gell Mann effect. Neither of these alone constitute a substantive argument against a particular scientific paper or piece of journalism.

I'm waiting for someone to write a bot to post Gell Mann and Replication Crisis replies to every newspaper article or psychology paper. Maybe someone already has...


> And the blanket dismissal often posted here in a knee jerk reaction isn't very charitable to a whole body of research, that is arguably harder to operationalize than the hard sciences.

Credibility doesn’t depend on the relative difficulty of proving out truth claims. We don’t owe Psychology or Sociology blind faith because their claims are (arguably) more difficult to confirm than harder sciences.

You may well be bored of hearing about the replication crisis—you’re entitled to your opinion, but the low quality of the field of psychology is pretty relevant to the topic.

> I think many people on HN, myself included, are kind of addicted to appearing clever.

Apparently so are psychologists :) (kidding, I have lots of respect for psychologists and other researchers even if the fields themselves are prone to drawing bad conclusions)


you can call it whatever you want but if they can’t reproduce the findings the they are dangerous at best. Especially with a study as sexist as the original here.

> Perhaps because so many of us are engineers, and that it strokes our egos to see the softer sciences fail?

Just the "lol math is hard and statistics is annoying" crowd. Honestly the thing that pisses me off most about psychology students is how only a tiny fraction of them understands and gets the actual importance of hard statistics to their field.

But instead, it's almost accepted to trash the statistics courses as just these boring hurdles to get past by. And it's still cool to suck at math.


There are surely many valid ones.

Problem is, right now you can't tell which they are.


Then, wait another 15+ years before that claim stops being widely held and repeated as a justification for policy, business decisions, etc.

Wait, you did or you didn't believe this paper's psychology science claim? Why or why not? If we/you apply your criteria to other findings, will we find the good science?

Testosterone increases blood flow, it could be that the participants taking it got more alert meaning better scores but that testosterone also worsens results for similar alertness levels.


That's just not what the study studied. You can speculate but there is no evidence for that hypothesis in this paper.


I didn't say that this study proved it, I just meant that effects like that could cause the non-linear results reported and mess with studies.


Most of the effects of administering testosterone (at least to men with clinically low levels) take weeks or months to appear. For example, interest in sex takes 3+ weeks to increase.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3188848/

And much of the impact of testosterone happens in utero (Young boys and girls have similar levels; behavioral differences are driven by in utero exposure.)

This study seems to test a very narrow area where testosterone could influence empathy


So did the previous studies of testosterone exposure, from what I've understood. So, this study still serves perfectly well to debunk them.


You indirectly answered a question I had about what this means for the nature/nurture debate, thank you.


>In the largest study of its kind, results challenge the notion of autism as reflecting an “extreme male brain.”

I don't see how this is related, unless you think the only 'maleness' that can exist in a brain is testosterone levels. There are so many things that could be tested and analyzed here besides testosterone levels.


I believe this rationale originates from Simon Baron-Cohen who pioneered several salient in-vogue or influential ideas in psychology. He was the one who came up with the idea of autism reflecting an 'extreme male brain'. More specifically he kind of uses the term 'extreme male' as magnified version of 'male brain' which trends towards systematization rather than empathizing. Around the time he formulated these theories I believe he conducted some studies trying to correlate testosterone levels or exposures in early ages and ToM deficit or something like that. I believe his results have been repeatedly challenged, but perhaps not been utterly conclusive. This study perhaps may be the nail in the coffin.


Of course it's not the only 'maleness' that could be tested and analyzed, but the article say it is the one most strongly linked to autism.

> Prior to this work, the strongest evidence for a link between testosterone exposure and reduced cognitive empathy came in 2011 in a study that [...] supported the idea that prenatal testosterone exposure created a more masculinized brain that less readily inferred the emotional state of others. The study was used as support for the “extreme male brain” hypothesis of autism, which contends that autism is an exaggeration of “male” tendencies toward a cognitive style characterized by systemizing over empathizing.


What's cool is that if people take a more nuanced view of gender and sex than saying it can be measured by one test with only two options, it means they can't take the narrow view that either of those things are binary. Here's hoping!


I don't think that's what's being suggested at here at all. In the past few years, there has been an overemphasis on "maleness" being bad and leading to negative. In a lot of western social history (and even a lot of eastern societies) there has always been the concept of "the divine feminine" (Mother earth, goddesses and so fourth).

We've seen the growing emphasis of bad men and toxic masculinity; as if the man has a propensity for toxicity (anecdotally we've all known toxic people who were both men and women. They might generally be toxic in different ways, but that does change that no biological sex has a monopoly on being shitty human beings).

I think what's more interesting from the study is all the statements about correlation with small samples sizes. As mentioned by other comments, even this study doesn't seem remotely conclusive. It's focused on testosterone, because men generally have way more of it. I think it's more of a conversation starter on more research that should be done than anything else.


Toxic masculinity isn't "being masculine is bad" it's "being so caught up in social stereotypes of supposed masculinity that you become bad." Toxic masculinity vs. healthy masculinity. At least in people that use the phrase seriously that I've interacted with conversationally. Not to dispute that some people think maleness is inherently bad (or that the supposed duality of gender reflects a supposed duality of morality, what ever the sign of correlation). Those simplistic thinkers are very persistent.


I'm struggling to think of any aspects of masculinity that I could safely class as 'healthy' in the current climate.

For example, traditionally the view that males should be providers for the family would have been considered a healthy aspect of masculinity. That doesn't go unchallenged any more; for example there is a real concern out there that men are too competitive and effective at securing high paid jobs.

It is an anecdote I suppose, but those involved in the gender activist communities don't seem to allow such a thing as 'healthy masculinity' because it supposes there is something positive can be exclusively/predominantly masculine and the girls don't get involved. Bit of a non-starter as ideas go.


> For example, traditionally the view that males should be providers for the family would have been considered a healthy aspect of masculinity. That doesn't go unchallenged any more; for example there is a real concern out there that men are too competitive and effective at securing high paid jobs.

That isn't toxic masculinity, it's a gender norm. What would be toxically masculine about it, is if a man felt forced by society to fulfill that role, regardless of his own feelings and desires.

Feminists challenge that norm and the societal pressure that drives it, but there's nothing wrong or toxically masculine with a man doing that because he genuinely wants to and isn't forcing anyone else into a role.


> For example, traditionally the view that males should be providers for the family would have been considered a healthy aspect of masculinity. That doesn't go unchallenged any more; for example there is a real concern out there that men are too competitive and effective at securing high paid jobs.

I wonder if people in Asia and Africa feel the same. Or perhaps even in South-America. To me it seems to be mostly a "Western" issue. I live in Thailand and through the (admittedly limited) news sources I follow (Bangkok Post, South China Morning Post, ThaiVisa) there doesn't seem to be much discussion/concern here on gender, roles, what is and isn't toxic masculinity, etc...


Which is also interesting because of the "third" sex, the large number of katoeys (ladyboys) in the country. The last time I was there, there was a big demonstration to support and legally recognise them (a laudable aim). It seems Thai expression of sexuality and gender doesn't rely on a denigration of masculinity, which personally, I take as a clue to the legitimacy of efforts to do so in the Anglosphere.

What gender norm of either masculinity or femininity is healthy when taken to the extreme?

> those involved in the gender activist communities don't seem to allow such a thing as 'healthy masculinity' because it supposes there is something positive can be exclusively/predominantly masculine

What would you call people who would say that about femininity and feminine behavior? How do those views function together with the idea of gender equality, i.e. the state of valuing different behaviors, aspirations and needs equally, regardless of gender (definition copied from Wikipedia).


Is any bias towards one gender doing better in the workplace acceptable? If men and women perform equally and we balance outcomes as is a stated goal in many circles, how could a male full-fill their traditional gender norm as a provider?

This HN comment was the first time I've ever heard of anyone talking about 'healthy masculinity' in a context of the phrase 'toxic masculinity'. The entire thrust that I've heard is that having a unique or predominantly male role in society is what toxic masculinity means in practice.

The gender theorists will have their own internal world with a lot of nuance, but the stuff that is leaking out into law and corporate diversity initiatives looks a lot more like true gender blindness. The logical flip side of that, it is quite hard to construct a positive masculine role model. The raw physical differences suggest male strength, but any actual exercise of strength apart from showing off is probably either illegal, uneconomic or low status work (sporting excellence a glaring exception). Compare that to giving birth which is incentivised, an amazing long term economic investment into old age and quite high status (mothers occupy a special place in the world). It is simply a lot easier to construct a positive feminine image than a masculine one in a world where only physical realities make a difference and everything else is expected to be gender blind.

Obviously there are positive roles for males to fill, but the idea that they are masculine in some sense isn't really acceptable. Males can fill them in their capacities as humans, but they can't be distinguished from women. What can 'healthy masculinity' mean in such a world? Adding the word masculine in doesn't add anything. 'Healthy masculinity' is basically 'Healthy femininity'.


> The gender theorists will have their own internal world with a lot of nuance, but the stuff that is leaking out into law and corporate diversity initiatives looks a lot more like true gender blindness. The logical flip side of that, it is quite hard to construct a positive masculine role model.

Gender blindness in formal institutions does not prevent positive gendered role models.

Nor, even, does abandoning the social enforcement of gender stereotypes outside of formal institutions. Insofar as there are healthy expressions of classic gender images, producing examples of them does not require formal or informal social institutions to enforce classic gender roles or impose gender bias inspired by those roles.


This is a typical "motte and bailey" conversational strategy. The reality is, proponents of the idea of "toxic masculinity" provide almost no examples of "healthy masculinity" (or "toxic femininity").


>The reality is, proponents of the idea of "toxic masculinity" provide almost no examples of "healthy masculinity" (or "toxic femininity").

Almost any article you read about toxic masculinity and in every discussion where it comes up, proponents take pains to point out, often in laborious detail, and to futile effect, that the term isn't meant to assign toxicity to all masculine behaviors. One shouldn't need to provide a list of "non-toxic" masculine behaviors as well as a list of "toxic feminine" behaviors in order for the concept to be understood as presented.

The people using toxic masculinity in mainstream conversation to mean "all masculinity is toxic" are, primarily, its opponents, not its proponents.


Actually one should provide exactly that, because otherwise the concept can be used to justify bullying.

"I don't like what you're doing" can become "That's toxic male behaviour" - which immediately politicises and amplifies something that may be a trivial personal/domestic disagreement.

As for toxic femininity - it seems it cannot exist. See e.g.

https://geekfeminism.wikia.org/wiki/Toxic_femininity

...which explicitly states that toxic femininity doesn't exist as a political phenomenon, and where toxic behaviour does happen (hardly ever...) it's the fault of patriarchy.

In this view all toxic gender behaviour is caused by masculinity.

The line between that and "Masculine behaviour is inherently toxic (unless controlled and directed by women)" is a very thin one.

These definitions concentrate on tribal/political stereotyping, not on the behaviours themselves.

The idea that some behaviours are toxic - and it doesn't matter who is doing them - seems to be a conceptual leap too far in these contexts.


Pretty people has labeled all masculine traits as toxic, maybe not the same individuals but as a group they have. That is the problem with ill defined concepts, "toxic masculinity" is not a scientific term since people can interpret whatever they want as toxic.

A men's rights advocate could say that chivalry and self sacrifice is toxic masculinity since it puts a lot of unfair pressure on men.

A female feminist could say that locker room talk and objectification of women in games is toxic masculinity since it is hostile to women.

A male feminist could say that boys rough play is toxic masculinity since it hurts or leaves out those who want to do calmer things.

A pacifist could say that action games and contact sports are toxic masculinity since they promote violence.

A body image advocate could argue that huge muscles, strength and body building is toxic masculinity since it hurts the self esteem of overweight or scrawny men.

Divorced fathers could argue that traditional fatherhood as a money provider who aren't allowed to complain is toxic masculinity.

Extroverted people could argue that the male geek culture which avoid social contact toxic masculinity since they ruin the social atmosphere.

Introverted people could argue that male initiative taking for relationships is toxic masculinity since it bothers a lot of people who aren't interested.

Politicians could argue that male intellectual stubbornness and bias for action is toxic masculinity since it leads to shootings and terrorism.

So let me ask you, what part of masculinity can't be labeled toxic? I have seen all of the examples above in the wild. What are the examples of positive masculinity? Everyone has their own version of that as well. For example, many feminists thinks that positive masculinity is men helping women. But it is not healthy for men to be pressured to help women, so that masculine image is not very positive for men. Also I am pretty sure that there you can find people who would label any one of the above as positive masculinity. In other words, the term is meaningless as it is formulated today.


It would have made for a more persuasive rebuttal if you'd also included an example of non-toxic masculinity, don't you think?

Just one would do.


Seeking out mental health assistance more proactively, discussing mental health with their friends.

1. These aren't masculine traits.

2. You appear to be seeking out a personal argument with me, I suggest you desist.

tomlock 13 days ago [flagged]

1. I wish they were incorporated more into male identity because then maybe the male suicide rate would be lower. I've made an effort to make it a part of my masculinity and so have my friends.

2. I suggest you abandon your quest to read "toxic masculinity" as some evil conspiracy to vilify masculinity.


> 1. I wish they were incorporated more into male identity because then maybe the male suicide rate would be lower.

Behaviour, not identity.

> I've made an effort to make it a part of my masculinity and so have my friends.

Behaviour, not masculinity. Masculinity is "qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of men". I wish men would seek help when they're depressed but I'd rather that was a human trait than try and make it masculine through some Orwellian misnomer.

> 2. I suggest you abandon your quest to read "toxic masculinity" as some evil conspiracy to vilify masculinity.

I'm not on a quest, I dislike conspiracy theories, you didn't produce an example of non-toxic masculinity, and I do wish you'd learn how to stop daemonising those who disagree with you.

tomlock 12 days ago [flagged]

If you understood what toxic masculinity is you'd understand it entirely focuses on behaviour, and how those behaviours build male identity.

If only I understood! Please, supply a single example of non-toxic masculinity that doesn't require your redefinition of commonly understood words and maybe I'll be able to understand better. You can hardly blame me for misunderstanding something you fail so badly at elucidating.
tomlock 11 days ago [flagged]

Toxic masculinity refers to traditional cultural masculine norms that can be harmful to men, women, and society overall; this concept of toxic masculinity is not intended to demonize men or male attributes, but rather to emphasize the harmful effects of conformity to certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition.

Wikipedia


And the example of masculinity that is not toxic is…?

The behaviour I mentioned above, which runs counter to the "self-reliance" mentioned in an example in the definition.

Unfortunately the latter part of your comment, the part that you ascribe to 'simplistic thinkers', seems to be more canon these days rather than the more nuanced former part of the comment.


Most of things taken to an extreme get toxic and there is such thing as toxic femininity. There is the divine feminine, but please do not forget that most of the deities or gods were actually male. To me what you're saying seems like a big over generalization.


Can you make this point without using the word "toxic"? Because it's so meaningless and inflammatory ...

The concept of toxic masculinity is actually one you ought to be in favour of. Toxic masculinity as a general rule makes no deterministic link between toxicity and being a particular biological sex - of which there are many different configurations.


Sex is binary, with the exception some extremely rare cases of non XY / XX chromosome options.

Gender used to be a synonym for sex until the language got hijacked in the last few years to try and make it mean "gender identity" for political reasons.


If there's cases that don't fit the simplistic binary, the more accurate and comprehensive view is that it's not binary.


I agree. To say it's overwhelmingly binary would be more accurate.
tomlock 13 days ago [flagged]

I agree. And since I both care about minorities and don't care to deeply interrogate people's medical histories, I'm ok with calling people whatever the heck they want to be called. No skin off my elbows. It'd be pretty silly if we thought the arguably more objective sex characteristics of a person were not binary but thought that their gender had to be binary, wouldn't it?

> And since I both care about minorities

To imply that those who don't wish to act the way you wish them to don't care about minorities is invidious and not supported by any evidence I've seen.

> I'm ok with calling people whatever the heck they want to be called.

As are most people until they are compelled.

> It'd be pretty silly if we thought the arguably more objective sex characteristics of a person were not binary but thought that their gender had to be binary, wouldn't it?

Would it? If, as some do, we posit that there can be an infinite number of genders or even a large number like… 42, are there 42 different categories of sex? If not, and I don't believe there are, then it's possible for multiple sexes to fit into a gender category and multiple genders into a sex category. You could probably fit all 42 into male and female and cut out a lot absurdities.

I'd go for 3, male, female and 3rd sex. Come up with a better name if you like.

tomlock 13 days ago [flagged]

> To imply that those who don't wish to act the way you wish them to don't care about minorities is invidious and not supported by any evidence I've seen.

It is if how I wish them to act is to care about minorities, like for instance the population that is not a part of, in your words, the population that's "overwhelmingly binary" - aka a minority, by definition.

> As are most people until they are compelled.

So you're ok with calling people what they want to be called. Nice!

> You could probably fit all 42 into male and female and cut out a lot absurdities.

Why do you, of all the people in the world, get to decide what is and isn't absurd? Is there a particular scientific method you're using to define absurdity?

> I'd go for 3, male, female and 3rd sex. Come up with a better name if you like.

I'd suggest if you need a better name for people that are neither male nor female you educate yourself. Lumping people into "other" isn't particularly useful for those people or even descriptive.


> Why do you, of all the people in the world, get to decide what is and isn't absurd?

I get to decide what I think is absurd, because:

a) I'm free. b) I would still value my opinion as good enough for me even if I wasn't.

To think otherwise would be absurd, and the irony of being told this by one who wishes to impose their view upon others else they be othered is, at the very least, amusing.

> It is if how I wish them to act is to care about minorities

You're running around in circles now and thus, there is little point in continuing.


Why do you even bother to share your very free personal own opinion if you can't argue it in a broader context? If you're going to pose something as a general objective idea, then backpedal and defending it as only your very own personal views which you are entitled to hold but really if they have no bearing on the general context of discussion you might as well not share it because who wants to hear this?

It appears that you are misinterpreting the form of my argument because you don’t understand how people who aren’t authoritarian can hold an opinion of their own while it also being valid generally because we don’t need to impose them on others, its authority comes from its truth not who I am, which is why you also fail to understand the retort. Thus, my opinion is good enough for me. Only you think it’s backpedaling to point out what should be obvious.

If you’re so keen on educating yourself then you should start with Orwell and move on to J S Mill.

tomlock 13 days ago [flagged]

Ahhhh awesome, so when you were talking about your perspective on the interplay of sex and gender you weren't implying that there was anything inherently, objectively absurd about there being 42 sexes, you were just implying you felt that was absurd for some... personal reason? By the way, there's probably way more than 42 since so many things play into sex characteristics, and some of the measures are continuous rather than discrete.

> You're running around in circles now and thus, there is little point in continuing.

By saying there existed an "overwhelmingly binary" sex spectrum, you implied the existence of a minority, so I'm simply saying to give those people the respect they deserve. That's how I "wish them to act" so it absolutely follows, based on your words, that someone who doesn't "wish to act the way you wish them to" doesn't want to respect those minorities. Easy logical reasoning to follow.


No one is arguing for disrespect of anyone so there's not much else to say about your argument, other than you might try showing more respect to those you disagree with in future.
tomlock 12 days ago [flagged]

You think you aren't, but you are when you say the categories of "male, female and 3rd sex" are appropriate for simplifying the "absurdities". You should show people who fit in your "absurd" minority sexual categories with more respect in future.

Whether or not they are absurdities is obviously a contention, and hence, whether or not they are being disrespected.

It's not contentious that you should show people you're in discussion with respect, nor that you have not shown said respect.


Please don't do tit-for-tat flamewars like this on HN. The further they get to the right of the page, the nastier and more repetitive they get, and curiosity has been lost long ago.

You guys have been going at it in other subthreads too. That's not what this site is for. In the future, please take a step back and refrain.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

tomlock 11 days ago [flagged]

So do you believe they're absurd?

Please don't do tit-for-tat flamewars like this on HN. The further they get to the right of the page, the nastier and more repetitive they get, and curiosity has been lost long ago.

You guys have been going at it in other subthreads too. That's not what this site is for. In the future, please take a step back and refrain.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


[flagged]


You've said a few times that "No one is arguing for disrespect of anyone", but the case you quote does argue that point explicitly.

He knew his stance would cause offence and even harm. His argument was that his employers should ignore that because of his convention rights to religious freedom.

> It is deeply disturbing that this is the first time in the history of English law that a judge has ruled that free citizens must engage in compelled speech

For one thing this isn't anything like the first case where the courts have found that a company hasn't done something wrong for firing an employee for not saying what the company wants them to say.

But also that judgment isn't saying anything of the sort. You're quoting an extremist Christian organisation who bring futile cases to court in order to make political points. https://nearlylegal.co.uk/2018/04/on-the-naughty-step-the-qu...

The judgment is saying that when you're a doctor employed by a government department you'll have to obey the law and the government department's policies. Note that the judgment doesn't force this doctor to use any particular pronoun, it only says that the government department can fire him.

And, in this particular context, everything about the meetings the doctor had with service users was "compelled" speech -- there's literally a template the doctor has to read from.

His legal team didn't attempt a freedom of speech defence. They tried to use a discrimination against religious beliefs defence, and that failed because...

> It was confirmed by the representatives at the start of the hearing that it was agreed that Dr Mackereth did not assert that he was treated less favourably than a person who, for reasons unrelated to Christianity or other belief refused to comply with the DWP’s gender reassignment or equal opportunities policy

Here's the judgment: https://christianconcern.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/CC-R...


> You've said a few times that "No one is arguing for disrespect of anyone", but the case you quote does argue that point explicitly.

> He knew his stance would cause offence and even harm. His argument was that his employers should ignore that because of his convention rights to religious freedom.

Knowing that what you say may be offensive is not the same as arguing for the disrespect of someone. The judgement also does not contain the word disrepect and it is not part of his defence that it is his intention to disrespect anyone. Much as I disagree with why he's doing it, he is being compelled. Again, to compel has a well worn definition, if you will be fired unless you do certain things you are being compelled, so I disagree with your description.

I have nothing further to add.


So your argument is that being offensive to someone isn't the same as being disrespectful? Like, I am genuinely curious about how you're justifying this to yourself.

I think a lot more work needs to be done in quantifying "cognitive empathy" before we can begin to do studies like this. Their methodology for quantification of something so complex is extremely primitive.


I agree. At least the authors are more modest about the findings than the headline:

> “[...] it’s important to note that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. We found that there is no evidence to support this effect of testosterone, but that doesn’t rule out any possible effects. From what we know, though, it seems that if testosterone does have an influence, the effect is complex, not linear. Reality is typically not that simple.”


You're right, neuroscience these days is too primitive.


Curious they built up so much steam about refuting past notions... but chose a poor method (viewing actor's eyes). Paul Ekman has noted that assessing the emotional state from a single picture is difficult. Not to mention unless using genuine emotional faces, you're having actors "play" an emotion rather than feel it (Method vs. Mamet style acting ignored)


Couldn't agree with you more about the need for authenticity in tests of reading emotions. How could you possibly say someone got it wrong when they did not.


Good point. See also, the Kuleshov effect:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuleshov_effect


What I'm more interested in seeing is whether or not being in a dominant group in society reduces empathy. Historically, we might have looked at the lack of empathy of specific groups and made assumptions about the group in general, but perhaps it simply has to do with whether or not that group finds itself dominant in society whether it be economically, politically, or socially.

All of these groups in Western societies have been, and often still are, dominated by men. Looking at how things are changing, with women slowly gaining power in the workplace, I'm finding a lot of men are behaving differently than I remember 30 years ago. Whether or not this is due to gaining empathy, or due to fear of punitive measures, I don't know, but for me personally I feel it is the former.


> All of these groups in Western societies have been, and often still are, dominated by men.

But not by all men. If all of the top 1% are men, for instance, there are still 49% of men out there that are both make and not elite.

It's possible you are just observing different men now. Or observing men differently.


I agree. I'm not denying this. This is exactly why it should be called dominance and not privilege. And it does have real impacts on both groups.

Or maybe societies are dominated by overambitious sociopaths, regardless of their gender?

I feel we are long past the 'no true Scotsman' defense of woman in public office on average just exhibiting the same ruthless self-interest as the men they replaced.


True, the most sexist (in the sense that men were treated differently from women) boss I have seen was a woman. She seemed to prey on weaker personalities, an d treated men better than women.


That is a known pattern for people in discriminated group that they want to behave like the majority and take it to the extreme. So female bosses in environment when females are underrepresented may behave like that. It goes hand in hand with internalized sexism (and she tries to prove that she is not like 'other girls/women'). This and more interesting patterns like that are described in What works for women at work.

How do you accurately measure empathy though? I'm not sure I agree with the methods they used in this study.


We already had a large study five years ago (n = 453) showing that testosterone didn't have a significant effect on cognitive empathy (RMET). However it found significant effects of testosterone on trait empathy, both positive and negative depending on cortisol levels.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40750-014-0017-...

Not sure why it wasn't cited in this paper.


> “Of course, the primary suspect when we have something that is sharply differentiated by sex is testosterone,” says Gideon Nave, an assistant professor of marketing in Penn’s Wharton School.

Is this a spoof article? Why would a professor of marketing at Wharton be talking on this point? "Of course", this is a nonsense thing to say.

Maybe it needed a marketing expert to get funding for this.


> Is this a spoof article? Why would a professor of marketing at Wharton be talking on this point?

Because he's a co-author of the paper, people in research collaborate, and his publication list doesn't make this topic seem off in any way? Literally clicking on the first instance of the name of the person you're complaining about gives you enough information to make this comment unnecessary.


>Prior to this work, the strongest evidence for a link between testosterone exposure and reduced cognitive empathy came in 2011 in a study that found administering testosterone to healthy women reduced their performance on a test of reading emotions. The results suggested the testosterone impaired their performance.

That's interesting. Adult males typically have 7-8 times the levels that females do, and females are more sensitive to it. I'd hypothesize that injecting females with extra testosterone was just plain mentally disorienting. I know a trans man who, after a few months of testosterone, claimed it was "night and day" in how they felt about and processed the world. Female biology isn't adapted to high levels of testosterone like a males biology is.


Trans woman here.

Cisgender men and women have different brain structures, and transgender people's brain structures tend to resemble that of the gender that they identify as[1]. So, for example, a trans woman like myself who was born male will have a brain structure that resembles that of a cis woman, not a man.

> I know a trans man who, after a few months of testosterone, claimed it was "night and day" in how they felt about and processed the world

This has been my experience as well (except, the opposite direction, obviously). The way I look at it, before I realized I am transgender, when testosterone was the dominant sex hormone in my body, it was like putting the wrong fuel in a car. It caused a whole slew of serious mental health problems. Estrogen has allowed me to think more clearly, and process thoughts, feelings, and emotions like I never could before. I'll never go back.

1. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/research-on-the-transgend...


>Tend to resemble that of the gender that they identify as

I hear this claim a lot but I've never actually understood what "resembles" actually means. The brain structures that transgender people have don't match typical male or female brains but how do you determine which brain transgender brains resemble the most? What is the criteria? To me to determine which brain trans brains were more similar to you would have to study a LOT of dimorphic brain structures.

Some structures in transgender brains do resemble their sex or are sort of androgynous and inbetween. So I don't know how accurate trans woman = "resembles" a woman's brain actually is as a sweeping statement. In my experience trans women have rarely acted completely like either gender. I've seen trans women disperportionately engaging in masculine hobbies like computers compared to the average cis woman.


Brains are messy things and the argument of the article linked is reductionist (as are most papers which make hand-wavy assertions that one brain is "similar" to another). MRI studies with small sample sizes such as the one linked are almost always underpowered [1]

All the study conclusively proves is that both trans women and regular women don't react as viscerally to porn as much as the average man. The actual connectivity and structure that yields similarity in activation between trans and cis women may be completely different.

[1] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal...


>trans women and regular women

Side note observation, "regular women" can be perceived as insensitive to trans women. I'm not sure what the best term to use is either though, when differentiating between trans and non-trans of the same gender. "Biological women"?


The term that is generally accepted is "cis" or "cisgendered"


The distinguishing term is cis (born that way) vs trans (hormones, ops etc). Hence I'm a cis male because I was born as one. Had I become one I'd be a trans male. I think that's right.

> "regular women" can be perceived as insensitive to trans women

I know a few trans (mostly t-women) and insensitivity/nastiness is AFAIK not so tied to gender.


'non-trans' works fine and is clearer to most people. 'cisgendered' is also correct, but it has political connotations, eg 'cishet scum'. WikiPedia has some good references: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisgender


I think the insulting part of "cishet scum" is "scum." I definitely see "cis" and occasionally "cishet" as entirely denotative self-identifications in spaces where it's relevant and trans and non-heterosexual folks are at least more visibly represented than in the world at large, and it's neither positive nor negative, it's just what one is.

The phrase "male chauvinist" doesn't mean there's an intrinsic negative connotation in calling someone "male," nor does the phrase "nasty woman" mean it's intrinsically negative to call someone a "woman." (Of course, both terms might be used as insults in context / with tone / etc.)


Most people consider 'nasty woman' and 'male chauvinist' clearly based on sex - otherwise you'd just call them nasty or sexist.


Trans woman here. I agree that the neuroscience feels kind of flimsy. I would further argue that neuroscience shouldn't be used as an argument in favor of "accept trans women as being women" because, among other things, it can just as quickly be turned around by people who seek to pull the You're Not Really Trans Unless A Doctor Says So card on other trans folks.

We're women because we say we are - and that's really all there is to say about it.

We are disproportionately into things like coding because, growing up, the vast majority of us are socialized the same way as boys would be. Amazingly, it turns out that in a vacuum, the activity of programming a computer isn't actually gendered.


"We're women because we say we are - and that's really all there is to say about it."

It doesn't make any sense for someone else to tell you who you are. How could they know? Of course, if you were autistic or schizophrenic, that would be different...

Anyway, I remember reading an evocative description by a trans man of how testosterone made him feel like a sex crazed monster. Nobody can know for sure if they have the same experience, just like we don't know if the color blue is the same for us.

But it seemed to me that implied one of two things - either he was experiencing what cis males consider normal, and it was horrifying, in which case it was evidence against him being "really" male, or else he was not experiencing what being a cis male is like, in which case it was evidence that administering male hormones may not produce the effect of natural ones.


> in which case it was evidence that administering male hormones may not produce the effect of natural ones.

The goal of trans hormone therapy is to reverse the effects of the hormones of the person's biological sex, so HRT dosage of e.g. testosterone is usually more than the average cis man would produce. It's possible that that much testosterone was too much for the person you mentioned to handle, especially for his body not being used to it, or that he just got prescribed for more than he should have taken. (He could've also gotten it from the black market, in which case it would almost definitely be an incorrect dosage.)


> Amazingly, it turns out that in a vacuum, the activity of programming a computer isn't actually gendered.

Also mirrored by the fact that other cultures do not experience this issue so acutely.


Other cultures as in what? Far as I can tell, the best predictor of female participation in technical work is poverty. In rich countries with free women, engineering tends to sit around 90% male, and nursing tends to sit around 90% female.

The freer and richer women are, the more likely they are to be found in stereotypical fields.


A culture having "less issues with this" seems to be strongly associated with that culture having conservative views and more socioeconomic issues. I see more women programmers coming out of conservative poor Asian countries than progressive wealthy Nordic countries. I get the impression women are pushed into programming for reasons of economic stress or incentives in countries where less of a programming gender gap exists. To me if a country having less of a gender gap in programming implies either sexism or economic stress.

You can really interpret the prevalence of trans women in programming as being related to nurture or nature. The data point in a vacuum doesn't obviously point to either conclusion.


Including US culture 50 or more years ago, when most programmers were women.


I'm of the impression that this is a misconception. 50 years ago, "programmer" was a different job. Imagine if executives were just called secretaries now and that's a decent analogy for what I think happened to programmers and architects.


I'm of the impression that back in 1959 when COBOL was released, with a team of 7 designers with 3 women on it, based off the groundwork laid by Grace Hopper, that the technical skill required to be a programmer was actually much higher, and that the women involved in coding were making very technical decisions about that field.


Back then programming was basically applied mathematics, a field with many women. Today programming is gluing together components in order to build systems which is much more similar to engineering, a field with few women.

There are still many women among those who program mathematics (statisticians etc), just that they are usually not called programmers. Also there is much less demand for people who can program math than people who can glue together libraries and create crud apps, so even if all math programmers are included in the statistics they would get dwarfed by the app programmers.

Source of the combination mathematics and statistics being a gender balanced field, above 40% women: https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2017/nsf17310/digest/fod-wome...

Engineering always being male dominated, around 15% women: https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2017/nsf17310/digest/fod-wome...

Computer science gender balance getting lowered to engineering levels: https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2017/nsf17310/digest/fod-wome...


Yeah, I'm of the impression that the intellect required to do software now is much lower - no need to understand bits and bytes or to do math, just sling a bunch of libraries together with glue code from stack over flow and voila a ML system to categorize trouble tickets. Understanding the distinction between the reals and the IEEE double floats is alas long since vanished.


I think the role was called "computer"?


I'm the antithesis of an expert in this. If someone has better information, I'm sure you'll let me know. What I've picked up thus far as the consistent physical differences between male and female brains are:

1. Dominant synapse connection direction. Males typically have more front to back connections than side to side. This may explain why females typically are better at multi-tasking, and males are typically more focused.

2. Testosterone in the womb enlarges the 3d manipulation part of the brain.

3. Testosterone in the womb has some connection to sexuality. In particular, women typically show signs of arousal towards sex without any filter (ie, animals, same gender, w/e). Typical males will show no signs of arousal to certain things (typically other males). Also, twins boys have a significantly greater likelihood of homosexuality (less testosterone to go around).

There's plenty of other differences I'm sure, and many of these may not be true. But this is what I've noted thus far.


That multitasking claim is looking less solid these days - https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal...


"Also, twins boys have a significantly greater likelihood of homosexuality (less testosterone to go around)."

Is the theory that male homosexual=less testosterone really more accepted than male homosexual=more testosterone? I feel like the latter has been argued extensively.


I did a project on theories behind sexual attraction about 12 years ago for my anthropology class.

I'm pretty sure the testosterone bit had more to do with the mother than the children.


As I recall from the lecture by Robert Sapolsky, researcher can look at a preserved brain and determine with a fairly good accuracy if the brain came from a woman or a man. Experiments has then show that for transgender people the same is true for the gender the brains person identified as, including for people who has not undergone any hormone treatment.

I would have to rewatch those lectures to see if he gave any direct examples of markers, numbers, or sample size.


Is the size alone enough to do that with a "fairly good accuracy"? I can't help thinking of all the deep learning tests that inadvertently found unwanted shortcuts.


No one has included a link to the study yet! https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/22/transgender-brai...

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180524112351.h...

Related to this is the idea of dual-gender human chimers.

(Research article) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/216874877_Dual-gend...

(Layperson-friendly blog post by the same author) https://medium.com/@brianhanley/many-transgender-and-gay-peo...


> Cisgender men and women have different brain structures,

I'm skeptical of this to begin with.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/feb/24/meet-the-neu...

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00677-x

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/confirmed-theres-n...

When it comes to brains, there is far more variation, on pretty much anything you choose to measure, within the group of 'men' or 'women', then there is between the groups.

As far as cognitive empathy, sorry fellow men, we can't blame our lack of cognitive empathy on biology, it's probably pure socialization/education. And we can get better at it by trying/learning/practicing.


There's more variation of height within male and female groups than between groups, but still you can confidently say that on average males are taller; so "far more variation within the group" doesn't say much

> can't blame our lack of cognitive empathy on biology, it's probably pure socialization/education

Any evidence?

A study linked from one of your links says: "Our study demonstrates that, although there are sex/gender differences in the brain, human brains do not belong to one of two distinct categories: male brain/female brain."

So it looks like there are, actually, differences.

Also, it is kind of assumed that we need more cognitive empathy; but why exactly, and how much is too much?


>As far as cognitive empathy, sorry fellow men, we can't blame our lack of cognitive empathy on biology

Are you claiming that there is zero biological influence on this well documented phenomenon that exists across cultures?


How can you be so sure that your brain structure is actually different? Are there any scientific tests that can be performed to support this?


Dick Swaab of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience is a pioneer in the neuroscience underlying gender identity. In the mid-1990s, his group examined the postmortem brains of six transgender women and reported that the size of the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc or BNSTc), a sexually dimorphic area in the forebrain known to be important to sexual behavior, was closer to that of cisgender women than cisgender men.[1] A follow-up study of autopsied brains also found similarities in the number of a certain class of neurons in the BSTc between transgender women and their cisgender counterparts—and between a transgender man and cisgender men.[2] These differences did not appear to be attributable to the influence of endogenous sex hormone fluctuations or hormone treatment in adulthood. In another study published in 2008, Swaab and a coauthor examined the postmortem volume of the INAH3 subnucleus, an area of the hypothalamus previously linked to sexual orientation. The researchers found that this region was about twice as big in cisgender men as in women, whether trans- or cisgender.[3]

[1] J.-N. Zhou et al., “A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality,” Nature, 378:68-70, 1995. [2] F.P. Kruijver, “Male-to-female transsexuals have female neuron numbers in a limbic nucleus,” J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 85:2034-41, 2000. [3] A. Garcia-Falgueras, D. Swaab, “A sex difference in the hypothalamic uncinate nucleus: relationship to gender identity,” Brain, 131:3132-46, 2008.

---

All of the above is from the first google result and about 30 seconds of searching. https://www.the-scientist.com/features/are-the-brains-of-tra...

So, yeah, science is beginning to try and understand this stuff.


I wonder if something like an MRI could allow medical professionals or diagnostic systems to automatically categorize this non-invasively?

When we reach a world where everyone has more star trek level medical care then a true survey of the population may allow for everyone to have improved lives.


Perhaps. I'm a little concerned that if this approach is used for diagnostics that it becomes another form of gatekeeping. (i.e. someone is transgender but denied treatment because their brain scans come up as cis.)


There's a dark side of everything, but there are people who believe they want to transition who then find out it doesn't help when they do. Being able to diagnostically assess the likelihood that it's the correct treatment would be good for everyone.


Conversely it could help someone who is in denial and experiencing disphoria to come to terms with themselves.


That would have to be an incredibly precise test though; if someone is in denial and you tell them "This test says there's only a 5% chance you're right", they will probably stay in denial.


Reminds me of XKCD's Significant comic: https://xkcd.com/882/


So, that gets complicated. What if medicine finds a certain physical trait that is prevalent in 90% of cases where people are trans? What does that mean for the other 10%? Odds are good their lives just got WAY harder. Coupled with a history of being mistreated by the medical industry, there's quite a lot of (rational, imo) fear in the trans community about medical diagnoses.


Other commenters are linking to _studies_, I think parent is asking if GP had a _test_ done for them that specifically showed them their brain structure. Big difference between a study and a consumer-/patient- ready product. At least, studies could mean the product is forthcoming.

When I search "brain structure test" I get IQ/personality quiz web pages. "brain structure medical procedure" gets me general information on brain anatomy and glossaries of neurosurgical terms. "{gender|trans} identity brain structure procedure" similarly returns scholarly information.

Nothing on a procedure I could schedule with my doctor, but maybe it's easier to ask my doctor than use Google. Maybe someone with better Google-fu could suggest better keywords. Has anyone done this or asked their doctor about it? I know I'd be interested in what my brain looks like in this regard!


The article she offered directly links to them...


Was she part of the study?


If someone is left-handed, and left-handedness has been shown to be very strongly correlated with a different brain structure, would you challenge them similarly if they state that they have a different brain structure because they are left handed?

Do you need to personally participate in studies to know anything about your body?


I would if I were to undergo an invasive medical procedure.


Ah, I didn't realize how specific your use of "your" was, perhaps because she didn't make any claims about the structure of her own brain.


Baltimore Maryland, is that you?

That study is worthless based on the small sample size. I'm also a trans woman and I hate when this study is brought up. I think brain development could be a reason but I also think how a person is raised could play into being transgender for some people. Our generation will likely never know for certain. I just don't think there is an all encompassing answer for everyone.


Very balanced response, thank you.


I don't understand the matter of it either. If you badly feel you're in the wrong body and you want it changed, I'm ok with that. I don't see any other reasons are needed.


I think your accepting outlook of the situation will be the popular approach for the new generation from what I've observed. The "other reasons" have been pushed because of non-transgender people rejecting transgender people. There is a culture of God made you whatever sex and that's how it must be in your life. These people have had a very negative impact on transgender people and resulted in accepting/ trans people seeking "other reasons" in an attempt of more justification that's really unnecessary.


>>>If you badly feel you're in the wrong body and you want it changed, I'm ok with that. I don't see any other reasons are needed.

Should this apply to other physical/genetic characteristics as well, such as ethnicity? Should Caucausians be able to change their physical appearance (via tanning, etc...) to Native American, identify as such (cough Elizabeth Warren cough), and then be entitled to any/all social benefits legally accorded to Native American people?

What sort of implications would that have, internationally? Say someone has their body altered to appear Han Chinese, and then they go to China, expecting to be treated as a Chinese (or at least an ABC), because that's how they "identify". What are the second and third-order implications for how the world views American leadership?


> Should this apply to other physical/genetic characteristics as well, such as ethnicity? Should Caucausians be able to change their physical appearance (via tanning, etc...) to Native American

Let's try...

> Should this apply to other physical/genetic characteristics...

you can change your physical characteristics, you can't (that I can think of) change your genetic ones.

> ...such as ethnicity?

Ethnicity, hmm. I don't know how to define that, so from wiki:

"An ethnic group or ethnicity is a category of people who identify with each other, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry or on similarities such as common language or dialect, history, society, culture or nation.[1][2] Ethnicity is often used synonymously with the term nation, particularly in cases of ethnic nationalism, and is separate from but related to the concept of races"

Unless you pin down what you mean by ethnicity, I can't even begin answer. It's too broad. Ethnicity seems a social construction - I know a (lapsed) jew and she's ethnically one, but you couldn't tell from native english from looking at her (same as I can often tell a pole by looking, or a turk, or even some londoners), so is she because she was born one, or isn't she because she gave it up, or what?

But, maybe. After all an american indian guy decided to 'identify' as a tiger <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalking_Cat>. While that's a very odd decision to me, I'm not going to step in and physically stop him. Would you?

> cough Elizabeth Warren cough

plesse leave politics out of this, ta, it's complex enough.

> What sort of implications would that have, internationally? [...]. What are the second and third-order implications for how the world views American leadership?

What?? Seriously? This is about people who feel they don't fit their body and you try to drag in this?And why do you assume I'm from the US? To try to answer your question differenty, are you suggesting that we don't necessarily do 'the right thing' morally because people are watching?

Final question, have you ever met a trans person? Or understand what they can choose to undergo because they feel so wrong - they can go through a lot, it's not an easy thing.


>>>Unless you pin down what you mean by ethnicity, I can't even begin answer.

Let's go with common genealogy or phenotype.

>>>Ethnicity seems a social construction

So in the absence of society you would not be able to physically distinguish between these two gentlemen [1][2] and would classify them as the same ethnicity? You cannot discern objectively-measurable distinctions between the appearances of these two faces? Facial recognition software demonstrates otherwise. [3] Every face has measurements, which cluster with other similar faces. I doubt it would be difficult to map each of those clusters with what we consider an "ethnicity".

>>>But, maybe. After all an american indian guy decided to 'identify' as a tiger <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalking_Cat>. While that's a very odd decision to me, I'm not going to step in and physically stop him. Would you?

Did he receive any LEGAL benefits normally given to large predatory felines? If no, then intervention isn't required. If yes, then absolutely I would oppose it. "Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken" - Tyler Durden.

>>plesse leave politics out of this, ta, it's complex enough.

Regardless of her politics, Elizabeth Warren is a public, high-profile figure and a perfect example of an American using their "internal" identity for legal gain. Rachel Dolezal is an alternative example. Both demonstrate that these aren't really hypothetical issues, but present-day issues crossing the spectrum of not only social issues but also medical and cosmetic technology (elective, plastic surgery, skin treatments, etc...).

>>>This is about people who feel they don't fit their body and you try to drag in this?

I try to keep a long-term, macroscopic view on social issues. But honestly, if I were to elaborate on my position it would be a long, kinda-rambling mess, so I'll table that point of the discussion.

>>>And why do you assume I'm from the US?

Oddly enough I'm usually fighting the same bias inherent in a US (and especially SFV/SFBA-heavy) website. I'm American but don't live there. So....touché on that one.

>>>Final question, have you ever met a trans person?

Of course. I live in Asia. Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes in a bar in Thailand, Philippines, or the bigger cities in Japan has been hit on by a trans person.

>>>Or understand what they can choose to undergo because they feel so wrong - they can go through a lot, it's not an easy thing.

Every human is operating within the restrictions of their physical form. My rackmate at OCS was a short dude (like 5'4") and years later he told me he considered leg extension surgery....the same kind that killed the guy in [4]). Short guys experience all sorts of emotional abuse and nobody really gives two shits about them either. Should my friend declare that he is 6'1" because he FEELS taller? Should we update all of his government documents and forms of identification as such? Of course not. Feelings are ephemeral, fleeting, and subjective. Step off a cliff and say to yourself "I FEEL like I shouldn't fall...I identify as a bird." Does gravity comply? No. Life is hard. Get harder.

[1]http://thewarriorfitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Warr...

[2]https://tinyurl.com/yyoamjl4

[3]https://github.com/ageitgey/face_recognition

[4]https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21082702


Most trans people I know have committed suicide when they cannot "successfully" transition and for matching their identity (one's identity is very personal & social in life).

I can only imagine there's a group of short people that wish they were tall and commit suicide. I personally have never had someone tell me they were so distraught about being short that they were considering suicide. Although if it were the case "I would be alright" if medical professionals found it necessary to do a surgery for making the person taller and so the suicidal ideation goes away. I know some midgets have committed suicide and find it sad because in the future we likely will be able to prevent a person developing into a small skeleton.

Social dynamics about how a person looks matters. I think society would be better if surgery wasn't considered such a taboo by people thinking that most of the time the surgeries are pointless. Many people rebound to a greater person when they fix something visual about them and that has somehow held them back in life.

Limitations are "going away" with the outcome of science progressing in the medical community. Similar to religious bigots decreasing in numbers but they do enough damage on their way out.


This is a solid and constructive answer and I'd love to go into it in detail but I won't have time. I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to do justice to it, but let me try.

> So in the absence of society you would not be able to physically distinguish between these two gentlemen [1][2] and would classify them as the same ethnicity?

They have different phenotypes, and are clearly distinguishable visually. Now, if they were brought up in the same place (say in the same town in the US), and both met a blind person, would the blind person be able to tell the difference?

Some white people choose to turn a darker colour with a tan - if they could go completely black, would it matter? (other features wouldn't change of course, but you see my point).

That's not a good answer, so let me try a different one. To me ethnicity matters because people choose to make it matter. The difference between a cis- and trans-woman does not matter to me, but it seems to matter to you. These things matter only if you choose to let them matter. And a few weeks ago I asked a trans girl out because I like her (answer: no. As bloody usual).

> Did he receive any LEGAL benefits normally given to large predatory felines? If no, then intervention isn't required. If yes, then absolutely I would oppose it.

More likely, did he lose human benefits and be eligible to be shot or put in a zoo? That's a good point, well taken!

> Elizabeth Warren [...] "internal" identity for legal gain

Legal gain? Didn't think she got anything except some vague cachet due to american indians being kewl. And because that is IMO crap because such identity is meaningless to me, she gets no cachet from me and IMO should get none from anyone else.

> Rachel Dolezal

Yep. But pretending to be black only mattered because it matters in US society.

> Both demonstrate that these aren't really hypothetical issues, but present-day issues crossing the spectrum of not only social issues but also medical and cosmetic technology (elective, plastic surgery, skin treatments, etc...).

True. And maybe I'm sidestepping the issue, but it only matters because people think it matters. Being a cis- or trans-woman only matters if people care. I don't, and I don't see why it should to anyone else (I'm not saying it shouldn't, I just don't see why it should).

> But honestly, if I were to elaborate on my position it would be a long, kinda-rambling mess, so I'll table that point of the discussion.

My position is as above - I don't care - but it would be great to sit down and talk with you.

> Every human is operating within the restrictions of their physical form [...]

Good point.

> Short guys experience all sorts of emotional abuse and nobody really gives two shits about them either

Actually I'm surprised at that. Once children grow into adults, they usually judge people more on what's inside than out. But again, it's what society thinks, and if it didn't care, it wouldn't matter.

Now for some easy ones:

> Should my friend declare that he is 6'1" because he FEELS taller?

No

> Should we update all of his government documents and forms of identification as such?

if he got surgically taller, yes, otherwise no.

I think you point is if a bloke feels like a woman, is he immediately one? I don't know. If he got surgery + hormones and transitioned, then yes.

But I can elaborate on that a bit. One person I know is becoming a guy. She prefers to be called 'he' but recognises that they don't look like one so doesn't mind when 'she' slips out. As they look like a woman but prefer to be referred to as a bloke, I will do what she prefers, but you would, or you wouldn't? I'd call it bad manners to go against their wishes and hurt their feeling.

Someone I knew referred to a very effeminate guy as 'it', as they weren't in his view male or female, so: 'it'. That pissed a few of us off.

It's about feelings. So to your next point...

> Feelings are ephemeral, fleeting, [...]

I disagree. Briefly, I had a large chunk of my life wrecked with clinical depression. That's pure 'feeling' gone wrong. YOu cannot imagine how much that hurts. Feelings are the core of our being, that distinguishes us from philosophical zombies https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_zombie Feelings are all their is that matters, because without feelings, there is nothing. We are computers.

> No. Life is hard. Get harder.

Many years ago I knew a woman who lost both twins at birth. Suppose that tragedy (she was suicidal. BTW nothing ephemeral or brief about that) could have been avoided medically, do we do that, or do we say to her "toughen up" and let them die?

Obviously we change what we can for the better. Centuries ago we lived with arthritis, gout, migraines... now far less so because we can do something about it.

So why should the feeling of being born into the wrong body type be different? See sysbin's answer for why (IMO) it isn't.

OK, I'm not going to take this much further because this whole subject is frankly going to take a day of discussion for both of us which don't have. I do not think you're wrong, I'm just trying to understand your view, and my answer above is... not good, I appreciate that, but it's my best shot. BTW, I really did find your answer measured and thoughtful.


Can't the brain structure be affected by the hormones being taken?


There was a really nice video that supports your point on youtube back in 2013. A lady scientist was doing a talk in a small european country about gender in rats. She found she could get male rats to 'present' and female rats to mount if she messed with 3 distinct moments of hormonal gender influence. One in the womb, one as a young child and one point at puberty. She went on to describe how male rats prefer risky behaviour because they beeline for cheese in the middle of a pool of water on an island and how female rats are more risk averse and swim around the outside edge first.

I have found it impossible to find that video anymore. I don't know why we have to rely on questionable studies when there has been much better work been done and now black-holed.


Depending on the study, 30%-85% of young people who identify as trans will desist by adulthood if not medically transitioned. Do their brains change back to their birth sex when that happens?


"I know a person" is a typical response from the noveau pseudo scientific trans movement, no one really understands this condition yet, and hopefully science can figure it out, although science around this topic has been shut down by the "progressive" movement.

https://www.brown.edu/news/2019-03-19/gender


It breaks the site guidelines to post shallow dismissals of other people's experience, so please don't. Taking HN threads into ideological flamewar is even worse, so please don't either.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Knowing a person is a perfectly cromulent reason to say something in a conversation. Conversations is all HN threads are. Anecdotes are great for conversation (https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...).


[flagged]


Please don't respond to a bad comment by taking the thread further into flamewar. Down that path lies wreckage, regardless of who's right and who's wrong. And it breaks the site guidelines as well. As they say, the thing to do with egregious comments is to flag them and/or to email hn@ycombinator.com—not to feed them by replying.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


> it was like putting the wrong fuel in a car

This is a great metaphor, thanks for sharing this


The sample size of that study was 16, and the measured effect was a mean change from 81% correct answer on the test down to 77%.

I would not read too much into that study, especially given the result of the new larger one.


That... is not publishable, in my opinion.


There was an episode of This American Life about testosterone [0] that included an interview of an f2m transgender man on HRT. It was quite interesting to hear, the episode in general was exceptionally good and worth giving a listen.

[0] https://www.thisamericanlife.org/220/testosterone


That's actually very interesting, do you know if/how they described the differences in perception?


I can describe my own (FWIW I went the other direction).

Best way I can say it is that my own understanding of emotion was rather black-and-white when on testosterone. I intellectually knew that other people had emotions beyond anger or sadness, but had no frame of reference for what that meant. I tended to see major challenges as obstacles to be overcome through force of will.

On estrogen it's like seeing the world in color -- I'm more volatile, but I actually have what I consider emotions! I understand the subtleties in my own emotions far better, which has made me a lot more empathetic to them in others. I also tend to see challenges as a sign I need to change my approach rather than just try harder.

I have had to stop hormones a few times for various reasons, and when things revert to being testosterone-dominant, I feel as if things revert to black-and-white over the course of a month or so.

I also think that just giving women a little testosterone and measuring the effect isn't likely to show much -- what seems to matter in my experience is whether the body is androgen-dominant or estrogen-dominant (the in-between areas are very not-fun, with lots of headaches, hot flashes, etc.)


Increasing estrogen blood levels will literally cause any male-sex person to become more empathetic via oxytocin...


Probably better to say "assigned male at birth" -- I'm not genetically male, but everyone assumed I was until I got tested after transitioning. The best medically relevant definitions are "person on testosterone", "person on estrogen" etc. There is a lot of suspicion that things like estrogen/androgen receptor binding affinity play a big role in gender identity and brain development, and we haven't even scratched the surface of that level of genetics.

There is no medically or legally significant difference between "gender" and "sex". You can get the sex/gender (different states use different terms interchangeably) on your drivers' license and birth certificate changed.


They have a public blog/vlog, here's the "Testosterone" tag: https://mylifewithtits.wordpress.com/category/testosterone-2...


> injecting females with extra testosterone was just plain mentally disorienting

Reminds me of a study done about 35 years ago by the California DOT to measure the effects of both alcohol and marijuana on driving performance. Turns out teetotalers and non pot smokers suck at driving when given booze or pot. Boozers also suck when given alcohol but not as much. And pot smokers are barely effected at all.

I'm suspicious that the body compensates eventually, so acute effects don't necessarily tell you anything particularly valid.


I'm actually curious how this changes the narrative of a trans person if testosterone doesn't have an effect on one's empathy.


The narrative of the trans person is what whatever he or she decides, I've noticed.


This is pretty similar to how all humans work. We all have stories we tell ourselves, narratives that we've chosen (possibly subconsciously). We then find evidence that confirms those narratives.

It's a defining characteristic of how we operate.


Does anyone have access to the paper, and not just the abstract?

I'm curious to see what the measured testosterone levels in the subjects' blood ended up being. Did they push their testosterone levels to the high end of "natural", something like 700 ng/dL, or did they push them into supra-physiological bodybuilder levels?

(I'd love to see a study about the cognitive effects of harder anabolic steroids, but somehow I doubt you could get an institutional review board to sanction a double-blind experiment using trenbolone.)



What is "cognitive empathy"? Is it a subtype of empathy where the brain is making a conscious work, or just a fancy way to say it ?


The relevant definition from the original research paper:

> One important element of social cognition is ‘cognitive empathy’, which constitutes the capacity to infer from observation the emotions, beliefs and goals of others.


Cognitive empathy is distinguished from affective empathy; put simply cognitive empathy is your perception of another persons emotional state and affective empathy is your perception of the correct emotional response to another persons emotional state.


Interesting, I wonder if theres is a term for people with good cognitive empathy but poor affective empathy because I often feel like I can read someone body language and signals but usually have trouble expressing sympathy to the extent that when I hear someone died I have to monitor closely to try to react appropriately and not say anything weird.


Those would be the psychopaths and sociopaths, but I don't think you're among them. These folks basically lack the relevant social emotions altogether, so they end up being quite materialistic and self-centered. They can and do figure out that other emotions somehow exist and that they're socially expected to show them, but they have no "hardwired" intuition for their affective implications, so they'll have a whole lot of trouble negotiating constructively with others. They're deeply prone to thinking that everyone else is just like themselves, self-centered and quite willing to screw others in pursuit of their own goals.

I.e. their affective impairments do have significant implications on the theory-of-mind/'cognitive' side of things, but those implications are very different from the troubles of someone on the autistic spectrum. In a way, they're the very opposite!

(In fact, if you're somewhat on the spectrum and basically aware of what makes psychopaths tick, you can even have a lot of fun spotting them and interacting with them. Their attempts at superficial charm will most likely fall flat, while their lack of deep integrity and engagement will be blatantly obvious to you - but they'll probably be assuming the very opposite! So it's quite easy to figure out what they're going for and anticipate their moves.)


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy#Classification

Cognitive is the capacity to understand others emotional state, not necessarily react accordingly (affective empathy).

I’m not surprised by this result, perspective taking and theory of mind is like the basic building block of consciousness. It would be odd if it differed.


But could it differ for "affective empathy" then?


Petersonian here:

Testosterone known to raise competitiveness. Perhaps those with higher testosterone that are higher up in the dominance hierarchy just seem like they lack empathy because they have less males to seek approval from.


"the 2011 study included women and the current one included men"

So, testosterone application doesn't instantly affect cognitive empathy in men. But might still do in women.


What was the timescale and number of administrations?

Is it possible that repeated exposure to elevated testosterone over a long time period is the cause? Could studies be done on steroid users?


I'm reminded of a science fiction story I read long ago. A group of space explorers discovers an enormous metallic sphere. They open a port in its side and climb down a ladder. They discover that the whole of the interior is a vast machine, far beyond their capacity to understand. The last man out before the port is closed accidentally drops a wrench. They listen to it clatter down beyond earshot.

"Science is one thing, wisdom is another. Science is an edged tool, with which men play like children, and cut their own fingers." — Sir Arthur Eddington


I'm really glad this stuff is being researched, male stereotypes like that have never held true in my experience.

Isn't testosterone simply a byproduct of other hormonal processes? More of a measurement of effect than cause?


Ah, no. Adding extra testosterone to any human will cause them to become more male by any measure of maleness.


And also more female as the testosterone is aromatized in estrogen.


Testosterone is generated a number of ways in the human body - but most of it comes from the testicles in men.

A smaller amount is from the pituitary in both men and women.

Depending on your weight there is an enzyme created in fat cells called aromatase which converts testosterone to estrogens which can have an impact on your overall hormonal picture.

Testosterone is derived in the body from cholesterol, which is way proper fat consumption is so important for a healthy endocrine system.


I guess? It's intimately related to the hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid axis. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid...

But I'm not sure what you're getting at. Trust me, inject 500mg of testosterone a week, you're going to notice changes.


Is it? So why administering intramuscular testoterone has anabolic/androgen effects?


I don't think this is true.

Intramuscular testosterone is the most common method of HRT for trans men / trans masc folks.

The effects of which are not "androgen".


What?

Every anabolic/androgenic steroid has some degree of androgenic effects. Researchers and pharma tried for decades to create a steroid that has no androgenic effects, to no avail. Even a 5mg dose of Anavar, one of the softest steroids that were actively prescribed for women, had androgenic effects.

Testosterone has a 100/100 anabolic/androgenic ratio. It's definitely androgenic. It will literally put hair on your chest. I don't know what point you're trying to make here.



First world problems.


It's amazing that something so sexist could have been suggested without backlash.

Imagine if studies indicated that low testosterone limited or in some way hindered another desirable human capability. People have been fired for it and reputations ruined.

Suggesting men are emotionally stunted. Oh that's fine.


Please don't take HN threads into flamewar.

I understand the feeling you're expressing completely. But if you just import this resentment into the thread in an unprocessed way, it acidifies discussion and makes it harder for people to be thoughtful and share information across divides. Not just the gender-ideological divide, but any divide.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21139988.


Understood. Thank you.


I mean, you should be able to claim either if you have evidence. We should be looking for truth, not virtue signalling by withholding findings because it might hurt some people's feelings.


James Damore referenced scientific papers in his post and his intent got twisted, he got vilified and subsequently fired by Google. He never said women were unfit for engineering or women weren't as smart as men, he said that Google should change the nature of engineering such that the career is more appealing to a higher percentage of females.

Do you really want to be the one that endures an unfair attack and have your intent twisted and ruin your career, just to try to prove a point? You would be a stronger person than me, I would just pass at this point and move on.


Parent comment could have been written in better tone but the underlying aspect holds some very real historical truth. In the past popular opinion and scientist agreed that estrogen caused emotional instability, and it was infamously used as an argument against the suffrage movement. Now days we know that those studies in the past was severely flawed and that the historical research was shaped by culture rather than rigorous science and facts.

An observed fact and problem with behavior science is that they tend to align based on the culture of where the research is taking place. In Germany around 1940 you got very distinct results in behavior science compared to modern views. Behavior research made during the cold war looks very different depending which side of the Berlin wall it came from, even when accounting for sample size and scientific methods.

There are theories that tries to explain this, like for example that researchers tend to focus narrowly on questions that feel relevant in their personal culture, and then drawing larger conclusions.


That's a pipe dream in 2019.


What’s your evidence there was no backlash? This kind of finding seems like the type of thing both MRAs and a majority of feminists¹ would object to.

I can’t even see the title of the original paper since this one is paywalled. I was going to go try to quantify this “absence of backlash” you mentioned.

¹ It is sort of an interesting question, which majority of feminists that is. Some liberal, trans-inclusive, biological-constructivist feminists who believe in a notion of a “female brain” would potentially see no problem with the study. That is quite a minority though. The vast majority of liberal feminists would be “social constructivist” feminists who believe male/female brain differences are overblown and would view the study incredulously. Similarly, some biological-essentialist radical feminists do believe in comprehensive sex differences, and would be amenable to the finding. These would be your typical “man haters”, who are vocal online because their ideas are not welcome hardly anywhere. However, the vast majority of radical feminists believe the male/female sex differences have primarily to do with reproductive organs and, again, brain differences are overblown. And therefore would also be incredulous of the result. So all-in-all the vast majority of feminists would by default object to the study. But there is a sex-essentialist slice that cuts across the liberal/radical divide who would entertain the ideas.

On the MRA side too I believe there are sex essentialists who would be fine with the study, although many more liberal MRAs would object to it purely on the grounds of it portraying men in a negative light. I’m less familiar with the ideological divisions in that group though.

As a side note, this is part of why liberal and radical feminists are able to hate each other and talk past each other: both sides can credibly accuse the other of harboring biological essentialists.


My only evidence is that I didn't hear of one. Didn't even hear about the studies. Perhaps they just confirmed what everyone already thought or wanted to believe or the gender disparaged by the studies didn't care enough to raise a fuss. Whatever the reason.

I did hear about the president of Harvard being fired though. I read about The Bell Curve. Damore. The list goes on and on. You must know what I'm talking about.

Maybe I'm just biased so I filter bubble out evidence that sexism is sexist.


For the record, I've definitely seen backlash against the 'male brain' hypothesis for autism, which is that this study is ultimately about. The guy who first proposed it was Simon Baron-Cohen who is a well known autism researcher and there were people, especially female autists who felt that they were being overlooked or compared to men, who complained about it. Some even accused of Baron-Cohen of bigotry of various sorts. I think the 'male brain' hypothesis has largely remained in the autism research sphere and so hasn't had as much visibility, which might explain why there isn't a huge 'cancel-culture' backlash. There needs to be a certain threshold of visibility before that kind of backlash can happen.

https://autistscorner.blogspot.com/2011/09/simon-baron-cohen...


I've got a philosophy/gender studies background and I +1 this summary. The only point I'd make is that "radical feminist" doesn't necessarily mean anti-trans, and of the radfems I know, the vast majority are actually pro-trans. I get the feeling from news and commentary that radfems are overall welcoming to trans people.


Well there is a statistically (very) significant difference in the (diagnosed) rate of autism between men and women, so it's not so audacious a claim.


There is still strong evidence that excess testosterone causes anger and other undesirable effects [0]. Why should there be a backlash when there is evidence?

On the other hand, it has been an accepted truism for many decades that the female brain is less capable of many tasks, and I haven't seen firings and ruined reputations over this. The science of this is now being seriously questioned.

[0] https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/89/6/2837/2870329


> anger and other undesirable effects.

"other" could mean these from the linked article:

> The growing literature on androgenic anabolic steroid (AAS) usage suggests that some users can develop bouts of aggression known as steroid rage, mood disturbance, hypomania, irritability, and depressive episodes (9–15).

Whenever I think about ourselves, I think from an evolutionary perspective. All of the mentioned effects exist in species other than humans. I can list several reasons why the behaviors could be considered desirable.

Also note, the article says the only significantly increased emotion was anger hostility. Why does anger exist?


I have no dog in this hunt, but body builders tend to claim that conversion of testosterone to estrogen and resulting high levels of that are what causes mood issues. Which is why they all take aromatase inhibitors.


Why does anger exist?

Personally I can’t see how anger can be anything else but a manifestation of certain underlying fear as a defensive response. (That said, those emotions seem to be conventionally recognized as mostly unrelated.)


I'd like to see Yoda cite his sources on that "fear leads to anger" thing. This whole construction that it's impossible to react negatively to something without being motivated by fear is, IMO, unsubstantiated at best. It's entirely possible to dislike something or be irritated by it without fearing it.


Like I wrote—it is my personal (and layperson’s to boot) view, I can only cite sources that treat them as unrelated emotions.

I distinguish between fear as in immediate flight response, and fear as in deeper insecurity or non-obvious harm avoidance, including things like social status preservation.

I would not bundle reflecting negatively among all that, though.


>the female brain is less capable of many tasks

That's a very problematic and dangerous phrasing. There is also no such thing as the female brain. There are distributions of biology.


And there's no such thing as a wealthy country, just distributions of wealthy people. Yet we all understand what it means when someone says "wealthy country"


I should have made clearer that this view is now dated.


It's not sexist to suggest that testosterone impacts the body and mind. Male hormones exist for a reason and one of those big reasons is to impact behavior in various ways, including sex drive.

What is sexist is assuming testosterone is responsible for autism and acting on that 'knowledge' without proof in some manner that impacts other people's lives.


If their sample did not inlude autistic men you can’t really draw any conclusions about autism from this study


Maybe in part this is due to many men not considering it as a desirable human capability. If one considers reason to be much more important than emotion, strives to hide all displays of emotion, being emotionally stunted feels more like a compliment than offence.


better analogy would be estrogen causing hysteria :)


I think we should be able to suggest either thing without backlash, as long as you don't say it's certain until it's proven.


EDIT: Disregard

Comment was:

This is testosterone administered to a fully formed brain. While it's still an interesting result, I would hesitate to make extrapolations to brain-developmental environments or developmental disorders.


Did you overlook the part about finger digit ratios, which are a proxy for testosterone exposure during development?


Ah, it seems I did overlook the significance of that part.

My apologies.


Kudos for an extremely humble reply! I think you might still have a good point, though. :)


Many people online report positive effects from taking testosterone replacement therapy boosting their T level to the upper end of the natural range.

I'm curious if this is worth doing (for no particular reason), as a sort of steroid use. Apparently it can have slight balding effect but is worth it.

Has anyone here tried it, just for kicks? Could you list the effects on you? I am curious how it would effect the HN demographic (which I'm part of.)


Notice the keen implication in the title that testosterone causes reduction in cognitive empathy - making the reader now brainstorm ways to prove the hypothesis instead of considering if its the correct question to be asking in the first place.

To illustrate my point, consider if this was the title: There is no evidence that being female reduces cognitive function.


The paper's abstract mentions that, "previous studies reported that testosterone administration impaired cognitive empathy in healthy humans."

When you're trying to replicate previous studies but get a null result, it's reasonable to put that right in the title.


> Notice the keen implication in the title that testosterone causes reduction in cognitive empathy

Well, yeah. Kind of a "duh" from the article which quotes the scientist:

"Several earlier studies have suggested a connection between testosterone and reduced cognitive empathy..."

So no implication needed, creating supporting evidence for that hypothesis was actually already being done, and this one counters that existing narrative.


Ok cool, so I'm allowed to be a man again? Or is that still unacceptable according to PC rules?


Please be the kind of man who doesn't do this here.




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