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“Women’s Brains” Discussion Questions 1. In paragraph 3, Gould paraphrases Broca’s conclusion from his experiment on the effect of gender on brain size: “Women, like it or not, had smaller brains than men and, therefore, could not equal them in intelligence.” What is the hidden assumption in this claim? The hidden assumption of this claim is that women were biased to be less intelligent than men, therefore the fact that they had smaller brains was very obvious. Broca was attempting to draw the conclusion that women were less intelligent than men, and his experiment proved it; not that women were less intelligent than men because their brains were smaller. 2. In paragraph 3, Gould describes Broca’s experiment. When Broca performed autopsies, which variable was he manipulating? How many autopsies did Broca perform total? What percent of the subjects were men? What percent were women? Do these percents indicate any weaknesses in his experimental design? During his operations, Broca manipulated the independent variable of the gender of the cadaver to observe the differentiating features of each sex’s brain with body size being a confounding variable. Broca performed 432 operations in total, 292 of them being male and therefore making up nearly 68% of the studied group; leaving women at a mere 32%. This leaves his study open to weaknesses, such as a hasty generalization about women as a whole or a bias against women based on the skewed number of specimens autopsied by Dr. Broca. 3. In paragraph 3, Gould includes an extended quote (extended quotes are indented) from Broca’s work. Read the quote. Then, identify the possible confounding variable Tiedemann (one of Broca’s colleagues) points out. How does Broca control this variable, or does he? An a priori argument is a fallacy that starts with a pre-set belief or “fact,” and then searches for any reasonable or reasonable-sounding argument to defend it. To what extent does Broca commit this fallacy? The confounding variable Dr. Tiedemann observes is the difference in height between the male and female subjects which could lead to similarly different brain sizes even though they were proportional to the body size of the cadaver from which they were extracted. Broca dismisses the variable, citing that women were already known to be less intelligent than men, and therefore, it was reasonable for them to have a smaller brain mass than men regardless of height. Broca clearly commits to his priori argument that women are less intelligent than men

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