Museum under fire for quiz on male, female brains

Posted at 12:18 AM, Sep 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-15 00:29:23-04
The opening page of the brain gender quiz

The opening page of the brain gender quiz

The Science Museum in London has come under fire for an exhibit that apparently tells you whether your brain is male or female.

The interactive ‘Who Am I’ exhibit features a series of questions. Your answers are displayed on a ‘sex-o-meter’ where an arrow either lnds on blue (to represent a male brain) or pink (a female brain).

According to the test, men are better at “seeing things in three dimensions” and “being able to imagine how things rotate.” Women fare better “in tests that involve: distinguishing between subtle hints and details” and “having a good visual memory.”

The first question asked in quiz

The first question asked in quiz

After a picture of the quiz was posted online, people took to Twitter expressing outrage and disbelief that such antiquated notions of gender stereotypes still has a place in a science museum.

“To be honest, I was surprised to hear about this exhibit,” said Joseph Devlin, head of experimental psychology at University College London. “The Science Museum has an impressive track record and I really respect their work in science communication. This particular exhibit is not at all representative of the work they do.”

Obviously there are some differences in the male and female brain, including size and chemistry, he said. But differences in how they compute spatial or numerical problems can be a result of many factors and life experiences.

“Disentangling cause and effect is tricky but to my mind, claiming that there are ‘male’ or ‘female’ brains is disingenuous and grossly oversimplifies a complex topic.”

The 'who am I?' exhibition in the London Science Museum

The ‘who am I?’ exhibition in the London Science Museum

Alex Tyrrell, head of exhibitions and programs at the Science Museum attributed the controversy to time, saying the exhibit was “refreshed” six years ago but some of the research used around the display was over a decade old.

“Science moves fast, and while it isn’t always possible for us to keep up, on some issues it is essential that we quicken our pace to make sure we haven’t been left behind,” Tyrrell said in a blog post.

“We would like to keep all of our galleries and exhibitions up-to-date, but with many thousands of objects on show and finite resources and time this is not always possible.”

The museum said it is talking to experts now to determine whether the latest science warrants making changes to the exhibit.