Take this one, for example, which happens to be about humor. Some Stanford University scientists wired up men and women, showed them a bunch of cartoons, and watched the way their brains lit up:
But some brain regions were activated more in women, including both the left prefrontal cortex and the mesolimbic reward centre.To test my theory about whether scientists are following my rule, try rewriting their conclusions as if they were following the opposite rule. That is, take the same basic data, and write their statements as if they were leaning exactly as much toward portraying what is true of the male as superior.
The researchers say their findings suggest women place a greater emphasis on the language of humour, possibly employing a more analytical approach.
They also believe that the women in the study were less likely to expect the cartoons to be funny - so when they were, their pleasure centre lit up with greater intensity than their male counterparts.
Professor Reiss said: "Women appeared to have less expectation of a reward, which in this case was the punch line of the cartoon.
"So when they got to the joke's punch line, they were more pleased about it."
The researchers also found that the funnier the cartoon, the more the reward centre was activated in women.
That was not the case in men who seemed to "expect" the cartoons to be funny from the start.
Professor Reiss said the finding that women's reward centres might be more sensitive to emotional stimuli, if confirmed by follow-up studies, might explain why they appear to be more vulnerable to depression....
However, he told the BBC News website: "I would agree that women are much more analytical in terms of humour, but to extrapolate from this study, and draw conclusions about clinical depression is probably a step too far."
I remember the days when people would routinely and openly characterize whatever was true of the male as superior, and I'm glad those days are over (at least in the U.S.). But leaning in the other direction isn't the answer. It's patronizing. And it's unscientific! I understand the motivation of the scientists, though. I think they have reason to be afraid not to couch their findings this way.
UPDATE: I like the title on the AP version of the story: "Women May Enjoy Humor More, if It's Funny." I can't help jumping ahead to the news: Women may enjoy sex more than men too -- if it's good. Ah, and that's the big problem -- isn't it? -- for both humor and sex: Men are perfectly happy with a lower quality experience, and as a result there is less available that works for women. It's a life of "Three Stooges" comedy and "Three Stooges" sex.