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The Myth of the Lehman sisters? A debunker speaks

Delusions of Gender

Evolutionary psychologist Cordelia Fine of Melbourne University is known as a keen debunker of myths. She was at the State University of New York at New Paltz’s Coykendall Science Building last night bringing her formidable abilities to bear on risky behavior in finance. Is it at least partly rooted in behavior by men that is driven by biological sex differences in the architecture of the brain itself? Testosterone levels, which differ depending on sex, govern the development of sex-linked characteristics in the womb. The putative implication of such a link to biology might be that bringing more women into finance would reduce the kinds of reckless and complacent behavior that led to the global financial crisis that began in 2007—strictly on the grounds of innate sexual differences, or at least sex differences that go back to before birth. The title of the talk alludes to an argument made in the opinion pages that if only the Lehman brothers had been the Lehman sisters, perhaps the worst of the global financial crisis would have been averted.

In her talk, Fine systematically deconstructed the case that testosterone itself and its role in promoting male neuro-characteristics is to blame, showing it to be flimsy and based on weak scientific evidence at best. Economics and its treatment of gender came in for both praise and blame, with noted heterodox scholar Julie Nelson among those mentioned in a favorable light. Below is the abstract from the announcement of the talk. The front cover of an earlier, related book appears above.  The title of the latter is Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference. The metastudy-type work presented in the talk is part of a forthcoming book, which is highly anticipated. A department official, at a post-talk reception, mentioned that Fine would be in New York City at a conference today…

The myth of the Lehman Sisters? Sex, testosterone, and financial risk-taking

Cordelia Fine, University of Melbourne

 There is growing scientific interest in the role of testosterone in financial risk-taking – a topic of considerable public interest too, with complaints of there being ‘too much testosterone on Wall Street’. Both research and debate are often grounded in an implicit model in which testosterone is presumed to be the proximal mechanism underlying the evolved masculine trait of risk-taking. This talk will identify a number of conceptual and empirical problems with the underlying assumptions of this model, and report preliminary findings from a meta-analytic study on testosterone and financial risk-taking.

A Financial Times profile of Fine.


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