London museum slammed for 'sex determination' exhibit
15 September 2016
Scientists have hit out at a London museum over an exhibit, which purports to reveal whether one person's brain is male or female.
Visitors at Science Museum London can take part by answering a number of questions – with a 'sex-o-meter' analysing the responses. An arrow then points to a blue or pink section, representing male and female respectively.
But some people have slammed the exhibit on social media for its ''antiquated gender stereotypes'' while researchers have also questioned its value.
The test says that men can see things better in three dimensions and are more able to imagine how things rotate while women have better visual memories and can distinguish more easily between subtle details.
Dr Joseph Devlin, head of experimental psychology at University College London, told CNN he was ''surprised'' at the exhibit.
He said, ''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.''
Dr Devlin added, "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.''
Bosses at the museum admitted some of the research used in the display was more than a decade old despite the exhibit being ''refreshed'' six years ago.
Writing in a blog post on the museum's website, head of exhibitions and programmes Alex Tyrrell said, ''I worked on 'Who Am I'? when it was last refreshed back in 2010 and the aim at the time was to present the cutting-edge scientific knowledge of the day on what makes us us, me me and you you.
''I headed up a team of researchers (we call them Content Developers) who spent many months scouring scientific journals and interviewing countless inspiring researchers from around the world.
''We also worked with a vast network of eminent geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists and other experts to create the gallery.
'Scientific accuracy is vital to the Museum – our reputation depends on it – and we put in place rigorous processes to ensure we get things right, from expert advisory boards who look at the broad messages in an exhibition, to subject specialists who are invited to scrutinise every word we write.'
She added the museum was talking to ''leading experts in neuroscience and clinical psychology'' to see if any changes were needed.
Tyrrell said, ''Of course 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.
''However, with an issue of such scientific and cultural importance as this we have decided it is essential that we look again at the exhibit. We are now talking to leading experts in neuroscience and clinical psychology to consider whether the latest scientific evidence warrants making changes to our exhibit.
''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.''