Mind Brain Behavior Junior Symposium 2017-2018: Sex, Mind, and Brain


Friday, February 2, 2018, 6:00pm to 9:00pm


William James 105 and Library (both on ground floor off lobby), 33 Kirkland Street

Please note: This event is not open to the public.

The MBB junior symposium features talks by and discussions with a variety of scholars on an interdisciplinary theme in mind/brain/behavior. The symposium will include speaker presentations and a lunch/discussion with speakers and MBB faculty.

The talks are open to all MBB undergraduates and faculty, and the full symposium activities are open to MBB juniors and to those MBB seniors who did not attend the symposium last year. Participation is required of students pursuing the Certificate in MBB (students in honors MBB tracks) and is also open and recommended to students pursuing or considering a secondary field in MBB.


Across the humanities and sciences we find what appear to be different notions of sex and gender. The speakers in this symposium will aim to clarify these differences by focusing on the following questions. Is sex is a biological kind? Is there is such a thing as ‘female brain’ or ‘male brain’? If there are any sexual differences, how they can best be studied? What is the relationship between the concepts of sex and gender?


Juniors and seniors who are completing the symposium requirement - and thus who will be attending the entire symposium - should pre-register by emailing Shawn Harriman at shawn_harriman@harvard.edu. Please include your name, year, MBB affiliation (track or secondary field), and concentration. Please pre-register by noon on Wednesday, January 31st.


6:00 p.m. - Registration (Library)

6:15 p.m. - Symposium Welcome, Susanna Siegel (WJH 105)

6:20 p.m. - We are Not Immune! Testosterone and Sex Differences in Human Aggression, Carole Hooven (WJH 105)

6:50 p.m. - Does Every Cell Have a Sex?, Sarah Richardson (WJH 105)

7:10 p.m. - Dessert Break (Library)

7:30 p.m. - Is Sex Binary?, Alex Byrne (WJH 105)

8:00 p.m. - Panel Discussion with Speakers and Organizers (WJH 105)


We are Not Immune! Testosterone and Sex Differences in Human Aggression, Carole Hooven, Lecturer in Human Evolutionary Biology (Human Evolutionary Biology/FAS), https://heb.fas.harvard.edu/people/carole-hooven  --  The question of whether biology contributes significantly to sex differences in human behavior is a fraught one: if these differences are biologically driven, then how can women ever achieve equality? In my talk, I’ll focus on the role of testosterone as a mediator of sex differences in human aggression to illustrate that humans are subject to the same evolutionary, biological and hormonal forces that shape behavior in nonhuman animals. I’ll also argue that, far from hindering social progress, understanding the biological bases of human sex differences can only help.

Does Every Cell Have a Sex?, Sarah Richardson, Professor of the History of Science and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality (History of Science/FAS; Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality/FAS), https://scholar.harvard.edu/srichard/home  --  Recently, the US National Institutes of Health implemented a new policy requiring researchers to include plans to analyze “male” and “female” cells, tissues, and animals in all funding applications. Advocates of policies mandating the study of male and female materials in preclinical research use the discourse of gender equality to frame their aims. But, as this talk will argue, the relationship between “sex” in preclinical materials such as cells and addressing health disparities between human men and women is far from straightforward.

Is Sex Binary?, Alex Byrne, Professor of Philosophy (MIT), http://web.mit.edu/philosophy/byrne.html  --  Is everyone either male or female, and not both? It is frequently asserted that the answer is “no”: sex is not binary. Indeed, some even say that so-called “intersex” conditions show that humans come in five or more sexes. I shall argue that the evidence in support of these claims is weak, at best.


Susanna Siegel, Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy (Philosophy/FAS)

Robert Stickgold, Associate Professor of Psychiatry (Harvard Medical School)