Science Museum under fire for controversial male/female brain quiz

scan of a brain, science museum

The Science Museum in London has come under fire for testing its users on whether they have a pink ‘female’ brain or blue ‘male’ brain.

The ‘What Sex is Your Brain?’ quiz, as part of the museum’s ‘Who Am I’ exhibit, asks users to answer a number of questions, which determines where your brain lies on a ‘sex-o-meter’.

The test suggests that male, blue brains mean they can ‘see things in three dimensions’ and are ‘able to imagine how things rotate’. A female, pink brain means that they ‘have a good visual memory’ and are better in tests that involve ‘distinguishing between subtle hints and details’.

However, the exhibit has faced uproar on social media, while researchers have claimed that it holds now scientific value.

Speaking to CNN, Head of Experimental Psychology at University College, London, Dr Joseph Devlin 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.”

“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.”

Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, an expert on the teenage brain at University College, London told the Guardian that the exhibit was, “out of date, to say the least.”

She added, “I saw it recently and was pretty shocked by the misleading message, which doesn’t correspond to the scientific evidence.”

Writing in a blog post in response to the recent criticism, Alex Tyrell, head of exhibitions and programs at the Science Museum said, “Science moves fast, and while it isn’t 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.”

“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 Science Museum are now talking to “leading experts in neuroscience and clinical psychology’ to discuss whether any changes to the exhibit need to take place.


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Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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