Psychology 3225B-001

Sex Differences in Human Brain and Behaviour

If there is a discrepancy between the outline posted below and the outline posted on the OWL course website, the latter shall prevail.


An evolutionary and biological approach to understanding the differences between men and women. Topics include sociobiological explanations of sex roles; gonadal and brain sexual differentiation; hormonal factors in aggression, sexual preference, and gender identity; sex differences in cognitive function; genetic and hormonal influences on sexually dimorphic brain function.

Antirequisite: Psychology 3215F/G Antirequisites are courses that overlap sufficiently in content that only one can be taken for credit. So if you take a course that is an antirequisite to a course previously taken, you will lose credit for the earlier course, regardless of the grade achieved in the most recent course.

Prerequisites: Psychology 2820E, or both Psychology 2800E and 2810, and one of Psychology 2220A/B, 2221A/B, or Neuroscience 2000. Minimum grade of 60% required in all prerequisite courses. 3 lecture/discussion hours, 0.5 course

Unless you have either the prerequisites for this course or written special permission from your Dean to enroll in it, you may be removed from this course and it will be deleted from your record. This decision may not be appealed. You will receive no adjustment to your fees


Instructor: Dr. Elizabeth Hampson

Office and Phone Number: SSC 9218 519-661-2111 Ext. 84675

Office Hours: By appointment


Teaching Assistant: Sarah Ouellette

Office Hours: By appointment**


Time and Location of Classes: Thursdays, 2:30 – 5:30 PM Room 65, UCC

**If you wish to meet with the instructor or TA outside of regular class hours, please e-mail us to arrange an appointment.

If you or someone you know is experiencing distress, there are several resources here at Western to assist you.  Please visit: for more information on these resources and on mental health.

Please contact the course instructor if you require material in an alternate format or if you require any other arrangements to make this course more accessible to you. You may also wish to contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at 519-661-2111 ext 82147 for any specific question regarding an accommodation.


Students will be required to read journal articles and book chapters provided by the instructor through the OWL website. These will constitute the primary reading materials for the course.

Also required is the following paperback book, available at the Western Bookstore:

Colapinto, J. (2006). As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl. Toronto: Harper Perennial Ltd.  


The objective of the course is to provide an introductory overview of how certain sex differences can be understood from a neurobiological perspective. Topics will include: the principles of natural and sexual selection; sex differences in primary and secondary sex characteristics; genetic and endocrine contributions to sexual differentiation of the brain; sexual orientation; gender identity; sex differences in brain morphology and function; social play and aggression; sex differences in cognitive functions; sex differences in health and aging.

Understanding sex differences that are observed in humans will be the main emphasis of the course, but data from other species will be included where relevant


By the end of the course, the successful student should be able to:

 Articulate the difference between sex and gender (Assessed by exams, appropriate use in written assignments or verbal presentations)

 Explain major schools of thought regarding the causes of differences between the sexes (Assessed by quizzes and exams)

 Describe basic principles that govern how gonadal hormones alter brain structure and function (Assessed by quizzes and exams)

 Describe ways in which genetic factors can give rise to sex differences (Assessed by quizzes and exams) 

 Explain the concept of sexual selection in evolutionary theory (Assessed by quizzes and exams)

 Evaluate research methods and decision trees commonly used to investigate sex differences (Assessed by quizzes, exams, in-class discussion, verbal presentations, written assignments)

 Recognize examples of empirically validated sex differences vs. false stereotypes that lack a true empirical basis (Assessed by quizzes and exams)

 Read and evaluate primary journal articles in the field of sex and gender differences (Assessed by quizzes and exams, in-class discussion, written assignments, verbal presentations)

 Identify sex differences that have significant applications in psychology, neuroscience, medicine (Assessed by quizzes and exams, written assignments, verbal presentations)

 Locate and independently read research literature on a particular topic and integrate your ideas in the form of an analytical written assignment or essay (or verbal presentation to the class and/or the instructor) (Assessed by written assignments, essays, verbal presentations)


There will be one midterm exam, on February 15 (worth 25%). The midterm will consist of multiple-choice and short-answer questions (e.g., fill-in-the-blanks, definitions, or questions that require a brief written response). There will also be a final exam in April, scheduled by the Registrar. The final will be worth 45%, and it will be 3 hr in length. The final exam will have a format similar to the midterm, but will include, in addition, a longer written-type question that pertains to the David Reimer case (described in As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl).

The final exam will not be cumulative.

Exams will be based on the lectures, assigned readings, and any videos specified by the instructor.

Another 15% of the final grade will be based on a narrated slideshow created in PowerPoint. Students will be divided into pairs (or sets of 3, depending on the course enrollment). You and your partners will research a topic related to sex differences in mental health, then create a 15-minute slideshow with accompanying audio narrative based on available research findings selected from the scientific literature. This will be due on March 22. Your slideshow should describe what is currently known about sex differences in the mental health topic you’ve chosen and their possible causes, should provide an evaluation of the evidence, and give suggestions for future research in the field (further details to follow).

The remaining 15% of the final grade will be based on a written assignment. This will take the form of a mini-review consisting of a scholarly essay of ~1500 words (not counting References). It will be due at the end of the term (April 5, the last day of class). Your mini-review will describe and discuss recent literature on a biologically-based sex difference related to the brain or its functions. Example topics will be provided, but you may also design your own topic (with the prior agreement of the instructor). Topics must be approved by the course instructor in advance. The mini-review will be due April 5, and must be submitted both in hardcopy and by electronic submission to Turnitin. A late penalty of 10% per day will be applied to any papers submitted after the deadline.

Although the Psychology Department does not require instructors to adjust their course grades to conform to specific targets, the expectation is that course marks will be distributed around the following averages:

70%     1000-level and 2000-level courses
72%     2190-2990 level courses
75%     3000-level courses
80%     4000-level courses
The Psychology Department follows the University of Western Ontario grading guidelines, which are as follows (see ):

A+  90-100      One could scarcely expect better from a student at this level
A    80-89        Superior work that is clearly above average
B    70-79        Good work, meeting all requirements, and eminently satisfactory
C    60-69        Competent work, meeting requirements
D    50-59        Fair work, minimally acceptable
F    below 50    Fail


Midterm Test February 15 25%

Final Exam TBA (April 14-30, 2018) 45%

Narrated Slideshow March 22 15%

Mini-Review April 5 15%


PowerPoint slides will be posted on OWL, before or after each day's lecture. All weekly readings (journal articles and book chapters) can also be found on OWL, under the Course Readings link:

January 11: Introduction to the course Course organization and evaluation Video - "The Mating Game - Triumph of Life"

January 18: Theoretical perspectives on sex differences

January 25: Evolutionary approaches Natural and sexual selection Mating systems, parental investment

February 1: The genetics of sexual differentiation Sex chromosome anomalies

February 8: Hormonal control of sexual differentiation

February 15: Midterm test (Location TBA)

February 22: Spring Reading Week - No Class

March 1: Sexual orientation and sexual behaviour The hypothalamus

March 8: Gender identity The case of David Reimer Video - "You Don't Know Dick"

March 15: Childhood play and gender role behaviours Sex differences in affiliation, aggression

March 22: Sex differences in the central nervous system Differences in brain morphology and function Slideshow due

March 29: Sex differences in perception and cognition

April 5: Sex differences in aging, health, and disease Mini-review due


Students are responsible for understanding the nature and avoiding the occurrence of plagiarism and other scholastic offenses. Plagiarism and cheating are considered very serious offenses because they undermine the integrity of research and education. Actions constituting a scholastic offense are described at the following link:

As of Sept. 1, 2009, the Department of Psychology will take the following steps to detect scholastic offenses. All multiple-choice tests and exams will be checked for similarities in the pattern of responses using reliable software, and records will be made of student seating locations in all tests and exams. All written assignments will be submitted to TurnItIn, a service designed to detect and deter plagiarism by comparing written material to over 5 billion pages of content located on the Internet or in TurnItIn’s databases. All papers submitted for such checking will be included as source documents in the reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism of papers subsequently submitted to the system. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement, currently between Western and

Possible penalties for a scholastic offense include failure of the assignment, failure of the course, suspension from the University, and expulsion from the University.


Western’s policy on Accommodation for Medical Illness can be found at: 

Students must see the Academic Counsellor and submit all required documentation in order to be approved for certain accommodation:


Office of the Registrar web site:

Student Development Services web site:

Please see the Psychology Undergraduate web site for information on the following:

- Policy on Cheating and Academic Misconduct
- Procedures for Appealing Academic Evaluations
- Policy on Attendance
- Policy Regarding Makeup Exams and Extensions of Deadlines
- Policy for Assignments
- Short Absences
- Extended Absences
- Documentation
- Academic Concerns
- 2017 Calendar References

No electronic devices, including cell phones and smart watches, will be allowed during exams.