Broca’s obsession with brain size (when his was smaller than normal)

Broca's obsession with brain size (when his was smaller than normal)

The size of the brain, to some extent, is not related to the level of intelligence , but the density of the connections. This is why women’s brains are smaller on average than men’s: their bodies are simply smaller.

However, the great French anatomist Pierre Paul Broca (1824 – 1880) was obsessed with the size of the brain for a long time. Which is still ironic, because hers was eventually found to be smaller than average.

Drill area

Broca was convinced that criminals, dark-skinned foreigners, and women had smaller brains than white men, and that this also explained that they were less intelligent and also less honest .

Broca, to maintain his idea despite the increasingly overwhelming evidence to the contrary, carried out a stubborn exercise in cherry picking , highlighting only studies that confirmed what he believed and overlooking those that disavowed him. , such as a study carried out in Germany in which it was suggested that the brains of German citizens had a mass 100 grams greater than that of the French .

Broca argued that perhaps this was because the French tested were older than the Germans, so their brains were simply more shrunken. For criminals he also had his theories, as Bill Bryson explains in The Human Body :

He also had trouble explaining why criminals being executed sometimes had bigger brains, and decided that their brains had artificially swollen due to the stress of hanging. But the greatest indignity of all came when Broca’s own brain was measured after his death and found to be smaller than average.