Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science


Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies

Second Department


First Advisor

Erika Nelson Mukherjee

Second Advisor

Lindsay Morton


Neurosexism; mental illness; gender difference; sex difference


In the growing age of neuroscience, we are rapidly churning out answers to questions about the mind and mental illness that have always evaded us. While increased neurological understanding is valuable to mental illness, our current understanding of mental illness comes with historical baggage that has negatively shaped society’s beliefs connecting females to illness. Our definitions of mental illness and its association with women came out of a history of stigmatization against women, disease, and Otherness. This has manifested into the pathologization of female experience as mental illness. The onset of new brain science had a similar agenda to make female inferiority scientifically true, and neuroscience thus made room for neurosexism, the sexist assumption that all differences perceived between men and women are a direct result of neurological difference. While sex differences do exist in male and female brains, it is the neurological aspects along with social constructs of gender imbalance that account for these differences in mental illness between men and women today. An experiment was conducted on perceptions and reactions towards those with mental illness and found that the gender of the individual with mental illness did impact responses, highlighting gender discrepancies in our understanding of mental illness and further supporting that neurological and social factors together sustain difference. Increased understanding of the female to illness connection can help us reduce the pathologization of female experience, improve our current approach to neurological research, and reshape the conversations around sex and gender differences in mental illness.