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The Essential Difference (Penguin Press Science) [Paperback]

Simon Baron-Cohen
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Mar 2004 Penguin Press Science
'The Essential Difference' shows that, on average, male and female minds are of a slightly different character. Men tend to be better at analysing systems (better systemisers), while women tend to be better at reading the emotions of other people (better empathisers).

Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (4 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141011017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141011011
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 129,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Simon Baron-Cohen is Professor at Cambridge University in the fields of psychology and psychiatry, and the co-director of the Autism Research Centre there. He has carried out research into both autism and sex differences, over a twenty-year career. He is the author of MINDBLINDNESS.

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First Sentence
The subject of essential sex differences in the mind is clearly very delicate. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
153 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Separate, but Equal 1 May 2004
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
After a lengthy and unwarranted disclaimer that his work isn't "sexist" [whatever that is], Baron-Cohen surveys the foundations of male and female minds. With a long clinical and teaching career, supported by an immense list of studies, he concludes that, in general, there are indeed "essential differences" in cognitive makeup between human genders. While there is a spectrum of characteristics, certain general frameworks exist attributable to men and women. For ease of analysis, he suggests that women are more empathic ["E" personalities] while men are more systematic ["S" personalities]. Each, he insists, has their role, with most people placed well within a median between extremes. The trends, however, are clear.
In a chatty style he likely uses speaking with patients, Baron-Cohen shows that women's empathic tendencies give them the power to quickly assess others' emotional states. Women more readily identify feelings in others, respond appropriately when sympathy is required and "reach out" in dealing with people. He stresses that this "intuitive sense" among women is almost universal and is rightfully well-regarded by all cultures. Men, on the other hand, operate under the need to understand "systems", organized conditions, mechanics, technology and are thus driven to know "how things work". This urge leads them away from the intimacy women have with others and, in the more extreme cases, are likely to become "loners". The most outstanding examples are those suffering from autism which is overwhelmingly a male condition.
Baron-Cohen has spent years studying autism, offering a range of examples. It may appear amusing that a five-year-old boy may be capable of memorizing dozens of car registrations and explain which car belongs to which house, but there are other factors to consider.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating 31 Dec 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a book that I felt I should read for a long time and had to work myself up into reading. I shouldn't have been worried, it's actually really easy to read.

The Essential Difference, explores the possible differences between the male (systemising) brain and the female (empathising) brain, and also whether autism can be explained by being considered the extreme form of male brain. It is worth noting Baron-Cohen says that women can have male brains and men can have female brains.

The key to my enjoyment of this book was Baron-Cohen's tone and attitude, he is incredibly respectful of any differences and explains how these definitions shouldn't be used to limit people.

There are also four tests in the back of the book, so you can see what type of brain you have! I'm keeping mine a secret!

Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I have always been interested in the workings of the brain and now, having had autism diagnosed in the family, I have been reading as many books on autism spectrum disorders as I can get my hands on. This book was recommended to me by a speech therapist friend and, having read it, I can understand why. A first class book that should be read by anyone with an interest in Asperger's syndrome and autism spectrum disorders or indeed anyone who wants to understand why men and women differ. After reading it, I understood - what more can anyone say.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The book's theory states,
"The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems."
and this is backed up with evidence from many sources.
The two variable characteristics, systemizing and empathizing, are examined and the case is made that autism represents the extreme male brain.
What impresses me greatly about this book is that Simom Baron-Cohen shows time and again that average statistics cannot be used to pre-categorize individuals. An individual's actual scores on systemizing and empathizing cannot be predicted from their gender. He even provides tests in the Apendices for generating one's own description on these characteristics. They're very interesting.
This is a book about people and about the uniqueness of individuals. There are lots of stories and a strong appreciation of the value of differences. This is an engaging read, easy to understand and useful. The extensive references and bibliography are there to follow up, but they deliberately do not intrude on the text. My only quibble is that there's very little on the extreme female brain. Perhaps it'll get a book to itself!
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not entirely convincing 20 July 2003
By A Customer
In this book Simon Baron-Cohen outlines his theory that the differences between how men and women think, can be explained by their differing ability at empathising, and systemising. He gives a detailed description of how boys and girls behave from an early age and discusses possible biological causes. Although his theory is interesting it left me unconvinced. He gives lots of anecdotes and makes statements like, 'boys do better at test X, girls do better at test Y' but gives no statistics (although they are referenced). I suspect some of his ideas are controversial (for instance his suggestion that women are under-represented in the physical sciences as more men have a brain type suited to this work, is not supported by studies done inside the field). He does not offer any real evidence that autism is a case of an 'extreme male brain', and his idea that there may be a 'extreme female brain' comes across as pure speculation. He concludes the book nicely by discussing the limitations of this theory and the need for more research.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I was expecting the science underlying the empathy-systematising model of gender differences - the experiments and the data. Read more
Published 5 months ago by R. Bradford
4.0 out of 5 stars A good insight into what both separates and unites us
Simon Baron-Cohen is evidently very well informed on human motivations then enabling him to lucidly offer fascinating reasons for human behaviour. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Emily Thomas
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good
The book was in a really good condition taking into account the fact that it was a second handed one. Also, the product was delivered earlier than expected!
Published 16 months ago by Foteini
1.0 out of 5 stars there is a big problem with this thread of thought
Recent authors have revived Darwin's ideas of 'Sexual Selection'. Biologists are fully aware that humans are a species which exhibits profound 'Sexual Dimorphism'; what this means... Read more
Published on 31 July 2011 by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Essentially flawed
Before reading this book in its entirety I took issue with another reviewer's low rating as it seemed focused on the 'dishonest' marketing of the book. Read more
Published on 13 Sep 2010 by Christopher Williams
3.0 out of 5 stars Men really are from Mars
Yes, this is the thinking man's version of John Gray's famous book. But this is by a Cambridge professor with a bulgy forehead, so it must be true - mustn't it? Read more
Published on 22 Jun 2010 by Enthusiast
2.0 out of 5 stars Relative Differences, please ...
Read this book from cover to cover, and can't believe how it's been titled, marketed and summarised. Read more
Published on 3 Feb 2010 by sevensisters007
5.0 out of 5 stars Most men are autistic
I had been saying it for years, this book proves it. Every married woman should read this and make him do the "eyes" test. It will explain a lot. Read more
Published on 26 Nov 2006 by Daphne Wayne-Bough
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb read.
I would recommend any Psychology undergraduate read this, and it will make an interesting read for anyone involved or interested in autism. Read more
Published on 26 Jun 2006 by C. Dalton
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous!
Baron-Cohen refuses to side step around the issue of gender in this fascinating book which provides not only a useful insight into autism but also offers more information about the... Read more
Published on 26 Jan 2006 by "tinkerbel1983"
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