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Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences Hardcover – 2 Sep 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd; First Edition edition (2 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184831163X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848311633
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 3.3 x 22.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 458,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

In 'Delusions of Gender' Cordelia Fine does a magnificent job debunking the so-called science, and especially the brain science, of gender. If you thought there were some inescapable facts about women's minds - some hard wiring that explains poor science and maths performance, or the ability to remember to buy the milk and arrange the holidays - you can put these on the rubbish heap. Instead, Fine shows that there are almost no areas of performance that are not touched by cultural stereotypes. This scholarly book will make you itch to press the delete button on so much nonsense, while being pure fun to read. --Emeritus Professor Uta Frith FBA, FMedSci, FRS, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, Research Foundation Professor, University of Aarhus

Cordelia Fine has a first-rate intellect and writing talent to burn. In her new book, 'Delusions of Gender', she takes aim at the idea that male brains and female brains are "wired differently," leading men and women to act in a manner consistent with decades-old gender stereotypes. Armed with penetrating insights, a rapier wit, and a slew of carefully researched facts, Fine lowers her visor, lifts her lance, and attacks this idea full-force. Whether her adversaries can rally their forces and mount a successful counter-attack remains to be seen. What's certain at this point, however, is that in 'Delusions of Gender' Cordelia Fine has struck a terrific first blow against what she calls "neurosexism." --William Ickes, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Texas at Arlington Author of 'Everyday Mind Reading'

Fine turns the popular science book formula on its head -- USA Today, August 2010

Fine is fun, droll yet deeply serious. Setting a cracking pace, 'Delusions' tackles the power of implicit association (those unconscious associations we make about men and women) and of negative stereotyping, plus the empathising/systematising theory proposed by psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, and the messy world of brain scans and genetic research. Her conclusion: we are in thrall to "neurosexism". --New Scientist 1 September 2010

The author, Cordelia Fine, who has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from University College London, is an acerbic critic, mincing no words when it comes to those she disagrees with. But her sharp tongue is tempered with humor and linguistic playfulness, as the title itself suggests.... It's too late to tell that to Dr. Sax, a proponent of single-sex education, who cited the Connellan study as evidence that "girls are born prewired to be interested in faces while boys are prewired to be more interested in moving objects." But it's not too late to read this book and see how complex and fascinating the whole issue is.
--New York Times, 24 August 2010

`In a book that sparkles with wit, which is easy to read but underpinned by substantial scholarship and a formidable 100-page bibliography, Cordelia Fine attacks the ready generalisations on sexual differences made by neuroscientists and their media exegetes.' - Hilary Rose
--THE, 30th September, 2010

Review

'We are all in [Fine's] debt. She has the expertise to check the research references cited by academic as well as popular books on the subject, and she has the clarity and wit to impart her findings to the lay reader. She exposes shockingly lightweight research that is taken seriously and nuanced research that is misreported.' (Guardian)

'The hard data is illuminating, and engaging, but Fine manages a light touch throughout. This is a truly startling book.' (Independent on Sunday)

''Delusions of Gender' ... carefully and with great precision demolishes the nonsense that pervades the popular and technical literature pretending to be scientific fact, exposing it as truthiness which is nowhere close to truth. ... When I first heard about this book it was clear, even before reading it, that this is the book we've been waiting for. Now, having read it, I can assure you that it is even better than I thought it could be. ... Buy it. Get your friends, your colleagues, your family members to buy it, or buy it for them. Get it to your local school board. Make it required reading, not only in gender studies, but in freshman sociology, biology, education and business courses. Get it on the New York Times bestseller list. ... Our culture is saturated with sloppy self-reinforcing non-thinking about gender. It will take a monumental effort to get it off those tracks. 'Delusions of Gender' is an excellent place to start.' (Professor Judy Roitman, Association for Women in Mathematics Newsletter)

'A fascinating subject. A bracing argument.' (Evening Standard)

'The result of Fine’s irritation is a witty and meticulously researched exposé of the sloppy studies that pass for scientific evidence in so many of today’s bestselling books on sex differences… Can we stop talking about brains now? Those who can’t, and anyone else who would like to know what today’s best science reveals about gender differences – and similarities – could not do better than read this book.' (Carol Tavris, TLS)

'['Brain Storm' and 'Delusions of Gender' are] well-informed, well-argued and (for science books, perhaps unusually) well-written interventions in … one of the most important debates in current sexual politics.' (Trouble and Strife Journal)

'Two books came out this year (2010) which, in the long-term, could change how we view gender for ever. … Cordelia Fine’s ‘Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences’ (Icon Books) finally debunked the myth that men and women’s minds are significantly different …. Both books were favourably reviewed and hotly discussed. Over time their conclusions could have far-reaching consequences as significant as ‘The Female Eunuch.’' (Viv Groskop, Guardian)

'If you believe that the tide of blue and pink that greets children whenever they walk into a toy or children’s clothes shop is just about colours … think again.' (Working Mums)

'This is a book with such a large scope that it’s near-impossible to overestimate its importance. Much like ‘The Spirit Level’ did for socio-economics, this book ropes together decades’ worth of studies on gender differences and casts a cool, calm eye (and an arched brow) over them all… This book will cast a light on gender assumptions you didn’t know you had, and it’s hilarious – with chapter titles such as ‘We Think, Therefore You Are’ and ‘Sex and Premature Speculation,’ Dr Fine is a brilliant tour guide – making light, fun and engaging work of the research. By debunking the rubbish, this book opens up possibilities for a (slightly) clearer vision of the future. Not to be missed.' (Fat Quarter)

'In 'Delusions of Gender' Cordelia Fine does a magnificent job debunking the so-called science, and especially the brain science, of gender. If you thought there were some inescapable facts about women’s minds – some hard wiring that explains poor science and maths performance, or the ability to remember to buy the milk and arrange the holidays – you can put these on the rubbish heap. Instead, Fine shows that there are almost no areas of performance that are not touched by cultural stereotypes. This scholarly book will make you itch to press the delete button on so much nonsense, while being pure fun to read.' (Emeritus Professor Uta Frith, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, Research Foundation Professor, University of Aarhus)

'Cordelia Fine has a first-rate intellect and writing talent to burn. In her new book, ‘Delusions of Gender,’ she takes aim at the idea that male brains and female brains are 'wired differently,' leading men and women to act in a manner consistent with decades-old gender stereotypes. Armed with penetrating insights, a rapier wit, and a slew of carefully researched facts, Fine lowers her visor, lifts her lance, and attacks this idea full-force. Whether her adversaries can rally their forces and mount a successful counter-attack remains to be seen. What's certain at this point, however, is that in 'Delusions of Gender' Cordelia Fine has struck a terrific first blow against what she calls 'neurosexism.' (Professor William Ickes, author of 'Everyday Mind Reading: Understanding What Other People Think and Feel.')

'Fine turns the popular science book formula on its head.' (USA Today)

'Fine is fun, droll yet deeply serious. Setting a cracking pace, ‘Delusions’ tackles the power of implicit association (those unconscious associations we make about men and women) and of negative stereotyping, plus the empathising/systematising theory proposed by psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen, and the messy world of brain scans and genetic research. Her conclusion: we are in thrall to 'neurosexism'.' (New Scientist)

'The author, Cordelia Fine, who has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from University College London, is an acerbic critic, mincing no words when it comes to those she disagrees with. But her sharp tongue is tempered with humor and linguistic playfulness, as the title itself suggests…. It’s too late to tell that to Dr. Sax, a proponent of single-sex education, who cited the Connellan study as evidence that 'girls are born prewired to be interested in faces while boys are prewired to be more interested in moving objects.' But it’s not too late to read this book and see how complex and fascinating the whole issue is.' (New York Times)

‘So both sexes should rejoice at Cordelia Fine’s new book, Delusions of Gender, a vitriolic attack on the sexism masquerading as psychology that is enjoying a renaissance.’ (Rosamund Irwin, London Evening Standard)

'…impeccably researched and bitingly funny.’ (Rosamund Irwin, London Evening Standard)

'Fine’s tone is witty but the citations are detailed and the bibliography extensive…This book is an entertaining weapon in that fight (for education and social justice) and will make a nice ‘thwok’ sound bouncing off the heads of sexists.' (Sarah Ensor, Socialist review)

'Fine’s conclusions provide a timely warning against taking too seriously the deluge of books and articles that would have us believe that men are biologically advantaged when it comes to mathematics, racing, driving or map reading – and that women are naturally more intuitive and nurturing, so better at childcare and multitasking.' (Claire Jones, Guardian)

'In ‘Delusions of Gender’ the psychologist Cordelia Fine exposes the bad science, the ridiculous arguments and the persistent biases that blind us to the ways we ourselves enforce the gender stereotypes we think we are trying to overcome.' NB – this article goes on to claim that Fine does not go far enough nor give us any solutions. The subtitle of the article is ‘Terri Apter wishes that a study of genes and gender had gone further.’ (Terri Apter, Guardian)

'Fine eviscerates both the neuroscientists who claim to have found the answers and the popularisers who take their findings and run with them.' (NB quote referenced in the Guardian article 11th September - ) (Katherine Bouton, Deputy Editor of New York Times Magazine.)

'Timely and provocative, her argument is also excellent at debunking oversimplified theories, for instance, that biology is destiny.' (Metro)

“well-stocked armoury that includes extensive research, sharp whit and a probing intelligence, and which refuses to be satisfied with the delusional myth-making that often passes for popular science.” (Metro)

‘Fine offers persuasive proof that many of the claims we commonly swallow about male and female brains are based on very bad science indeed. Her entire book … is worth a read, and perhaps should be taught in high school and college science classes. Maybe if young women were exposed to the truth about their brains, they’d no longer feel like they had to chuck their gender overboard in order to pursue their dreams.’ (Anna North, Jezebel)

'With ‘Delusions of Gender,’ we welcome a brilliant feminist critic of the neurosciences … In a book that sparkles with wit, which is easy to read but underpinned by substantial scholarship and a formidable 100-page bibliography, she attacks the ready generalisations on sexual differences made by neuroscientists and their media exegetes … every page of Fine's brilliant, spiky book reminds us that science is part of culture and that the struggle against sexism in the neurosciences and the struggle against sexism in society are intimately linked. Read her, enjoy and learn.' (Hilary Rose, THES)

'Popular science writing at its best … beautifully and accessibly written … It is a cracking good read, by turns witty, passionate and learned.' (National Childbirth Trust Journal)

'An excellent introduction to the scientific method … mind-opening … prepare to be a relative expert on the subject.' (British Neuroscience Association Bulletin)

'[a] brilliant debunking of ‘neuro-sexism’ … a powerful case that who we are is much more closely attuned to the culture that surrounds us, than to the biology of our brains.' (Mslexia)

'A pinnacle piece of feminist literature, which I thoroughly recommend and could quote all day.' (Fran Hall, Huffington Post)

'Fine draws together research that shows people who pride themselves on their lack of bias persist in making the stereotypical associations just below the threshold of consciousness.' NB – this article goes on to claim that Fine does not go far enough nor give us any solutions. The subtitle of the article is ‘Terri Apter wishes that a study of genes and gender had gone further.’ (Terri Apter, Guardian)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first third of this book is incredible, it cited sources and large enough studies to convince any honest person of it's point and it's importance. It' completely changed my views on many of what I now consider to be key and generally poorly understood issues. But after that something strange happened. It started when she was comparing how important people perceive work of men and women to be, in support of her point she cited that 2 couples she was friends with both thought the man was more busy/ important at work, at this point alarm bells started going,

they continued ever louder while a paragraph was given to discrediting rat studies only for a rat study to be used in supporting one of her points not 10 pages later.

and they became deafening when an entire chapter was given to discrediting another persons work because although they could show a link from foetal testosterone levels to brain structure they couldn't then show a link to behaviour (although differences existed). which was fine but don't then in the very next chapter quote a nobel prize winner in support of your point saying that a great scientist is one who can try to predict the whole picture when only fragments of it can be seen.

In summary, the first 1/3 of the book is well worth the cost of the whole thing but it's worth keeping 'the filter' on if you are going to read the rest.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A fascinating and somewhat terrifying debunking of the so-called science behind claims that men and women have different brains and different minds, causing different preferences and abilities between the sexes.

The sheer amount of misinterpreted or completely fabricated results was a real eye-opener. And the instant willingness to believe claims when they are backed by apparent neuroscience was scary too.

Although quite dense to get through in parts, the whole neuroscience section was very educational. I, as it seems most of the world, had no idea that neuroscience is still very much in its infancy and all the fancy brain scans in the world still haven't allowed us to fully understand how and where the brain does what it does (never mind how it might, or might not, be done differently between the sexes).

I never usually read much nonfiction or science, but I still found this a very accessible read. I recommend it to absolutely everyone, whether male or female, parent or child-free, whatever! The sheer impact of overtly or subconsciously perceived gender roles or stereotype threat is greater and more insidious than I could have ever imagined, but the more people know about it the more we can (hopefully) start to combat it.

The book does not purport to have the solutions. How do we raise our children to be happy and effective people instead of always putting so much emphasis on being boys and girls, men and women? I don't know, but at least now I have a lot more information on taking the first steps.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Since working recently for a company that sells books for children all neatly published in lists either for 'girls' (princess, fairies, shopping and pink), or 'boys' (space, transport, animals and science), and having my concerns dismissed because "that's just the way boys and girls are", gender roles and gender stereotypes have been on my mind a lot.

There has been much in the media recently about the male and female brain and resulting assumptions about gender that people seem to take as gospel truth, but have made me uncomfortable and a little sad.

I was worried that my ideas about gender, and my aversion to gender role stereotypes, were wrong and that all this new 'science' was proof of inherent unavoidable differences; but this book has very convincingly shown me that I was right to be skeptical. It's opened my eyes to the importance of skepticism toward anything based on incomplete and not yet fully understood science. It really showed me just how separated by society men and women are, and now that my eyes are opened I've noticed so much more in the media and general life that reinforces traditional presumptions about gender.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book stunning. All around you see all this stuff about 'Men's brains' and 'Women's brains', and it always struck me as odd that a sex that has, for example, written so much brilliant literature should be deemed semi-autistic, etc etc. So here comes this brilliantly researched book (just take a look at the pages and pages of notes at the end - this author knows her onions backwards and forwards and sideways) - and she points out how shoddy it all is.
And she's funny!
No one will ever again have to sit through a dinner party with some parent going on about how 'I thought that too, but you only have to LOOK at my ttwo children to see there are innate differences...bleh bleh'. She unpickes it all and shows how social pressures are so important and the brain differences that are so often claimed are, essentially, neurotosh, aka neurosexism. I think I shall carry a copy round with me.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Oh my LORD! You will never feel the same way about using a simple pronoun again.

This book highlights all sorts of ways in which male and female stereotypes affect the way people think about themselves and others. In TERRIFYING ways. We are given a layperson's synopsis of a number of experiments and their alarming results. Cordelia Fine recounts how simply reminding yourself what gender you are (by ticking a box on a form, unbelievably) has been shown to affect how you go on to perform in a maths test: girls score lower than control groups when reminded that they are female, since the all-pervasive stereotype is that boys are better at maths. This is just one horrifying example of the way stereotypes can affect all of us for the worse.

We are shown the many ways that we all treat boys and girls differently, even subconsciously. Fine doesn't prove that there are no differences between male and female brains but she provides a fantastically sarcastic commentary on the literature which aims to prove the opposite. She articulates her concern that some teachers and parents are deliberately treating boys and girls differently, because of bad-science claims in pop-culture books that suggest that the sexes must be treated differently to achieve equality. She urges caution in making assumptions about different abilities or preferences in boys and girls, demonstrating there is not enough evidence to warrant it.

The first part of the book shows us the damage that can be done by our different treatment of girls and boys, and the last part proves to readers that they too do this themselves, even though they don't mean to. Fine has added a valuable contribution to this debate.
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