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Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  2,934 ratings  ·  417 reviews
A vehement dismantling of the latest pseudo-scientific claims about the differences between the sexes.

Sex-based discrimination is supposedly a relic of the distant past. Yet popular books, magazines, and even scientific articles increasingly defend continuing inequalities between the sexes by calling on immutable biological differences between the male and the female brai
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published August 30th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Didn't realise Cordelia was Australian - This is a lovely video of her views:

Let’s say you have read a couple of books on the ‘science’ that ‘explains’ the differences between the sexes. So, just what are you likely to have been told? Well, one thing would be that men have brains that are built to be more logical and mathematical than women’s brains (this is due to men’s better spatial rotational abilities that are a consequence of right brain localisatio
Aug 16, 2013 Manny rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who's ever thought about gender differences
Recommended to Manny by: C.
This is a remarkably good book, and anyone who's remotely interested in claims that there might be inherent differences in mental function between men and women should read it. It's insightful, carefully researched, well-written and often very funny. And if it doesn't make you change your mind about at least a few things in this area, you are either a remarkably knowledgable person or an incurable bigot.

I had read a few books and articles that touched on the subject of inherent gender difference
Truly a brilliant book. (And laugh-out-loud funny in quite a few places.) It's a book so full of interesting information, it's very tempting to write a review in which one relates one's favorite experiments, factoids, or statistics. But I will (mostly) resist. What I'd like to highlight are two features.

We have all heard (and perhaps told) stories like the following. "I wanted to bring up my children in a gender-neutral way, but at a certain point, the boy naturally took to smashing up trucks an
Jan 26, 2015 ·Karen· rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who's read Men are from Mars and Women can't read maps or some other neurosexist book

Things I have never seen*:

1) A male harpist.
Well, alright there was this guy:
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
But in an orchestra?
2)A female bishop in the Church of England
3)A female angler
4)A male nursery school teacher
5)A female truck driver

*I'm not saying they don't exist, and I'm certainly not saying they shouldn't exist, it's just that I've never seen one. Actually number 2 really doesn't exist, which is odd, as women may be ordained in the C of E.

Things I have heard, which I really wish I hadn't:

1)An Austrian mother w
I'm impressed with this book. It addresses multiple points of human psychology and has 100+ pages of citations, but still has an accessible and darkly witty style.

Fine's target in this book is what she calls 'neurosexism' - misinterpretations of modern neuroscience which supposedly justify stereotypes and perpetuate discrimination against women in society. Women are supposedly more empathetic, men are more analytic, women can't lead, men can't raise children, etc., etc. The roots of these belie
I decided to take a break from being girlishly bad at math and reading people's minds with my lady empathizing skills to read this book, and I sure am glad I did. Because it is hilarious. And fascinating. Cordelia Fine goes through all the old lines that I'm sure you've heard a thousand times (I know I have): that men's brains are just better at building stuff and making money while women are just natural nurturers, they just want to nurture the shit out of everything, because FEELINGS. Anyways, ...more
If I had a dollar for every time someone friend requested me on Goodreads because of my gender ("a guy who reads? wow!") I would probably have enough money to buy a new Kindle. As a male who loves books and aims for a career in clinical/counseling psychology - a more and more female-dominated field - part of me has always wondered whether I just lack the typical "male" brain. Are girls biologically geared toward the humanities and males toward the hard sciences? Do women really empathize more th ...more
I really think all educators need to read this book. Fine's target is the new gender essentialism, the reconstructed sexism that attempts to put women back in their traditional roles as 'unbenders of husbands' brows' and caregivers to children, and to keep them out of politics, mathematics and the sciences, by asserting that they are fitted for their place by essential female abilities and incapacities. In 1869 the philosopher John Stuart Mill, in his book The Subjection of Women, was severe on ...more
Cordelia Fine, a psychologist, decided to write this book after discovering her son's kindergarten teacher "reading a book that claimed his brain was incapable of forging the connection between emotion and language."

The first section of the book was slow reading for me. Fine engages in occasional snark, which was a little tiresome, followed by a lot of discussion of studies in which subjects are either told or not told statements about gender and then asked to perform certain tasks, to see if a
It can be incredibly frustrating to argue against someone who is convinced by the idea of preformed gender roles in society because they feel that "scientists have proven that male/female brains are different" and that to think otherwise somehow flies in the face of common sesne. Gender roles in society are supposedly natural and pre-ordained and we should learn to like them and love them.

It's so easy to believe in the myth and Cordelia Fine does an excellent job of outlining why this is a myth

18 Sept Update: some stories reading Karen's review brought to mind from my childhood....



Message on my secret diary. See that lock? That means if you read my diary you'd dead. I mean, not really dead. I'm a girl, it's not like I mean dead dead. But.

My secret diary while reading Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine.

Day one.
I was going to read lots of this book today, but M
Jenny Schwartz
Nearly 20 years ago I studied sociology at a feminist, Marxist university. I’m pretty much disposed to accept the argument that culture heavily influences behaviour, i.e. I’m on the nurture side of the nature versus nurture debate. So I thought reading “Delusions of Gender” would simply be a matter of nodding as new data supported that view.
Oh boy (pun intended!) was I deluded.

Well-researched, well-argued, wittily written, Cordelia Fine hits hard at the wide spread (and I’d argue, lazy) assumpti
A spirited debunking of the perennial claims that women are different (and usually, it so happens that this difference is in truth inferiority) from men because SCIENCE. It is both amusing and infuriating to read how sexist scientists and journalists try angle after angle, and when one is debunked (say, no, brain size does not actually matter), they find another, even more dubious claim.

This is not a book without faults. Firstly, the author veers to the verbose side, and secondly, the book pays
Cordelia Fine attempts to refute the popular idea that men and women have an innate neurological difference which results in different brains. I read this book after "The Essential Difference" by Simon Baron-Cohen. I recommend reading them in that order because Fine's book refutes many of the points made in Baron-Cohen's.

Fine makes a good case that many of the differences we see in gender could readily be traced back to cultural or sociological phenomena, and that it is too early to declare tha
This is not what I'd call a "popular science" book -- it's aimed at an intellectual audience with some understanding of science and a willingness to deal with academic language. That makes it less accessible than a lot of the talk show-fodder books it's debunking, like all those ridiculous "Why Men Are Insensitive Horndogs Who Suck at Housework (Surprise! It's Biology!) and Women Are Born Loving Ponies and High Heels" books. Fine takes on pretty much the entire field of neuroscience, or rather, ...more
Scribble Orca
Nov 27, 2012 Scribble Orca marked it as to-be-consideread
Recommended to Scribble by: Trevor
How gratifying to find authors who know their stuff, have the necessary tools to analyse and critique, and who take the time to pick holes in the commercial follies of these pseudo-scientific wanna-be-never-could-so-better twist-everything-to-please-myself-and-make-a-fast-fbuck-simultaneously authors.

Should dovetail quite nicely with Sex at Dusk: Lifting the Shiny Wrapping from Sex at Dawn.

Cordelia Fine's examination of the many popular books and research studies which purport to prove that the male and female brains might as well belong to different species is simply brilliant. I gobbled this non-fiction up like it was a light lunch after a hard day's manual labor. Every page was packed with jaw-dropping information - horrifying methodological flaws, research which argues two diametrically opposed concepts, and outright deception, all designed to prove that men and women
Abi Saafir
I like nothing better than to discover that I was completely and utterly mistaken about something. The deeper the rotten belief sits, the more satisfying the pop when it is wrenched out.

This book changed my mind in ways few books ever do. I had a cavalier belief that psychological differences between men and women were "innate" and "biological." I had no idea how scant the evidence was for this idea.

I highly recommend this book.
Elizabeth Moffat
In my other, non-blogging life, I work as a scientist and every so often you’ll see a review popping up on my blog about a non-fiction book I’ve read that has more than likely been science-y. I’m also a firm believer in gender equality and women’s rights so Delusions of Gender seemed like the perfect mix of science and feminism which encouraged me to pick it up. I found it to be a fascinating read which I learned a lot from and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the differences be ...more
Cara Pulley
We like to believe that sexism is on the decline, but is it really? This author doesn't think so and after reading her book, I'm convinced.

She says that gender distinctions continue to exist and that they start from our very beginnings - pink is for girls, blue is for boys. Gender comes to define us and these distinctions shape our abilities and interests. Certain skills are identified as male or female: Men are rational and brave; and Women are empathetic and nurturing. These assumed traits the
Nicole Ysabet
This book was a cogent, readable rebuttal to all the pop-psychology, pseudoscientific nonsense published about how alleged differences between men and women make men thuggish morons who can't wash a dish and women lightheaded bimbos incapable of understanding math. It made me want to do a dance of joy. Also, when talking about neuroimaging experiments which supposedly prove these "hardwired" differences, Cordelia Fine wrote this paragraph:

[...] When looking for changes in blood flow between two
I've learnt a new word "neurosexism."
Cordelia Fine bends her sharp mind to the old nature vs nuture question, and tears popular (and academic) science to shreds.
This is by no means a dry appraisal of the evidence, her wry sense of humour shines through.

Un libro que expone la continuidad de los tradicionales sesgos biológicos sexistas al ámbito de la genética y la neurociencia, documentado hasta el aburrimiento, y convincente respecto a las pruebas sobre la parcialidad y las limitaciones de estos estudios. El libro tiene tres argumentos básicos: 1) la reificación de técnicas de vanguardia solo por serlo, sin considerar sus limitaciones, 2) la facilidad con la que se cae la inferencia inversa y el razonamiento circular, y el calado popular de es ...more
It's common for people to resort to biological determinism when they look at the choices small children make in terms of colors, books, clothes, and toys. "We tried to raise him/her gender neutral!' goes the cry, 'but look! It really must be biological.'

It's not, as Fine deftly points out. From the moment the pink or blue hat is put on our head in the maternity ward, and the pink or blue card stuck in the hospital room door to announce the arrival of Baby Girl or Boy, our world sends us messages
"Delusions of Gender" is an engaging read, well-written and incisive. Cordelia Fine makes a convincing argument that gender differences in performance assessed through various metrics are to a large extent the result of social cues, reactions to internalized stereotypes, and unconscious priming. Her critique of studies of gender differences in psychological experiments is comprehensive, and her depiction of the current state of sexism is both convincing and often horrifying.

Unfortunately, her fi
Elaine Nelson
I happened to run across this book at the library having forgotten that it was in my "to-read" list. I'm SO glad I did, and given a certain pair of somewhat ranty posts a couple of months back, only wish I'd read it sooner! I literally could not put it down - as in: "no really, I need to go to bed/back to my desk from lunch/off the bus, I have to put the book away."

In short, social construction of gender: you're soaking in it. (And especially, your brain is soaking in it.)

1) Priming & stereo
Gender studies have always interested me, and I was delighted to have the privilege to read an intelligent and eye opening book that looked at the subject of gender through neutral eyes. Though some call Delusions of Gender a feminist book, I disagree. I think it is an informative book that takes both female and male perspectives into account without judging either sex. Fine's book is full of research and fascinating studies and through these she debunks popular myths that keep women on the back ...more
There have always been many (pseudo)scientific books on the shelves attempting to explain the differences between the sexes, of which the most common differences usually consist of men having a more result-orientated, mathematical approach, and women having a more relationship-orientated, emotional or empathic approach (never mind about non-binary people, queers, etc.). This is usually shown as something that’s unchangeable; something written down by genetics and made clear by the way our brains ...more
There's a lot of bollocks claimed about "innate mental differences" between men and women, which Cordelia Fine does a good job of breaking down. She is sharp and acerbic, sarcastic and yet scientifically precise, in her demolition of the claims of differences. I can understand how, if you've been fighting the good fight all your life, saying that "girls are better with people, boys are better at programming" is a social construct not a biological one, then this book is something you clap and che ...more
Alex Templeton
This is one of those books that has the potential to completely change your thinking on a particular subject: in this case, the idea that there are brain, and therefore inherent behavioral, differences in girls and boys. Fine presents a significant amount of damning evidence to the contrary, suggesting the power social conditioning to operate even when we are not aware of it. I found fascinating, for example, the studies Fine cites in the early chapters that suggest that once someone is primed t ...more
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Cordelia Fine is a Research Associate at the Center for Agency, Values and Ethics at Macquarie University, Australia, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of. Melbourne, Autsralia. Her previous book, 'A Mind of Its Own' was hugely acclaimed and she was called 'a science writer to watch' by Metro.
More about Cordelia Fine...
A Mind of its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives The Britannica Guide to the Brain FREE Icon Books eBook Sampler

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“In the statistical gargon used in psychology, p refers to the probability that the difference you see between two groups (of introverts and extroverts, say, or males and females) could have occurred by chance. As a general rule, psychologists report a difference between two groups as 'significant' if the probability that it could have occurred by chance is 1 in 20, or less. The possibility of getting significant results by chance is a problem in any area of research, but it's particularly acute for sex differences research. Supppose, for example, you're a neuroscientist interested in what parts of the brain are involved in mind reading. You get fifteen participants into a scanner and ask them to guess the emotion of people in photographs. Since you have both males and females in your group, you rin a quick check to ensure that the two groups' brains respond in the same way. They do. What do you do next? Most likely, you publish your results without mentioning gender at all in your report (except to note the number of male and female participants). What you don't do is publish your findings with the title "No Sex Differences in Neural Circuitry Involved in Understanding Others' Minds." This is perfectly reasonable. After all, you weren't looking for gender difference and there were only small numbers of each sex in your study. But remember that even if males and females, overall, respond the same way on a task, five percent of studies investigating this question will throw up a "significant" difference between the sexes by chance. As Hines has explained, sex is "easily assessed, routinely evaluated, and not always reported. Because it is more interesting to find a difference than to find no difference, the 19 failures to observe a difference between men and women go unreported, whereas the 1 in 20 finding of a difference is likely to be published." This contributes to the so-called file-drawer phenomenon, whereby studies that do find sex differences get published, but those that don't languish unpublished and unseen in a researcher's file drawer.” 10 likes
“blatant, intentional discrimination against women is far from being something merely to be read about in history books.” 5 likes
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