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

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  4,437 Ratings  ·  562 Reviews
It’s the twenty-first century, and although we tried to rear unisex children--boys who play with dolls and girls who like trucks--we failed. Even though the glass ceiling is cracked, most women stay comfortably beneath it, and everywhere we hear about vitally important “hardwired” differences between male and female brains. The neuroscience we read about in magazines, news ...more
Hardcover, 338 pages
Published August 30th 2010 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published February 1st 2005)
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Feb 02, 2016 Manny rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 07, 2013 Trevor rated it it was amazing
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
A detailed but informal look at the pervasive power of gender stereotypes, backed by science. Sounds good, doesn't it? Not for me, though. My reading of this included International Women's Day; that wasn't intentional, but it felt like undeserved penance for such a day.

The 2* rating indicates how interesting and enjoyable this book was for me.
Were I rating in purely objective terms, it would be a solid 3* (maybe even 4*).


Fine debunks the deterministic views of gender that are ofte
Jun 03, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, nonfiction
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
Jan 26, 2015 ·Karen· rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jul 26, 2013 Simon rated it it was amazing
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
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
Let me boil the book down for the busy reader: whenever someone* chooses to ignore all the documented evidence of discrimination in favor of just-so stories about biology, in order to keep right on discriminating, you can take their evidence as having all the validity of the presenter's good intentions to end discrimination.

Sorry, that was a long and awkward summation. In justice to the book, I'd prefer to be pithy, funny, and understandable. Fine has tackled an immense and largely thankless tas
Jun 15, 2014 Thomas rated it really liked it
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
Dec 11, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it
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
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
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
We’ve all encountered those pop science books, the ones that claim “hardwired” differences between male and female minds. Cordelia Fine has seen them too, but instead of simply accepting their assertions because they sound scientific, she delved into the research, tracking down the studies that purportedly establish these claims, as well as the substantial body of research showing quite the opposite. The result is this book. It is not pop science – there is nothing dumbed-down about it, and Dr. ...more

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
Jun 07, 2011 Alex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Abi Saafir
Mar 12, 2013 Abi Saafir rated it it was amazing
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.
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
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.
Aug 11, 2012 Marta rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, feminism
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
I’ve been meaning to review this book for ages, but whenever I attempt to write something, I’m lost at what to include and what to leave out. All of it was so important in shaping my understanding of gender and I don’t know how to write a review convincing enough to get other people to read it. That being said, I’ve raved about this book to enough friends to know that it’s made an impact on me, and so I will sit down and attempt this for the fifth time and hope that I will finally be able to get ...more
Many of the general ideas presented in this book were familiar to me: claims of true neurological basis for differences between the sexes are bunk; areas in which people seem to be 'deficient' are often socially created rather than biological; current conceptions of binary gender essentialism must be abandoned. However, for all that the conclusions Cordelia Fine drew were hardly surprising to me, reading this book had a significant impact. It felt almost like an out of body experience, to read a ...more
Jul 08, 2011 Robin rated it liked it
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
I'll spare myself reviewing this, it has here:

already a perfect review.
Elizabeth Moffat
Oct 03, 2014 Elizabeth Moffat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 15, 2011 Nancy rated it it was amazing

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
Trata sobre los mitos que muchas personas creen respecto las diferencias de género y la forma en que estas creencias afectan negativamente nuestra vida en general, pero especialmente a las mujeres.
La hipótesis principal que la autora refuta que hombres y mujeres tienen diferentes capacidades y habilidades que son innatas e inmutables.

Cordelia recurre a muchos estudios para demostrar que realmente es falso. En realidad, estas supuestas diferencias son causadas por ciertos estímulos presentes en
Mar 11, 2015 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing
Just when it looked like neuroscience was justifying our current worldview that innate differences are somehow “hardwired” into the brains of little boys and little girls author Cordelia Fine comes along and checks out the scientific studies. What she exposes and describes in detail are poorly designed experiments, blind leaps of faith and convoluted circular reasoning. In scientists!

According to what Fine uncovered we have mutable brains, continuously influenced and changed by our cultural env
Cara Pulley
Jul 09, 2011 Cara Pulley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 14, 2011 Daniel rated it liked it
"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
Catherine Siemann
Jan 08, 2012 Catherine Siemann rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone, and especially new parents
A surprisingly quick read. Fine looks at gender essentialism and at the biases of studies and media reporting, and suggests that we've been too quick to throw up our hands and say, "but it's biological!" If little girls have only been wearing pink for fifty years, then clearly that can't be a hard-wired preference.

As a woman who preferred baby blue to pink for my childhood frilly dresses, liked to play with my brother's trucks and robots as well as my own stuffed animals (dolls are creepy and as
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Cordelia Fine (born 1975) 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...

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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.” 13 likes
“Some day, I must ask him what it's like to be married to someone who, eyes narrowed in thought, peers at him over the tops of sociology articles with titles like "Who Gets the Best Deal from Marriage: Women or Men?" We've had our disagreements, of course. When, for example, are a few dirty cups a symbol of the exertion of male privilege, and when are they merely unwashed dishes?” 9 likes
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