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Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow into Troublesome Gaps--and What We Can Do About It

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  640 Ratings  ·  126 Reviews

A precise scientific exploration of the differences between boys and girls that breaks down damaging gender stereotypes and offers practical guidance for parents and educators.


In the past decade, we've come to accept certain ideas about the differences between males and females—that boys can't focus in a classroom, for instance, and that girls are obsessed with relati

Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 07, 2012 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of several books I picked up after I decided that I was just getting too uncomfortable with the discussion about boys and girls innate differences. Discovering feminism in the 80s, for me feminism was in large part defined by the idea that girls could do everything that boys could. Over the last 30 years, it felt insidiously as if the nature vs nuture debate pendulum had swung back in the opposite direction.

Of the books I picked up, this was easily, easily my favourite. I wish I cou
Oct 16, 2009 Jacinda rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, gender
I was deeply disappointed by this book. Repeatedly, the author tells us that some difference between girls and boys is insignificant compared to variation within each group -- then goes on to discuss at length how parents and teachers should accommodate these important differences. WTF? If the differences are that small, then parents of boys do not, in fact, need to talk to them more in order to make up for their naturally poorer language skills (for example). I fail to see how encouraging this ...more
Dec 28, 2011 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism
I have mixed feelings about this book:

*The author knows her science and presents facts in a very levelheaded way. Sources are fastidiously documented in a nearly 100 page appendix.
*The author discusses both boys and girls, the sexist views our society holds and how those views effects their development
*The author offers suggestions for helping children nurture talents that may not be their preferred way of behaving

*The author rarely shows any engagement with the subject and the brief mo
Jul 12, 2013 Emily rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I started to read this, but decided to quit early on. The writer's lazy conflation of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and phenotype was bad enough, but claiming that babies with ambiguous genitalia should, by default, be given surgery to create male genitals and raised as male was the last straw. That is a terrible idea. The author is very clear about being a fan of traditional gender roles and treating boys and girls completely differently even though, as she admits, the ...more
Jan 02, 2012 Dominic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, parenting
Ever since I've been in college, I've been studying, reading about and challenging others about gender stereotypes, perceived and biological gender differences, and alternatives to traditional gender roles. Now that I am going to embark on the awesome journey of raising a child, I'm happy to have come across Lise Eliot's thoughtful and well-argued book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain. It gave me an opportunity, now three months before my baby's birth, to review and potentially revise some of my stances ...more
Apr 20, 2010 Marie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, children
As the mother of three sons, I've always been interested in learning more about what is hardwired into males and females, and what is influenced by environment. So when I heard about this book, I immediately put it on hold at the library.

Eliot is a neuroscientist, a graduate from Harvard and Columbia, an associate professor of neuroscience, and mother of two sons and a daughter. The basic premise of the book is that although yes, males and females have biologically based differences, many of ou
Jul 31, 2009 Shannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Parents
Shelves: parenting
Abbreviated review - full review appears on Amazon.Com

Lise Eliot's book focuses primarily on the slight differences between male and female brains in prenatal fetuses and in infants, and how those differences may grow over time through cultural influences. She distinguishes between the effects of hormones, developmental differences, and cultural expectations and impacts. What is particularly notable is that she never makes a statement without listing an associated study. In fact, she takes apart
Dec 20, 2011 Luna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was really excited about this one, but I cannot go further. The book (or I should say the writer) is extremely gender essentialist and it just rubs me the wrong way. A lot of swooping generalizations and no conversation about gender that is significant. I love science but I don't like science meddling with gender. Why? Because gender is socially constructed. This is my opinion, though. As a feminist who believes that gender doesn't just include FEMALE or MALE, I just had to put it down.

What r
Sep 29, 2009 Veronica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Eliot takes a much debated issue - are girls and boys fundamentally different? - and sets out with a well restrained heart. Eliot painstakingly goes thru all available scientific research and popular culture books to sort out the truth. Are men from Mars and women from Venus? In a nutshell, no.

What Eliot does is walk us thru the research, data and the facts about the differences. I say painstakingly because this 315 page tome has almost 40 pages of endnotes and 45 pages of bibliography and zero
Nov 30, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pink Brain, Blue Brain is a thorough investigation into gender differences by neuroscientist Lise Eliot. With a nuanced and scientific perspective, she delves into all the major cognitive gender differences observed in children and adults and explores the source of these differences. Initial chapters focus first on babies, then toddlers, then preschoolers and older, and later chapters address verbal differences, math differences, and emotional/interpersonal differences.

The major concept that th
Sep 26, 2012 Shana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(This is my review and it was originally posted on Elevate Difference).

Given the heavy media coverage about studies that “prove” significant, inborn differences between males and females, it is no surprise that we excuse or accept certain behaviors depending on whether they come from a boy or a girl. We are often led to believe that it is natural for a boy to be athletic and for a girl to demonstrate more empathy because it is part of their biology and something that cannot be helped one way or
The book was very informative but I found it slow through the "brain talk". Mind you I know this was written by a neuroscience professional and not a psychologist. I only discovered that after already starting the book. I was expecting it to be more case studies, less science, so it was my fault for not reading about the author beforehand.
Regardless, she made interesting points that can be used by educators and parents. Of course, you probably should read the book as you prepare to have children
Jul 26, 2015 Knabacxo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book could have been so great. I was really excited about reading this, at first. I was like "yeaaah, brain plasticity!! :D i'm so excited about learning more about that!! let's destroy neurosexism!!"... And then the author missed so many great opportunities.

I feel like she had good intentions when writing this, really. I feel like she actually wanted to debunk a lot of gender stereotypes that are very present in our society. But in the end, she does spend a lot of time reinforcing the ste
Oct 05, 2009 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This careful yet very readable examination of scientific research on brain differences between the sexes -- prenatal, infant, childhood, teen -- is an antidote to media hype about vast, obvious differences. A brain scientist, the author details the biological differences (or lack of difference) revealed by current research and suggests strategies for parents and teachers to help children of both sexes reach their full potentials. She points out that much research on sex differences in male/femal ...more
Jan 12, 2010 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was great. It does away with many old myths and presumptions about boys and girls. Here are 9 things I will never forget after reading this book. #1 The corpus callosum is the same in both sexes. #2 There is a "first puberty" at 3 months. #3 soy formula is banned in the UK. #4 pushing more writing ability in Kindergarten doesn't necessarily benefit boys because of their slower rate to develop fine motor skills. #5 most elementary school teachers are female, which can have all kinds of ...more
Mar 11, 2010 Lara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism
Eliot offers a good rebuttal to Sax, but still falls short of really challenging the way we think about gender. She is very essentialist and normalizing, just like Sax, in her distinctions between boys and girls. I'm very against using "science" to "prove" differences between gender. Science can only prove sexual differences, not gender. Sex is biological; gender is much more complicated. She does not offer any insight into the influences of race, culture, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexuality (w ...more
A lot of very interesting research, well presented, in a topic that I care about a lot. Of course, the fact that a lot of research concluded that there are no measurable differences in the brains of boys and girls make for some underwhelming results at times, but it forces a very interesting reflexion on how society/culture/nurture/etc. is the thing to "blame" for differences between boys and girls. I found the beginning very drab (in general I like more anecdotes or metaphors in my non-fiction) ...more
Marissa Morrison
I think that this book is an important one. Eliot shows how gender differences occur naturally and become stronger through nurture. Since young children are strongly influenced by their gender identity and tend to self-segregate, it's up to parents to strongly nudge them toward "opposite gender" toys and activities. A typical girl spends hundreds of hours in the preschool years playing mommy in her toy kitchen or painting at an easel--so she will grow stronger in verbal, empathetic, and fine mot ...more
Feb 03, 2012 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all the parents, ever
Recommended to Holly by: Barbara Trailanoia
I really enjoyed reading this book up until the minutes I stopped reading it. It was indformative, and well written, and had actual tips and things to do to help your child. I loved it. But the second I stopped reading it, I stopped thinking about it. I want to finish it, but I haven't the inclination. To the try-again-later shelf you go, Pink Brain, Blue Brain!
Feb 03, 2012 Tiffany rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm just gonna go ahead and rate this 5 stars right now, even though I'm only halfway through. This book is totally informative, gives all kinds of evidence to back up claims, and makes me think! Should be a must-read for every parent, teacher, guardian, etc.
Dec 30, 2014 Gail rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Determined to figure out how much of my toddlers’ divergent behavior is based upon innate gender difference, I read Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender and the first 100 pages of Lise Eliot’s Pink Brain, Blue Brain (the introduction and chapters covering prenatal development and infancy, since both authors agree that these periods are key to determining whether only nurture is to blame for pre-pubertal differences between boys and girls). Though the two writers agree on just about every scientif ...more
Oct 16, 2016 Mallory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, slp
"Spatial skills are more like nipples than like antlers....". This quote alone should be sufficient recommendation for this book. Truly, this book does an amazing job of discussing the most current brain studies on sex differences in children, up through adulthood. Primarily that there are few established differences that come from biology, and that boys and girls are more influenced by their environment than by any significant difference in brain structure. Dr. Eliot gives concrete examples of ...more
Jul 25, 2011 E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sciences
Why deny innate gender differences? Why not admit that it's all biological?

Because such thinking is socially lazy, bordering on the irresponsible. History and geography prove that societies vary and change greatly - constantly - throughout time and space, yet a mainstream narrative finds it much more important and interesting to examine our biologies for the reasons for gender differences. The pop science journalists of Newsweek and The New York Times regularly tout the experiments that provide
Preethi Krishnan
As I decided to read this book, based on a review from good reads, I began with a discomfort with the title of the book. But I was pleasantly surprised at how the author, Lise Eliot emphasized how the 'differences' were not always apparent genetically but were rather reinforced by the environment in which children grew up. Throughout the book, the author continues to grapple with the nature versus nature debate. She refers to a number of studies to suggest the genetic differences, if any. Since ...more
Yukari Watanabe
Aug 02, 2009 Yukari Watanabe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
People are always interested in the differences between males and females. And, unfortunately, stereotypes sell better. "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus", which Eliot referred in this book, is a very good example. I've read that book, too. While it was highly entertaining, I was not convinced. Because males in Japan behave very differently from American counterparts. I thought cultural difference was greater than gender difference. Lise Eliot's thoughtful approach "Pink Brain Blue Brain" ...more
Apr 02, 2016 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting
So while I was pregnant with Baby #2 (a boy), people kept sqealing at me (as they do), "What are you having?!"

And I would say, "A boy, omigod, I don't even know what to do about it." ("It" being: Everything boy-related. Because Baby #1 is a girl.)

My very wise friend Keri said, "The same thing you did with the first."

I think my jaw literally dropped. It's strange. Having a girl, being a feminist, I was all, "Rahrahrah, I will raise my girl to know that she can be anything she wants to be! She is
Sep 10, 2009 Janie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. Verrrry interesting.

In a nutshell
The neurophysical and cognitive differences in young males and females are surprisingly, negligibly small. Dr. Eliot makes more of those small differences than they often warrant, but to be fair it seems she usually does so because more is made of them than is warranted. (Make sense? It did sometimes seem circularly backward.)

The book is full of studies. Tons of 'em. It's takes work to sort them all out, and it's very easy to get lost in the
Feb 28, 2012 Alexis rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle, science, parenting
I really enjoyed this. The book is broken down by life stages. In each, she looks at what the evidence really shows for in-built sex differences: hormones, brain structure, genetics. Then she looks at how social forces play on these differences (typically, but not always, small) to turn them into the larger gaps we see in adults. The premise is that it's not as simple as nature or nurture; rather, we start with a small dose of nature and amplify them with a lot of nurture. Along the way, she tak ...more
Lage von Dissen
Eliot does a decent job exposing the truth about gender differences, illustrating that the majority of studies suggest that the majority of these differences are caused by the environment as opposed to sex-linked genetics. The age-old dichotomy of nature vs. nurture and how it relates to the sexes is finally addressed by a relatively exhaustive analysis (supported by a Bibliography with over 600 references), and Eliot (a neuroscientist) illustrates how our neural plasticity has allowed surprisin ...more
Lorenne Gilbert
 The book Pink Brain, Blue Brain by Lise Eliot is about the differences and similarities about males and females. Have you ever thought about why boys are so different from girls? The book describes one example like how male and female brains think almost identical at a very young age. They both play with any kind of toy (doesn't matter if it's only for girls or for guys), they both share the same type of personality (boys want to cook with their mothers, girls like to get dirty), but they event
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Lise Eliot is a mother of three, and the Associate Professor of Neuroscience at The Chicago Medical School of Rosalind Franklin University. She is the author of What’s Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life.
More about Lise Eliot...

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