For centuries there has been a bias toward describing the sex differences between men and women seen in social behavior as due to differences in the brain. Early research on the brain, as the author points out in the first section of the book, appeared to uphold this hypothesis. However, careful analysis of the research findings suggests that many of the studies were flawed, or biased toward generating the results they produced. I found these first chapters fascinating. It’s a cautionary tale that in order to understand the results we must look at methods, and samples. Too often the news trumpets the results with no understanding of how they were achieved.
The second half of the book looks at more modern research utilizing functional MRI and brain imaging techniques. The chapters on research on newborns are fascinating. What they’re finding is that many of the myths about babies and small children are not accurate. Boys are supposed to be more interested in mechanical gadgets and girls in dolls. The more researcher bias is removed from the experimental setup, the more this difference washes out.
I agree with the conclusion of the author that it would be a good idea to pay more attention to individual differences. When large data sets are used many interesting findings are washed out as outliers. I think this is a very promising area of research.
I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in sex differences. The question of nature vs nurture is well explored and suggests that environment plays a significant role in how boys and girls see each other and themselves. This has implications for education and the socialization of young and not so young children.
I received this book from Pantheon for this review.