We all appreciate that there are differences in the typical psychology of men and women. Yet underlying these subtle differences, Simon Baron-Cohen believes, there is one essential difference, and it affects everything we do: Men have a tendency to analyze and construct systems while women are inclined to empathize. With fresh evidence for these claims, Baron-Cohen explores how these sex differences arise more from biological than cultural causes and shows us how each brain type contributes in various ways to what we think of as "intelligence." Emphasizing that not all men have the typically "male" brain, which he calls Type "S," and not all women have the typically female brain (Type "E"), Baron-Cohen explores the cutting-edge research that illuminates our individual differences and explains why a truly "balanced" brain is so rare. Filled with surprising and illuminating case studies, many from Baron-Cohen's own clinical practice, The Essential Difference moves beyond the stereotypes to elucidate over twenty years of groundbreaking research. From gossip to aggression, Baron-Cohen dissects each brain type and even presents a new theory that autism (as well as its close relative, Asperger's syndrome) can be understood as an extreme form of the male brain. Smart and engaging, this is the thinking person's guide to gender difference, a book that promises to change the conversation about-and between-men and women.
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Simon Baron-Cohen is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Cambridge University and co-director of its Autism Research Centre. He has carried out research into both autism and sex differences over a twenty-year career. He is the author of Autism: The Facts and Mindblindness .From Publishers Weekly:
Should the title fail to express Baron-Cohen's certainty about gender differences, the Cambridge Univ. professor of psychology and psychiatry lays out his controversial thesis on page one: "The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems." Defending this bold view is a tough but engaging battle, one that's alleviated by Baron-Cohen's disclaimer that his conclusions refer to statistical majorities rather than "all men" and "all women," but exacerbated by his habit of simultaneously skirting and employing gender stereotypes. His copious evidence ranges from the anecdotal to the anthropological, and from the neurological to the case study (the author and his research team conducted many of these studies). Not all his support fully convinces: e.g., the music-classifying habits of novelist Nick Hornby's High Fidelity protagonist isn't confirmation of the male brain's predisposition to systems-building. After acknowledging cultural and social influences on gender differences, Baron-Cohen "surfs the brain" (and offers evidence from a number of studies, both human and animal) to establish a biological link. But if male rats navigate their way through mazes more easily than female rats, does that mean men are better at directions than women? His speculations on how binary brain types have evolved over the eons, which have the male brain co-opting traits like power and leadership, leaving the female brain with gossip and motherhood, may ruffle a few feathers. Perhaps the most refreshing section of this cerebral volume is devoted to what he calls "extreme" examples of the male brain-autism and its cousin, Asperger's syndrome. The author of previous autism books, including Mindblindness, Baron-Cohen offers curious lay readers a provocative discussion of male-female differences.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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