Free Textbooks Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex DifferencesAuthor Cordelia Fine –

Didn t realise Cordelia was Australian This is a lovely video of her views 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 logical and mathematical than women s brains this is due to men s better spatial rotational abilities that are a consequence of right brain localisation and that this helps to explain why men end up in most of the high status jobs like Engineering or Science, just as their greater aggression ensures they end up President or CEO But that this comes at a cost men tend to be socially dysfunctional a consequence of their limited ability to use their somewhat larger brains laterally This hinders them in their linguistic abilities, men being simply not as fluent as women But this is okay, because it is women who need to be able to look after kids and do the house work something how their brains are ordered allows them to specialise in you know, Darling, did you see where I left my car keys So while men are off hunting and thereby using their aggression to bring home the bacon, women are pacifying the kids with their delightful socialising skills so suited to recognising the emotional needs of others and cleaning the cave These are the tasks the sexes have separately evolved to perform and while these may not have been the brains we would have chosen for the sexes ourselves so as to make the world fair well, look, the world simply isn t fair There s no point getting all PC about this If evolution and biology have decided that half of the population need to be caring rather than logical , well, all I can say is, poor dears there is about as much point in complaining about women s innate difference inferiority is such an ugly word as complaining that fish are forced to live out their lives in water Viva la difference.Such ideas essentially modern day eugenics are not only peddled by authors of limited intelligence trying to make a quick buck from the enhanced sales such sexist rubbish ensures for their books with titles like Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus or Why Men Don t Have a Clue and Women Always Need More Shoes but even by people with impressive sounding qualifications who write books called The Female Brain or The Blank Slate The Modern Denial of Human Nature.Like I said, if you have read some of these books you will either be feeling rather smug at the moment as if the benefits of having a penis weren t already ample or rather annoyed It can t be nice for one half of our population to be told they are innately lesser people But is that really what the latest science does tell us about the differences between male and female brains Actually, the truth may well surprise you.Recently I wrote on one of Choupette s reviews that I would love to find a book that explained just how the latest brain imaging technology works I mean, the idea we have been encouraged to have is that it is all a bit like a video game, or rather a direct window into the brain No, bugger the brain, a direct window into the mind as it is being constructed by the brain You lie back in an incredibly expensive piece of machinery and as the author says, one that uses quantum mechanics for god sake but she could just as easily have said, and I think even impressively, that uses anti matter and they get you to think of something or other solve a maths problem perhaps and then blobs light up on the parts of your brain that are doing the thinking How much proof do you need than that Thought equals blob equals male superiority QEDNo one explains that this isn t quite real time imaging No one explains that this is averaged difference No one explains that we don t really know what to make of these averaged differences, at what level these differences become significant, for example No one explains that when the brains of dead salmon have been tested sometimes they have shown significant emotional responses to visual stimuli All we get to see are the blobs of colour lighting up and we assume someone smarter than us has worked out that those blobs mean something significant.You might have been lead to believe that they have done these tests and seen the blobs lighting up and they by they I mean the guys in white have seen blobs firing away in the touchy feely side of women s brains and at the same time and with the same stimuli blobs lighting up in the hard edged logical sides of men s brains so everything still holds true right Well, it s not quite as simply as that When the author set out to follow up on some of the research that leads to the million sale books of neurosexism mentioned earlier, sometimes that research was found to be somewhat lacking Did you know that the much quoted and much relied on fact that women are better able to use both sides of their brain for tasks due to their much extensive corpus callosum was actually based on research on only fourteen brains and besides which the result from this research upon which so many sexist assumptions have been based didn t even reach statistical significance The thing that this book shows time and again is just how much edifice can be built on incredibly shaky foundations Sometimes it shows no foundations at all.Her demolition of just a small section of The Female Brain is worth the price of the book Surely the fraudulent behaviour of the author of The Female Brain ought to disqualify her for life from being able to write another book but I see that despite a review in Nature after her first book was printed pointing out the remarkable in fact, incomprehensible and gobsmacking weaknesses and down right misinformation in that book, she was able to publish another on much the same topic called The Male Brain I cannot begin to tell you how outraged I am about this Quite simply such work is lying and there should be an appropriate punishment.This book contains a long section on what is becoming a particularly fascinating area of research for me called stereotype threat This is detailed in Predictably Irrational The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, and I spent the first half of the year reading many of the research papers she discusses here if I d read this book at the start of the year, it would have made my life so much easier Stereotype threat is the remarkable situation where you can take a group of Asian women and prime half of them to think of themselves as women and the other half to think of themselves as Asian and given our stereotypes of both groups, they will perform either better or worse on a maths test depending on how they have been primed And the subtle the priming, the effective the result will be Merely getting women to tick a box on an exam paper stating whether they are male or female is enough to reduce their potential score.There is a pervasive belief, particularly among middleclass parents, that they already have tried to bring their kids up in a way that is gender neutral and it simply hasn t worked The only explanation left is that biology will out in the end and we should just get used to the idea that gender differences are innate This book makes a remarkably strong case for the fact that our society is so gendered it is simply impossible for anyone to bring up their children in a gender neutral way and that really, no one tries It is like we have half changed our minds as she says repeatedly our conscious minds tell us sexism is wrong, but our actions repeatedly confirm sexism From before we are born we are constructed as male or female mothers who are told the sex of their child before it is born imagine boys kick inside them vigorously than mothers of boys who have not been told the sex of their unborn child Pinker may joke that only childless people believe in the social construction of gender but I think it is very hard to argue that gender is not the most reinforced division in human societies.This book is quite simply a must read There is a remarkable example in the book a kind of Tiresias moment Tiresias being a Greek turned into a woman for seven years to settle a bet between the gods where a female lawyer undergoes a sex change operation and overhears someone say that he has proven to be much smarter than his sister.I know, I m always telling you to do this, but do read this book And if you do remember it is very important to read the notes as you go For some reason Cordelia Fine has put all of the very best and most interesting information in the book particularly in the first ten chapters or so in the end notes. 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, she takes a closer look at all these claims and experiments and disputes just about every one of them with scientific criticism And she does it in a way that is sarcastic and witty and readable and interesting This book mainly focuses on white, middle to upper class gender construction and brain research, which makes sense, because most claims about brain sex differences are based on middle to upper class white folks It would be interesting, however, if she wrote a sequel with a wider focus And occasionally the scientific terms get a tad bit overwhelming, but if you want a readable academic book about neurosexism, you aren t going to find a better, interesting, readable book.This book should be on the bestseller list Everyone should read this This should be in the waiting room of every maternity ward and in the break room of every public school I am so glad that I stumbled across this gem of a book, and I can t recommend it highly enough It s funny and substantive, and that is about the rarest a combination there is. 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 , given the importance of the intended message.In a NutshellFine debunks the deterministic views of gender that are often based on brain structure and organisation She seems to believe there are NO innate differences between the sexes, which is a bit of a stretch to me However, she clearly shows the impossibility of investigating possible brain differences without overestimating the multiple, and often subtle, effects of culture You can t raise or measure children in a societal vacuum She ridicules poorly designed experiments that assume too much from too little, but presents less in her own defence It was better at giving concrete examples of how research can be misinterpreted examples below than it was at revealing anything much about gender.Problems I had with This Book It doesn t know what it is it s too self consciously jokey for a serious text, but with 100 of 350 pages being notes, bibliography and index, it s thorough than one expects in pop sci The jovial tone makes it a quick casual read, but the exhaustive references would be suited to following up with one s own investigation It is painfully repetitive Fine makes good and important points, but she makes the sames ones again and again and again I ve summarised them below Fine is angry about bad and misinterpreted research Such things need pointing out, but sometimes she picks very easy targets papers by 18th century doctors, for instance , or lays into one or two individuals at excessive length principally Simon Baron Cohen and Louann Brizendine Conversely, she is utterly sure of her own rightness, even when using anecdotal cases, rather than proper studies to back up her points She criticises others for lazy stereotyping and in the next sentence suggests that men are not so keen on attending male dominated conferences because there s less opportunity for sex I am left unsure how much I trust her or those she criticises The important points she makes got lost in the haze of my mounting irritation It is narrowly about male female gender roles, rather than the broad spectrum of gender identity, which is what I am interested in However, that s a fault of my expectations, rather than the book itself I don t feel I learned much I read plenty of examples of experiments and studies and how to judge their validity, but people like Ben Goldacre have long covered that ground very well The gender angle was the context of the debunking, but largely confirmed what I already believed Key MessagesMost of these are probably familiar to the sort of people who read a book like this Stereotypes they re pervasive and powerful Even so than you think They start before birth and imbue our life, as self fulfilling prophesies, however much we try to go against them Even pre schoolers extrapolate beyond what they ve been told, seeing pointy shapes as inherently masculine than rounded ones like the bouba kiki effect often used in synaesthesia studies Gender matters to them, because it s the main social grouping they have, other than adult child no geeks, sporty types, arty divisions yet Context is all This applies to most things in life a crucial consideration in angry online grammar debates Where gender is concerned, if we prime people to think of gender e.g a maths exam that has a M F tick box , people are likely to conform strongly to gendered expectations Neuroplasticity very little behaviour is hard wired in our brains Even if something is typical, that doesn t mean it s necessary or inevitable Look carefully at psychology research Is it testing what it claims to test Comparisons based on different levels of foetal testosterone use a variety of proxies, of dubious accuracy the amount found in amniotic fluid, mother s blood, baby s digit length Is there unconscious bias or knowledge in the testers If testers know the sex of a baby as they usually will , that may skew how they interact Are the results borne out by the numbers Just under 50% of women have what Baron Cohen classes as a female brain Are the assumptions fallacious When testing toy choice, are the toys really gendered the way the testers assume Why is a pan feminine to a monkey Reporting bias it s interesting to report a difference Studies that fail to find one may not be published Various sorts of brain imaging are sexy.They use expensive equipment to produce scientific pictures But they don t necessarily show what we think they do Beware of using biology as a fall back explanation.If a little girl loves pink despite her parents best efforts to the contrary, surely huge marketing hype and peer pressure are at least as much of a factor as hormones As for the mother who couldn t understand why her daughter swaddled, cuddled and put to bed her toy hammer perhaps the reason was that it was always her mother, and never her father, that put her to bed Gender neutral parenting is almost impossible to achieve Yet until a century ago, it was normal for all under 5s to be dressed similarly white dresses , and when colours became common, it was strong red or pink for boys and pretty blue for girls When we read picture books, we tend to use male pronouns for all the unspecified characters, human or animal Female leads are remarkably rare in junior fiction none in 42 Dr Seuss , but although there are occasional tomboys, you never get a sissy boy There s a glass ceiling for ambitious women, and a glass escalator for men in traditionally female dominated jobs Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar When are a few dirty cups a symbol of the exertion of male privilege, and when are they merely unwashed dishes Having it all never meant doing it all Gloria Steinem Men aren t from Mars and women aren t from Venus We re probably all from the moon.SmilesSome have enjoyed the humour of this It certainly raised a couple of smiles for me, but most of the witty asides struck me as rather sarcastic, or just cheap uses of the sort of stereotypes she purports to hate For instance, when pointing out that the widespread use of strip clubs in corporate hospitality excludes women from important networking, she weakens her outrage imo, by suggesting that female colleagues fake a headache and stay home.I want to end on a positive note, so here are the two best ones In a passage explaining that after about 7, children tend to become slightly flexible in their thinking about gender, she adds that those who don t, end up with successful careers writing books based on rigid gender stereotypes with a footnote The footnote says, This is a joke, rather than a scientific fact Yep, that really was the second best one, imo Following on from caveats about over reliance on neuroimaging, Fine cites an empathy study performed on salmon that were dead It produced pretty pictures of brain activity, though See Also Bongiovanni and Jimerson s A Quick Easy Guide to They Them Pronouns, which I reviewed HERE It s a comic book that is mainly about non binary and genderfluid people who don t identify fully and consistently as either male or female, so prefer non gendered nouns and pronouns Sally Hines Is Gender Fluid , which I reviewed HERE It also has a very youthful, funky format, though not comic book Robert Webb s autobiography, How Not to be a Boy, which I reviewed HERE He cites this book as an influence on his ideas about gender preferences not being innate. Things I have never seen 1 A male harpist Well, alright there was this guy But in an orchestra 2 A female bishop in the Church of England3 A female angler4 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 who said they weren t going to send their daughter to the academic secondary school, but to a vocational type school, Because an education isn t so important for a girl.2 A sports jock who said that we d been really unlucky to only have girls When I looked at him somewhat aghast, he said it was because my husband didn t have anyone to play ball with well to do real sport with, like football As Cordelia Fine says in her book, you d think that girls were born without arms or legs.3 Daughter number one now an IT expert, so no great damage done reporting on the IT class at school there were 16 in the class, and 15 computers It was always the two girls in the class who had to share a computer Every week.Update on January 26th 2015 Libby Lane is being consecrated today as Bishop of Stockport Well well. 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 Brain Why Are There So Few Women In Science And Engineering, So Few Men In The Laundry Room Well, They Say, It S Our Brains Drawing On The Latest Research In Developmental Psychology, Neuroscience, And Education, Delusions Of Gender Rebuts These Claims, Showing How Old Myths, Dressed Up In New Scientific Finery, Help Perpetuate The Status Quo This Book Reveals The Brain S Remarkable Plasticity, Shows The Substantial Influence Of Culture On Identity, And, Ultimately, Exposes Just How Much Of What We Consider Hardwired Is Actually Malleable, Empowering Us To Break Free Of The Supposed Predestination Of Our Sex Chromosomes 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 and the girl naturally took to worshipping pink princess paraphernalia So I guess these things must be innate after all This phenomenon is known to sociologists as the biology as fallback position In one particularly grating and smug riff on this theme, Steven Pinker is quoted as saying there is a technical term for people who believe that little boys and little girls are born indistinguishable and are molded into their natures by parental socialization The term is childless And Fine goes on to comment The frustration of the naively nonsexist parent has become a staple joke An all but obligatory paragraph in contemporary books and articles about hardwired gender differences gleefully describes a parent s valiant, but always comically hopeless, attempts at gender neutral parenting 190 1 But then Fine tells us about the Bems, psychologists who, in the 1970s, decided to try gender neutral parenting seriously And what a lot it involved They would doctor all their children s books, whiting out beards, lengthening hair, and adding breasts to some of the illustrations no doubt to rectify the fact that in the illustrations of children s books, even today, males are represented at a ratio of 2 1 relative to females oops, a factoid just slipped out , deleting or altering sections of the text that described females or males in a sex stereotyped manner 215 , and so on They also taught their children only to allocate people to a gender on the basis of their anatomy and reproductive functions In an amusing story, the 4 year old son decided to wear barrettes in his hair to kindergarten He tried to correct his classmate s misconception by saying that he wasn t a girl because he had a penis, not a vagina The other boy retorted Everyone has a penis, but only girls wear barrettes As Fine points out, the moral of this story is not to elicit admiration or contempt for the Bems, but to illustrate just how hard it is to raise a child in a gender neutral way The best efforts of the comically frustrated liberal parents who find their kids acting according to stereotype do not show that differences in gender behavior are innate As Fine describes, gendering of children is ubiquitous in the culture, and intense to an almost unimaginable degree Not even the Bem children could avoid it altogether And children are acutely sensitive to the multiple instructions they receive, in the very air they breathe, about how to conform to their genders Children randomly assigned at preschool to a red group or a blue group, and wearing the appropriate colored T shirts to school each day, after three weeks, with no further reinforcement, will find themselves conforming to what they take to be the norms for their respective groups One needs little imagination to see how much intrusive the pressures on gender conformity will be, even if the parents are like the Bems This brings me to the second point I want to emphasize A host of brain researchers now present themselves as radical iconoclasts because they claim that the evidence of fMRIs, etc prove that there are innate differences between male and female brains, forcing them to buck the prevailing norms of political correctness, in the starry eyed gender neutral utopias of which they would so much love to believe Boo hoo As Fine s book makes amply clear, science has always alighted on the newest thing brain size, spinal chord strength, nerve fragility, energy sapping ovaries to show why gender inequalities that always accord greater status and power to men are natural Seen in this light, fMRIs are just the latest fad Of course, that doesn t prove that the claims made about what they show are false Fine has plenty to say about how shoddy a lot of the research is, how biased the interpretations of it, and so on But this history is certainly salient enough that anyone presenting themselves as providing scientific evidence for gender differences in psychology and behavior risks looking somewhat ridiculous And it places a burden on such researchers to be doubly careful about extrapolating from their results This is even true in light of the fact that the existence of the claims made for what brain scans show itself influences how well people perform In tests, women do less well at male stereotypical tasks when asked to read some scientific claims about women s innate inferiority in such tasks than if asked to read something else first These irresponsible and popular interpretations of neurological evidence neuro bollocks as they have been called do not just support the status quo they reinforce it.Fine s book packs a huge punch In a funny and easy to read way, she explodes so much neuro bollocks, she ought to get a prize for it. 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 empathetic, men are analytic, women can t lead, men can t raise children, etc., etc The roots of these beliefs are not in inherent biological limitations, but instead in cultural biases, education and raising, and priming How does she respond to these prejudices She crushes them Science does not exist in a vacuum She finds flaws in the basic methodology of these experiments, or wild extrapolations based on the behavior of young babies Even in the most earnest questions, results and interpretations can be twisted to instead show what one prefers to be true Fine is not a dogmatist, as she does acknowledge that medical research, if interpreted properly and carefully defined, can isolate biological differences between males and females For example, the comparative rates of alopecia vs lupus, or increased rates of mental retardation in males , but it is entirely unfair to state that these known physical characteristics are a sufficient basis for stereotyping behavior and societal roles Her egalitarian focus clearly reflects reality than the one which imprisons us into our stereotypes and pre ordained roles This study is important It can be read either as an assurance that these imprisoning stereotypes are not true, as an assertion of your own identity, or a means for education All of these are worth your time. 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 and 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 than men because of their brain chemistry Cordelia Fine offers a clear answer no In Delusions of Gender, she unravels the myth that we can chalk up gender differences to our neurology With a keen and unrelenting eye, she examines scientific theories and misconceptions, like the role testosterone plays in the fetus She dedicates a large portion of the book to knocking down neurosexism In recent years several individuals have boasted about experiments that use fMRI and PET scans to detect differences in the brain Fine makes sure to reveal the flaws associated with those studies and why we should be skeptical of the conclusions they espouse.Instead of relying on faulty science, Fine approaches gender differences from a psychological and sociological perspective As a psychology major, I loved her incorporation of self fulfilling prophecy and stereotype threat, such as including a study about how women who had to check a gender box either male or female performed worse on an exam than women who took the test without marking their gender The section about gender neutral parenting stood out to me too It s not enough to just offer our children toys stereotypically associated with the opposing gender, especially when gender distinctions arise so soon.Highly recommended for those interested in feminism, neuroscience, psychology, or gender studies In contemporary society we often cling to claims made by people with scientific backgrounds, even though some of those claims have no legitimate support I didn t go into too much depth about all of Fine s arguments in this review, but she invested a laudable amount of effort into Delusions of Gender the book has about 100 pages of citations, and her writing conveys her passion as well. 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 task First, she s read all those awful gender essentialist pop psych books , for which she should receive medals, cookies, and probably hazard pay Next, she s actually gone through all the books and articles making claims about how neurobiology is gender destiny That task involved a lot of the work of Simon Baron Cohen, who among other things publishes on autism in a sexist and really annoying way Then she went through the references of these many works and actually looked at the studies, to show where they were bad, and often, where they just plain don t say what the authors claim they do Finally, she puts it all together, along with research from many other areas, in a way that is dryly amusing, occasionally snarky, but I think probably very clear even for those who don t read medical journals for work A sample which amused me So let us, with healthy skepticism, summarize all of this as clearly as we can Nonexistent sex differences in language lateralization, mediated by nonexistent sex differences in corpus callosum structure, are widely believed to explain nonexistent sex differences in language skills.Confused We ve only just begun It s brilliant and authoritative and she loathes bad science reporting just as much as I do, so of course I love it But I recommend it to others who might be curious about the topic, as well as those who enjoy seeing bad science thoroughly mocked Lawrence Sumner, for example Men Can t Be Bothered to Be Nice, Women Can t be Taught to Be Smart and the like I do, so I m just guessing what the non scientist would think.Library copy Israeli study shows that blinding math tests lowers boys grades and raises girls , just as blinded auditions changed orchestras.Just to be clear It is not possible to find biological determinants of gender, because gender is learned social behavior, and, as such, varies significantly between social groups and over time. 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 focus on gender impairs their abilities For example, one group of girls is told that boys do better than girls on math tests, and that scientists believe this difference is innate Another group is told that boys and girls perform the same on math tests Both groups then take a math test The girls in the second group perform better Once through this psychological study filled section and a glimpse back into our anti feminist past and our female executives who still do most of the housework present which, in fairness, will be necessary reading for some , Fine moves on to the field of neuroscience She debunks the notion of the brain s hardwired ness , a concept borrowed from computer science, which translate s poorly to the domain of neural circuits that change and learn throughout life, constantly adapting to a person s environment and experiences In addition to the really bad popular literature on gender difference see John Gray, and Louann Brizendine s The Female Brain , which she analyzes, there s a lot of really bad science Poorly conducted studies with flawed methodologies, too small studies, confusion of correlation with causation Some scientists have been known to extrapolate conclusions that their own studies did not determine Shockingly, the media often compound the problem with poor reporting and cluelessness about junk science Then, there s the kind of important issue that studies which fail to find gender differences tend not to get published, while the minority that do, do.I personally was quite alarmed at the quantity and quality of conclusions being drawn from brain scans, where it seems like the technology has outpaced researchers ability to understand it in any truly meaningful way Chapters 12 13 address real vs spurious results in brain imaging, the limitations of culling insights into psychological function from brain imaging, and the risks of reverse inference, e.g., the amygdala was activated so that means our participants were fearful Fine argues that gender is one of the first lenses through which babies and toddlers learn to view the world and discriminate among different choices Once they know what gender they belong to, their ideas about it and their choices become fixed At 17 months, boys and girls in one study were equally interested in playing with dolls, tea sets, brushes, combs, and blocks four months later girls had increased their doll play while boys had decreased it Belonging to a group such as a gender group is a powerful motivator to stay within that group and adhere to its norms Four year old children will play for three times as long with a xylophone or balloon if it is labeled as being for their own sex rather than for children of the other sex, notes Fine Gender norms are reinforced all around the child none of Dr Seuss s 42 books has a female lead in its central story a study of 41 Caldecott winners and runners up from 1984 to 1994 found that female characters were most commonly described as beautiful, frightened, worthy, sweet, weak, and scared, while male characters were big, horrible, fierce, great, terrible, furious, brave, and proud Even where parents make efforts toward gender neutral parenting, peer influence is unavoidable, and a child s peers are often the most constant reinforcer of gender boundaries A boy who chose to wear barrettes to school was reminded by other children that barrettes are for girls A study of preschoolers found that boys who wouldn t play with dolls at school would play with them at home, where the peer group wasn t present to enforce the rules Children learn from TV commercials which genders are supposed to play with what toys, but when researchers replaced the boys in a Playmobil Airport Set ad with girls, first and second graders were twice as likely to believe that the toy was intended for girls as well as boys.Fine quotes a researcher, Emily Kane B ecause gendered preferences often appear to develop despite their best efforts, parents often assume that they must come from within the child the biology as fallback position Kane suggests that the rapidity with which highly educated and privileged parents fall back on biological explanations reflects their position at the vanguard of a limited sociological imagination Fine isn t arguing that there aren t any gender differences she s pleading for better science and a clearer understanding of how biology and environment interact Her writing is clear and unjargoned, though amply sourced and footnoted, and her arguments are admirably sane I wish I had the edition with the doll on the cover.Won in Giveaway review to come Soon I shall be reading this vehement dismantling of the latest pseudo scientific claims about the differences between the sexes.