Essential Difference: Male and Female Brains and the Truth about Autism

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Basic Books, 2004 - Medical - 271 pages
4 Reviews
We all know the opposite sex can be a baffling, even infuriating, species. Why do most men use the phone to exchange information rather than have a chat? Why do women love talking about relationships and feelings with their girlfriends while men seem drawn to computer games, new gadgets, or the latest sports scores? Does it really all just come down to our upbringing? In The Essential Difference, leading psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen confirms what most of us had suspected all along: that male and female brains are different. This groundbreaking and controversial study reveals the scientific evidence (present even in one-day-old babies) that proves that female-type brains are better at empathizing and communicating, while male brains are stronger at understanding and building systems-not just computers and machinery, but abstract systems such as politics and music. Most revolutionary of all, The Essential Difference also puts forward the compelling new theory that autism (and its close relative, Asperger's Syndrome) is actually an example of the extreme male brain. His theory can explain why those who live with this condition are brilliant at analyzing the most complex systems yet cannot relate to the emotional lives of those with whom they live. Understanding our essential difference, Baron-Cohen concludes, may help us not only make sense of our partners' foibles, but also solve one of the most mysterious scientific riddles of our time.

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The essential difference: the truth about the male and female brain

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In this engaging collection of letters, Pipher (Reviving Ophelia; Another Country) writes about her 30 years as a psychotherapist and what she has learned about people. Far more than just career ... Read full review

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It is a careful and well-researched book and in the true sense scientific.I went to his lecture on it to an academic audience and he allowed us to go back over his quantitative data with him and ask penetrating questions which he answered in detail. The findings of his work on one day old babies are particularly striking. It is a mark of how hard his findings have struck home that his critics have to resort to cheap abuse and appeal to epistemology and Foucault. They know their ideology is in trouble. They have not even tried to grapple with his findings and have hidden their identities behind pseudonymns as trivial as their thinking. If there were a seven star option I would give it to this book
Christie Davies


Boy Meets Girl
Evolution of the Male and Female Brain
The Extreme Male Brain
A Professor of Mathematics
The Reading the Mind in the EyesTest
The Empathy Quotient EQ
The Systemizing Quotient SQ
The Autism Spectrum Quotient AQ

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Page 248 - Are the central nucleus of the amygdala and the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis differentially involved in fear versus anxiety?
Page 254 - How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.
Page 3 - Systemizing is the drive to analyze, explore, and construct a system. The systemizer intuitively figures out how things work, or extracts the underlying rules that govern the behavior of a system.
Page 2 - Empathising is the drive to identify another person's emotions and thoughts, and to respond to these with an appropriate emotion.

References to this book

Autism and Representation
Mark Osteen
No preview available - 2008
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About the author (2004)

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.

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