The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the Extreme Male Brain

S. Baron-Cohen
The main idea in the book is that we all know there are differences between men and women, mainly subtle psychological differences. Baron-Cohen argues that there is one essential difference: female brains are hard-wired for empathy whereas male brains are hard-wired for understanding and building systems.

The main idea in the book is that we all know there are differences between men and women, mainly subtle psychological differences. Baron-Cohen argues that there is one essential difference: female brains are hard-wired for empathy whereas male brains are hard-wired for understanding and building systems. This affects everything we do. However not all men necessarily have a male brain and not all women have a female brain: Your sex cannot tell you which type of brain you have.

Criticism on his theories comes from neuro-surgeons, as they point out most of his evidence is based on 1-3 year olds, while this doesn’t necessarily prove what happens afterwards. One of his main points is even based on differences found in babies of just 1 week old, what if it changes after that? A lot of his further evidence is either anecdotal or based on animal research, which doesn’t necessarily mean it applies to human beings.

I myself enjoyed the book, it’s well written, easy to read and even though not all points might be fully scientifically proven, he certainly goes much further in finding scientific evidence then books such as ‘Men are from Mars, women are from Venus’, and he also takes responsibility for potential misunderstandings of his work e.g. in the recent Guardian Article, “They just can’t help it”, Simon Baron-Cohen, 17 April 2003

If you are wondering why gender-research is undertaken by Autism researchers, this is because their theory is that autism is an extreme form of the “male brain”, hence they needed to further test and define this ‘male brain’.

  • Simon Baron-Cohen is a Professor at Cambridge University in psychology and psychiatry; he is Director of the Autism Research Centre.

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  1. Would love to hear what you think of the book.

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