89 of 103 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2005
This book is a must-read for anyone interested in truth. However, it does not necessarily contain a pleasant truth (neither to men nor women). The amount of fear stemming from this book is not to be unexpected. It does, after all, deal with one of the most controversial subjects you can find. Just reading over the reviews here after reading the book for yourself will reveal the amount of paranoia associated with the knowledge contained.
Many people are trying to break down the validity of this book by claiming it to be a pseudo-scientific product of sexism. I quote from one reader:
"There was once, in Germany, an incredible number of evidences suporting how physiologies of the pure race and "others" were different. In the USA, science, "inspired" by that time period and that time's politics, attempted to show how blacks (and immigrants and all others who were not a member of upper-middle class heterosexual male group) were inferior."
First of all, these so-called scientific attempts at justifying the superiority of one race over another were conducted during a time of hatred and oppression with support from the general population. In Germany, scientists were even commissioned by the government to create these falsehoods. To compare this book (which was reluctantly written by a geneticist living in times of a feminist uproar with the goal of shedding some research in a dark area) with that kind of racist-inspired nonsense, is ludicrous. This is the type of fear you find from readers who cannot accept this book's overall message: that men and women actually think and behave differently.
If this book was inspired by a period, then this book would be a direct pseudo-scientific attempt at justifying feminist ideals because this is precisely what Anne Moir was surrounded by at the time she began her research. Well, this is absolutely not the case. If the book is sexist, which sex does it incriminate against and why? No one can answer this question with agreeably because the author had no intent of showing one sex to be superior to the other.
This book was written by a woman with the intent of seeking truth. While there are attempts to put forth some logical interpretations based on the research, this book has, at its core, many fundamental truths supported by compelling, scientific evidence. This book is not perfect; a lot of it is just an open discussion, but to deny it as simply a biased product of sexism only serves to strengthen the book to people who actually read it with an open mind.
You can practically see after the first 10 pages or so how much the author wanted to repress some of the research because of the controversy it would create (or perhaps simply her own personal fear of what it would mean), but the evidence speaks for itself.
One thing people really need to keep in mind is that the book is about generalities, and it is examining men and women in terms of actual *biological differences*. Lots of reviewers here are trying to refute the validity of the book because they don't share all the traits associated with their sex. This book is focusing from the nature side of the argument, not the nurture side! There are tons of sociological effects that affect the way a person turns out. I would venture to say that the differences between a grown man and woman have more to do with sociology than biology (though you can't refute the fact that men and women are actually built differently). This book is not about that. Of course a typical woman can become superior to men at mathematical reasoning. Of course a typical man can become superior to women at judging other people's character. This book is about the real, biological differences between a man and a woman - the type of differences that will still exist even if you strip away all social barriers.
Another example of the irrational attempts to put this book down comes from one reviewer who claimed that this book attributed the discovery of America to Columbus:
"The authors wrote that Columbus discovered America. This is known to be false. Columbus did not discover America as Native Americans were already living on this continent as every person knows. To not clarify or change that statement in the book makes all other given information questionable. If the authors can't get the facts of history correct, then how can we be expected to trust in the rest of the book."
I don't wish to put people down, but in defense of the book, that person needs to read more carefully. The book reads, "[...] Rather as Columbus might have regarded his discovery of America as something of an irrelevance [...]" That makes no claim that Columbus discovered America! I'm not even going to go through the trouble of trying to explain the difference because I think the person is well aware of this. I think that such a person will read this book with spite and will look for the first thing that will allow him or her to put it down. Quibbling over a historical statement from a geneticist, especially when taken out of context, is evidence of the kind of close-minded mentality that will unfortunately keep this book's message from ever being accepted by the general population.
56 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 1999
It may not be politically 'correct', but this book shows us men and women really are different. Physically this is obvious for all to see. Psychologically it has also been obvious for all to see for the last few million years.
However in the last 30 years we have had a justified push for equality of all humans regardless of sex, sexual preference, race, belief, etc. In the process modern society has clouded the innate differences between males and females. And some put shutters over their eyes to make the facts fit their preconceived view of the world.
Brain Sex shows how we are all equal but we are also different. It shows how we can begin to try to understand each other and to complement each other. That is real equality.
A fantastic book, but it must be read with an open mind.
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2010
This is an interesting, well written, provocative book which can be read easily in a couple of sittings. For the most part, it is based on what appears to be rigorous, although not uncontentious, scientific research. The 20 years that have elapsed since the publication of the book have, if anything, tended to confirm its main arguments about the importance of pre-natal exposure to sex hormones in 'brain sex' (or to be more precise 'brain gender') differentiation. The main weakness of the book is that it relies heavily (by its own admission) on statistical averages but then uses these to erect an elaborate ideological super-structure to justify traditional gender roles. From a theoretical standpoint, this is an illicit move. You can, for example, demonstrate that men are on average more aggressive and competitive than women, and conclude from this that the feminist effort to shoehorn women into 'male' roles in the workplace is doomed to failure. But you can't use this finding to argue that women should be financially dependent on men, or that there aren't millions of feminine men or masculine women. To be fair, the authors do acknowledge the limitations of their findings, and that the averages don't apply to everyone. The problem is that, once you do this, all generalisation starts to seem suspect. But the book does, in fact, contain lots of generalisations. For example, the authors state that males are inherently unsuited to marriage or monogamy. The implication seems to be that women should be more forgiving of infidelity. But many men are, in fact, monogamous, proving that we can and do make moral choices in areas affected by gender identity.
'Brain Sex' is certainly a thought provoking corrective to gender theorists (including most feminists) who emphasise gender as a social construct. It also provides compelling reasons why we should regard gender variant conditions such as transexuality as biological, rather than psychological, in origin. But the book is let down by its tendency to trade in gender stereotypes, and for this reason alone should not be taken too seriously.
42 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2000
I worked as a manager/leader in a traditionally male industry, engineering. Over the years women began to enter our workforce and struggled significantly. As more women entered I noticed that women approached the solution of technical problems different from men but similar to each other. Women had certain innate abilities, such as verbal, and communiation skills, that were superior to the men while men had superior analytical skills. Learning to use these strengths allowed us to become more efficient and produce better products. It is critically important to be able to understand people we work with or deal with on a daily basis. It is incredible how little we know about the drives and ambitions of the opposite sex. This book does an excellent job in explaining how the brain is physically different in males and females and how those differences affect how we think and act. The book is based on scientific data but does not engage the reader in the tedium of standard scientific analysis. Instead it uses simple easy-to-understand anecdotes to emphasize its points. In addition, it uses a provocative presentation style that rivets the reader to the text. This book may not be for the more scientifically inclined but it is an excellent primer and provides the necessary tools to help us understand what is an integral part of our everyday lives. It is what all of us should know.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 2013
Brain Sex is a book that delves into the differences between men and women. Geneticist Anne Moir teams up with journalist David Jessel to translate the scientific perspective on sexual difference into everyday language. The authors ground their discussion in biochemical and behavioral data, building their case to demonstrate that men and women really do have significant differences. Rather than fight these differences, the authors argue, we should understand them and learn to use them to our advantage. The book does a good job providing the scientific perspective on the issue of gender, but it can get a little over-the-top at points, so I would rate it four out of five stars.
The authors begin with a basic discussion of gender. The human X and Y chromosome system is discussed. From the start, though, Moir and Jessel make it clear that sexuality is much more complicated than simply a male vs. female chromosomal make up. They cite cases that do not fit this definition. Turner girls, whose cells contain an extra X chromosome, are used as an example. These girls show exaggerated feminine traits such as a higher interest in dolls and eventually in babies and young children. They also demonstrate that genetic make up is not the sole determinant of sexual behavior. They discuss girls with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), who tend to be more masculine in behavior, having a higher interest in cars and trucks as children for example. Although genetically XY, CAH girls are exposed to testosterone levels in the womb not normally experienced by female embryos. From here, the authors introduce concepts of masculinization of the brain. Their arguments depend on data from studies in rats and monkeys that show how “male” brains can develop in female bodies, and vice versa, if only given the right hormone at the right time. All of these points show the underlying principles of gender and present the idea of gender as a continuum.
After establishing a view of sexuality that transcends mere chromosomes or body parts, the authors turn to the human story. They discuss how human babies only hours old already show sexual biases and predispositions. They cite data on newborn girls being significantly more sensitive to sound and touch than newborn boys. They also point out that speech problems are almost exclusively seen amongst boys and how little girls learn to speak sooner on average. The authors argue that the inherent differences in their brains lead the sexes to prefer different cognitive strategies. Naturally, as the children grow, each sex preferentially strengthens different “cognitive muscles,” separating them further.
Next, the authors turn to puberty, during which a large influx of hormones further accentuates sexual differences. They make good use of the general acceptance of menstrual hormones in their argument. They discuss women who have extreme hormonal cycles during menstruation and how roughly 50% of psychiatric, medical, and criminal admissions of women can be traced back to “that time of the month.” They also mention the more common inconveniences experienced by most women. None of this is necessarily groundbreaking, but they use this general conception to pose an interesting question. If we admit menstrual hormones can make such a difference in behavior, why are we so reluctant to admit that prenatal, pubertal, and general differences in hormonal levels could have a similar effect?
The authors go on to discuss the male side of hormonal activity on the brain. They cite human and animal studies in which testosterone boosters were shown to increase aggression and castration, shown to decrease it. They go beyond this to paint a picture of male hierarchies fueled by aggression, using familiar scenarios like rowdy soccer fans and male schoolyard antics.
Many of us have a sense of sexual difference, but it is often seen as uncouth to acknowledge it. This book does a good job of illuminating science’s perspective on the issue. The authors use scientific data mingled with common metaphors and perceptions to demonstrate their point. Much of the data I had heard about before, but it was creatively strung together to form a convincing image of sexual difference that extended from the infancy to adulthood.
My only complaints would be about the tone. At times the authors get a little excited and over the top, which made them seem a little biased. For example, the authors use language like “it’s time to explode the social myth that men and women are equal.” They also got grimly sarcastic at points: “In theory, we could change [the pattern] absolutely, by the manipulation of fetal hormones – there’s no little boy we can’t make behave like a little girl, and vice versa… All it needs is the application of Nazi principles to late twentieth-century biochemical technology.” This sarcastic tone surfaces at other places throughout the book. It likely stems from the issue being such a polarized one, and I am sure the authors did receive their share of spite for their attitudes towards the sexes. Perhaps this kind of language was convincing to some, and it was certainly spicy and fun. However, it did annoy me at points because it felt like an oversimplification or a somewhat bitter ridiculing of the opposing viewpoint.
Moir and Jessel use skills of science and persuasive writing to shed light on the topic of sexual differences. They add scientific data to a usually political discussion, and I think it definitely has a place there. Although they go overboard at times, this can be seen as a passion about the topic, passion which definitely shined through during the course of the book. They appealed to common sense values and reasoning and used familiar settings and stories in their arguments. Because of this, they found success. Their book became a best seller, and they raised awareness about their view of sexual dimorphism. Personally, I would also call the book a success. It was interesting and had me thinking about it weeks later.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2009
I first bought this book in 1992 and have read it at least a dozen times since then. It is one I suggest to clients and those who need to insight into understanding others' motivation. From understanding the physiological differences that occur pre-birth, at the moment of conception, to the differences between male and female brain functioning, this book covers it all. One of my favorite chapters describes why men and women multi-task differently--women have information processing centers in each of the four brain quadrants, men have only one.
Another insightful chapter relates to homosexuality and how it develops during fetal growth, how the mother's stress levels contribute to its presence and the studies that have been done to support these findings. Anyone who thinks that homosexuality is an aberration that can be changed, prayed out of someone or is a choice that someone makes would do well to inform themselves and this book provides that in a very clear and logical way.
This book has helped me to create better relationships with my sons because I do not expect them to think like I do and I purchased copies for them when they began dating women so they would have a better understanding of women and how they think.
I highly recommend this book to those who are open to believing that there really are differences between men and women, we will never be the same so any attempt at getting along has to be include respect for our differences.
Jennifer Hoffman, intuitive and author of 30 Days to Everyday Miracles.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
It isn't a surprise that men and women are really different creatures. This book does not portray either men or women in a lesser light, but the book asks us to really look at the chemistry and the wiring of the brain that makes us different creatures with different outlooks. This book may help set your mind as ease with characteristics that the opposite sex has that drives a person stark raving man.
From the womb we have different hormones that wash our developing bodies and make real changes in our mental development. Men are better at single tasks that are spacially related women are more atune and able to handle multitasking, and many desire to create a nurturing environment from day one. Even in gender neutral settings these differences continue to polarize men and women.
Rather than trying to make each person fit a mold, this book suggests that we should cater to the differences that we have and find more fulfilling roles for ourselves. I especially enjoyed learning the explanation why women feel a floor is dirty long before it can support commerical agriculture. This book is a must read!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2008
I picked up this book several years ago and gained several useful insights. Some were new, others reinforced some of my beliefs.
Brain Sex argues that men and women are different biologically. The authors debate that the brain is constructed differently in men and women, resulting in different perceptions, priorities and behaviors.
The book explores the power that men and women have. It explains that men's power traditionally stems from dominance and aggression. Women's power is more subtle. It is the force that creates relationships, binds families, and builds societies. This book also explores the different interests women and men. Women are more people oriented than men and men are more interested in things.
The book acknowledges that there are countless variations between male and female characteristics. Male and female characteristics overlap. As with other books that argue that genes are overwhelmingly directors of actions and reactions, Brain Sex needs to be read with discretion.
The Re-Discovery of Common Sense: A Guide to: The Lost Art of Critical Thinking
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Brain Sex, with its intriguing title, explores the exact differences- biological and psychological- that divide the male and female sexes. It explores the way humans are expected to live by the stereotypes prescibed for them at birth by society.
Why are men and women so different? Why do we think so differently from one another and seem to live in completely different worlds most of the time? The answer lies in biology- the way males and females are constructed. The book then goes on to talk about male/ female relationships.
This is a book that will have you thinking about its contents long after you've put it down; I had to read it several times in order to comprehend the full scope of this book. Brain Sex is a book that every person- man and women- should have on their nightstand. Its a great reference, and; although a bit out of date, is a great resource to understanding the depth and scope of male/ female relationships.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2005
"Brain Gender" would have been a more apropos title, but I suppose 'sex' sells, literally.
Sometimes this book goes out on a limb, but they always make it known that's where they're headed. It provides great insight into gender differences and relates perceived behavior and experience to biological discoveries; some proven, some in question, and some merely opinions. It presents the information in a coherent and enjoyable manner, I highly suggest picking it up.