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Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps -- And What We Can Do About It Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 14, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, September 14, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Professor of neuroscience at Rosalind Franklin University, Eliot (What's Going On in There?) offers a refreshingly reasonable and reassuring look at recent alarming studies about sex differences in determining the behavior of children. Her levelheaded approach recognizes assertions by the nature versus nurture advocates such as Michael Gurian, Leonard Sax, Louann Brizendine—e.g., boys lag behind girls in early development, are more risk taking and spatially adept, while girls are hardwired for verbal communication and feeling empathy—yet underscores how small the differences really are and what parents can do to resist the harmful stereotyping that grows more entrenched over time. Eliot revisits much of the data showing subtle differences in boy-girl sensory processing, memory and language circuits, brain functioning, and neural speed and efficiency, using clever charts and graphs of her own. However, she emphasizes most convincingly that the brain is marvelously plastic and can remodel itself continually to new experiences, meaning that the child comes into the world with its genetic makeup, but actually growing a boy from those XY cells or a girl from XX cells requires constant interaction with the environment. At the end of each chapter, she lists ways to nip early troubles in the bud—i.e., for boys, language and literacy enrichment; for girls, stimulating movement, visual and spatial awareness. Dense, scholarly but accessible, Eliot's work demonstrates a remarkable clarity of purpose. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Lise Eliot nimbly refutes the overemphasis on sex differences that has dominated popular thinking in our Mars and Venus age--but without resorting to a facile denial of differences, either. This is a lively, marvelously clear and readable book that combines all the latest research on sex differences with smart, sensible and humane advice to parents on how bring out the fullest potential in both boys and girls.”
—Margaret Talbot, Staff Writer, The New Yorker

“I wish that Pink Brain, Blue Brain had been available when my children were small. It’s smart about our biology, smart about our culture—and genuinely thought-provoking in considering the way the two intersect. Read it if you’re a parent seeking some savvy insight on child rearing, as a teacher looking to help students—or just read it for the pleasure of understanding yourself a little better.”
—Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women

“Lise Eliot surveys the real science of sex differences in a way that is clear and careful as well as entertaining, and her advice on everything from public policy to parenting is sensible and scientifically grounded.”
— Mark Liberman, University of Pennsylvania

“Lise Eliot covers a wealth of the best scientific work on gender in an accessible and engaging style. The suggestions she offers for raising and teaching children are well grounded in research and readily implemented in practice. Pink Brain, Blue Brain is an excellent resource for parents, educators, and anyone else interested in how boys and girls develop.”
—Lynn S. Liben, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Penn State University

“I can’t stop talking about Pink Brain, Blue Brain. Every time I see a toddler on a playground, or walk into a toy store, I remember some remarkable new fact I learned from Lise Eliot. This book will change the way you think about boys, girls, and how we come to be who we are.”
—Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist

“[a] sharp, information-packed, and wonderfully readable book” —Mother Jones

“This is an important book and highly recommended for parents, teachers, and anyone who works with children.” —Library Journal

“(a) refreshingly reasonable and reassuring look at recent alarming studies about sex differences in determining the behavior of children....Eliot’s work demonstrates a remarkable clarity of purpose.”
Publishers Weekly

“Read [this] masterful book and you'll never view the sex-differences debate the same way again.”

“eye-opening...[a] masterful new book on gender and the brain...Eliot’s contribution in Pink Brain, Blue Brain is to explain, clearly and authoritatively, what the research on brain-based sex difference actually shows, and to offer helpful suggestions about how we can erase the small gaps for our children instead of turning them into larger ones.”—Washington Post

“refreshingly evenhanded...Written in a readable style and organized in chapters ordered by age level, this makes some scientific concepts about brain development accessible to laypeople...Anyone interested in child development and gender studies will be enlightened.” —Booklist

"Considering the nonsense already in print (much of it erroneously presented as scientific fact), Pink Brain, Blue Brain should be required reading for anyone who wants a more thoughtful consideration of how the brains of boys and girls do—but mostly do not—differ." —Science

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (September 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618393110
  • ASIN: B005GNMFW2
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,582,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Silea VINE VOICE on August 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are a lot of reasons i should like this book: I'm a math/science/tech-oriented woman, I have an undergraduate degree in psychology, I have an infant son, I've never been terribly girly, etc. Despite all of this, and a habit of reading academic and semi-academic texts, i struggled through this book.

The one thing that really sticks with me after finishing the book is a feeling that the author spent an awful lot more time pointing out studies that have been disproved or discredited, rather than making any positive arguments or citing any validated results. It becomes almost formulaic: she'll discuss a study in some length, including the methods, the results, and the implications, and then pontificate on how this explains observational or anecdotal information. Then she'll tell you that no further studies duplicated the results, so it's all just back to square one. I do appreciate that this is how science goes sometimes, but it's an awfully long book just to say that precious few studies have shown anything at all worth believing.

A lesser complaint is that the author seemed to have trouble deciding what kind of book she was writing. At times, it was a moderately dense scholarly work, with studies and statistics and name-dropping. Other times, it's pure anecdotal accounts, suggesting a vastly less academic target audience. There were also numerous references to her own children, done in such a way as to make it seem briefly like a memoir instead of research.

There are some things i did like about this book. First, the organization. Rather than just being a heap of studies and discussion thereof, it's parsed into age groups.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Pink Brain, Blue Brain is fascinating. Lise Eliot uses her knowledge and expertise as a neuroscientist to explain to us that we might be relying too much on pseudo-science in the media to inform us of how things really are in regards to boys and girls. We are bombarded not only with pseudo-science, but with actual science that is not explained fully, such as studies on rats, studies on adult brains (who's to say that adult brains developed the way they were based soley on biology?), and studies on children who have been influenced already.

Eliot emphasizes we can't make cut-and-dry declarations about human male and female brains unless we go into fetal studies or newborn studies, which are few and far between. Besides the interesting discussion of science, at the end of each chapter Eliot lists a few things parents and teachers can do to make sure children can live up to their capabilities. The chapters are divided easily into age groups. This book is very helpful to anyone interested in the differences between males and females and wanting a little more scientific oomph than screaming headlines.


I have to add to this review. This book is not a difficult read if taken in little steps as I did. I wouldn't try to sit down and read it through; it's about neuroscience and includes lots of information and data. The author's point is that we shouldn't believe everything we're told about male and female brains, not without understanding how that data was acquired.
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Format: Hardcover
On the first day of school in 1967 I walked into my chemistry class excited about the challenge of what I knew would be a difficult course. Once we had settled in our seats, our teacher introduced himself. Looking around the class, he said "I don't know what all you girls are doing in here." His wife was the home-ec teacher at our school, and he made it quite apparent that he thought all of us "girls" should be in her class, not his. As I expected, it was a difficult class. Without the mentoring of a teacher who believed in me, I squeaked by with a B- average in the course, my lowest grade in high school. It was obvious to me that I should not select a career which required an aptitude for science. I began college as an English major, preparing to teach my favorite subject.

Now fast forward 42 years. Today no chemistry teacher would dare to make that kind of boldly sexist statement. However, many well-educated people still believe that boys have a natural edge in math and science, and treat their female daughters or students accordingly. While Dr. Eliot tells us there are subtle differences in the brains of girls and boys, these differences are magnified through "plasticity", a term used to describe the fact that the brain changes in response to its own experience. So parents who buy dolls for little girls and Lego's for little boys are offering experiences which will later help to mold each child's brain.

Perhaps it is time for your children to select a college and career. Just as I did so many years ago, most girls gravitate toward what comes easiest to them and away from technical and quantitative fields. Dr.
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