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Sex and Cognition [Paperback]

Doreen Kimura
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 24 2000 0262611643 978-0262611640

In this fact-driven book, Doreen Kimura provides an intelligible overview of what is known about the neural and hormonal bases of sex differences in behavior, particularly differences in cognitive ability. Kimura argues that women and men differ not only in physical attributes and reproductive function, but also in how they solve common problems. She offers evidence that the effects of sex hormones on brain organization occur so early in life that, from the start, the environment is acting on differently wired brains in girls and boys. She presents various behavioral, neurological, and endocrinological studies that shed light on the processes giving rise to these sex differences in the brain.


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Review

Kimura provides an authoritative overview of the field of sex differences in cognition, moving from hormones to cognition, genes to behavior, in a calm and clear way. This book will be a valuable resource for students and teachers of cognitive science.

(Simon Baron-Cohen, Departments of Experimental Psychologyand Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, UK)

About the Author

Doreen Kimura is Professor of Psychology at Simon Fraser University. She is the author of Neuromotor Mechanisms in Human Communication and has written on sex and cognition for publications such as Scientific American.

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Customer Reviews

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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not convincing Nov. 30 2003
Format:Paperback
Easy to read and thought provoking, the book describes some very specific differences in mental abilities between men and women. Men are better at hitting a target with a missile and at mentally rotating an object while women are better at fine hand control and at verbal memory.
Two things bothered me about the arguments presented in this book.
One was the attempt to explain the abilities as evolved from the division of labor in early human hunter/gatherer societies. This was contradicted by experiments on rats that showed male rats were better at spatial navigation. This male linked ability could not have evolved in both early mammals and early humans. It would have been better to leave the whole hunter/gatherer argument out as it was not supported by experimentation.
Second, the author mentions "the sex differences...tend to be smaller in Asians and blacks." This would seem to indicate that the sex differences are cultural and not biological. The author assumes that the race differences are biological but gives no evidence to back this up.
The experiments did try to control for many variables such as the person's size, strength, speed, life experience and much more. The author kept the book very much on the science and avoided controversial and subjective politics.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely written and well-grounded in science Oct. 19 2003
Format:Hardcover
This is an excellent summary of the current science of male/female brain differences, nicely written and well-grounded in experiment.
I read this followed by Sex on the Brain by Blum, Brain Sex by Moir/Jessel, and The Essential Difference by Baron-Cohen. If you only read one book, read The Essential Difference; if two, then read Sex and Cognition followed by The Essential Difference. The other two are worth reading as well, since they both have some unique material and perspectives. If you read all 4, I think the order I happened to read them worked well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The death of feminism July 23 2001
Format:Paperback
When I wrote "the death of feminism" as the title for the review, I specifically meant the first Article of the Feminist Faith, as enunciated by Erica Jong and countless others: "The only differences between men and women are those which are caused by the environment. In other words, men and women are (or would be) mentally and spiritually identical if it were not for the discriminating socialization of our patriarchal civilization."
This article of faith is false. Doreen Kimura shows how many male/female differences are biological, and -- not only are they in place in the fetus at the age of four months -- they can often be observed across different mammalian species. One example is that women, when learning a new route to travel, pick up a lot more landmarks than men. One way to describe this is that men tend to navigate with some over-all directional sense, while women find their way by following landmarks. No big deal, but a very real difference -- and one which has also been observed in rats.
Books like these are invaluable, since they enable discusssion to begin anew on an entirely different level. At least we can stop kicking dead horses like "all sex differences are caused by child-rearing."
The book is full of dry scientific data, but can be profitably skimmed.
Highly recommended!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely written and well-grounded in science Oct. 19 2003
By Timothy D. Lundeen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent summary of the current science of male/female brain differences, nicely written and well-grounded in experiment.
I read this followed by Sex on the Brain by Blum, Brain Sex by Moir/Jessel, and The Essential Difference by Baron-Cohen. If you only read one book, read The Essential Difference; if two, then read Sex and Cognition followed by The Essential Difference. The other two are worth reading as well, since they both have some unique material and perspectives. If you read all 4, I think the order I happened to read them worked well.
18 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not convincing Nov. 30 2003
By Patrick Loughlin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Easy to read and thought provoking, the book describes some very specific differences in mental abilities between men and women. Men are better at hitting a target with a missile and at mentally rotating an object while women are better at fine hand control and at verbal memory.
Two things bothered me about the arguments presented in this book.
One was the attempt to explain the abilities as evolved from the division of labor in early human hunter/gatherer societies. This was contradicted by experiments on rats that showed male rats were better at spatial navigation. This male linked ability could not have evolved in both early mammals and early humans. It would have been better to leave the whole hunter/gatherer argument out as it was not supported by experimentation.
Second, the author mentions "the sex differences...tend to be smaller in Asians and blacks." This would seem to indicate that the sex differences are cultural and not biological. The author assumes that the race differences are biological but gives no evidence to back this up.
The experiments did try to control for many variables such as the person's size, strength, speed, life experience and much more. The author kept the book very much on the science and avoided controversial and subjective politics.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Closest thing to an authoritative work June 13 2005
By Deborah - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
No author can write an authoritative work in a field this complex and controversial, but Kimura has come close. At times her own views do seem to color her interpretation of certain studies but she is always careful to provide enough information to allow readers to reach their own conclusions.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authorative guide to the literature on sex differences in cognition July 3 2013
By David Reilly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'm a PhD studen researching the area of gender differences in cognition, and have found this text to be one of the most
authorative guides to the literature in this area, especially when recommending a book for students and colleagues.
The book clearly represents the perspective of Doreen Kimura, who has been a passionate advocate for research in this area
to better understand the development of intelligence, and how biological and social contributions shape the emergence of
differences at the population level. Other books in this area emphasis simlarities rather than differences between the genders,
but this book takes an opposing view. For its time, this revision of the book as quite exceptional, but since research in
this area is moving so quickly, may become dated in the next decade or so, as I recently read of the authors passing.

If you'd like a guide to the area (for lay persons and students alike), I'd highly recommend picking it up and then supplementing
it with a newer textbook such as the excellent "Sex differences in cognitive abilities" by Diane F. Halpern which is revised every
few years with the most up to date research in the area. Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities: 4th Edition
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and insightful. June 10 2009
By Diana L. Rosa Leyra - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is a good place to start for people who want to know more about sex differences in cognition and development.

The text is clear, simple, and precise. At the end of each chapter, the author, provides the reader with a summary and a list of suggestions for further reading. Both the summary, and the suggestions make of this book a wonderful introduction to the subject.

I enjoyed reading this book as it treats such complex matters in a simple and concise manner.
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