Tag Archives: Baron-Cohen

Book: The Essential Difference

An insightful over-interpretation
269 pages, ★★★★

The Essential Difference is a easily-readable popular psychology book. Its thesis is that “men are different from women in just about every conceivable way” (it’s the sex equivalent of The Geography of Thought, which pulled East and West apart to equal extremes)All the book’s claims are supported with scientific studies, so I’m not doubting the validity of the research. However, I am left asking, “why?”

I learned the most from chapters 8 (with a large, and surprisingly flattering section on Autism and Aspergers’) and chapter 12 (on extreme feministic traits). The self-test section taught me that I have a below-average EQ, an above-average IQ, and half the symptoms of Aspergers’ (however, I also have half the symptoms of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and some sort of personality disorder, but doesn’t everyone?)

To enjoy this book, refrain from reading it as a tennis match between two sexes (it isn’t, but lends itself to being misinterpreted as such). The Essential Difference mixes ethical balance and scientific data very well.

Interesting highlights include: a definition of empathy, five definitions of gender, an EQ test, and the fact that “women with a bigger right breast are better at math”.

Disappointments include: excessive stereotypes, and the fact that “women with a bigger right breast are better at math”.

My views are unchanged. I still think that men are only good at certain things when you compare them to women, that women are only good at other things when you compare them to men, and that to imply that either sex is wholly superior over the other is a very male way to think. The Essential Difference didn’t change my viewpoints (on gender, autism, empathy, and on my own character), but it did further my understanding.