Cordelia Fine unpicks the science (and pseudoscience) of sex difference in her latest book. Jessica Smith found the result a revelation
As a mother of two children, I have often listened to other parents discussing how their little boy is so obviously “hard-wired” for rough-and-tumble play, while their little girl just wants to dress up as a princess, or how their son is great at numbers but their daughter would talk the hind-leg off a donkey, or how their son is obsessed by fire-engines, the daughter by Barbie.
In listening to these anecdotes, one conclusion that you might draw is that these differences must be due to innate biological differences between the sexes. After all – the children in discussion grew up in the same household with access to the same toys – what else could be the cause?
Academic psychologist and writer Cordelia Fine warns us against jumping too quickly to this conclusion. In fact, as she points out in her latest book, Delusions of Gender: The real science behind sex differences, history tells us that conclusions such as these in the realm of gender difference are often embarrassingly disproved some years later.