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Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps--And What We Can Do about Itby Lise Eliot
Synopses & Reviews
A precise scientific exploration of the differences between boys and girls that breaks down damaging gender stereotypes and offers practical guidance for parents and educators.
In the past decade, we've come to accept certain ideas about the differences between males and femalesand#8212;that boys can't focus in a classroom, for instance, and that girls are obsessed with relationships. In Pink Brain, Blue Brain, neuroscientist Lise Eliot turns that thinking on its head. Calling on years of exhaustive research and her own work in the field of neuroplasticity, Eliot argues that infant brains are so malleable that small differences at birth become amplified over time, as parents and teachersand#8212;and the culture at largeand#8212;unwittingly reinforce gender stereotypes. Children themselves intensify the differences by playing to their modest strengths. They constantly exercise those and#8220;ball-throwingand#8221; or and#8220;doll-cuddlingand#8221; circuits, rarely straying from their comfort zones. But this, says Eliot, is just what they need to do, and she offers parents and teachers concrete ways to help. Boys are not, in fact, and#8220;better at mathand#8221; but at certain kinds of spatial reasoning. Girls are not naturally more empathetic; theyand#8217;re allowed to express their feelings. By appreciating how sex differences emergeand#8212;rather than assuming them to be fixed biological factsand#8212;we can help all children reach their fullest potential, close the troubling gaps between boys and girls, and ultimately end the gender wars that currently divide us.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Based on research in the field of neuroplasticity, Eliot zeroes in on the precise differences between boys and girls' brains and explains the harmful nature of gender stereotypes. The author offers parents and teachers concrete ways they can help all children reach their fullest potential.
About the Author
Lise Eliot is Associate Professor of Neuroscience at The Chicago Medical School of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. The mother of two sons and a daughter, she is also the author of What's Going on in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life.
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