By Cordelia FineNon-fictionAllen & Unwin

Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences

Delusions of Gender is a stand-out example of popular science writing at its best. Combining a razor-sharp intellect with dry wit and impeccable credentials, Cordelia Fine expertly demolishes the arguments of those who defend inequalities between the sexes by citing immutable biological differences between the male and female brain.

A cognitive neuroscientist and gifted writer, Fine is armed with a thorough understanding of the latest research in developmental psychology, neuroscience and social psychology. Bravely working against current popular beliefs and hopefully constructed scientific arguments, she shows how old myths, dressed up in scientific finery, are helping to perpetuate the status quo – and demonstrates the dangers of using this so-called science as a basis of structuring our education, workplaces, relationships and how we bring up our children.

This is an important book, sharply structured, clearly argued and steeped in passion and scholarship.

Portrait of Cordelia Fine

Cordelia Fine

Cordelia Fine is an academic psychologist and writer. Her first book, A Mind of Its Own: How your Brain Distorts and Deceives, won worldwide acclaim and earned her the label of ‘a science writer to watch’ from Metro. Cordelia studied experimental psychology at Oxford University, followed by an M.Phil in Criminology at Cambridge University. She was awarded a Ph.D in Psychology from University College London and she is currently a senior research associate at the Centre for Agency, Values and Ethics at Macquarie University, and an honorary research fellow at the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne.

Judges’ report

In the 21st century, neuroscience is emerging as the new explainer of us to ourselves. Claims that neuroscience has found proof of immutable gender differences in the brain have given renewed justification to the stereotyping of female and male. In Delusions of Gender, Cordelia Fine challenges the claims and practice of science, as well as our own assumptions about the way that gender is constructed. A cognitive neuroscientist, Fine writes with authority, elegance and wit to argue persuasively that brain plasticity trumps gender and that it’s culture, not biology, that is hardwired to discriminate.


With much of Australia talking about how our first female Prime Minister is doing, the topic of gender and performance is hot on today’s menu. Reading Delusions of Gender is likely then to create discussion, potentially heated, around the concept that gender-based genetic programming defines our social role. Or does it?

Already you will probably have decided where you sit on this particular fence. Do you agree that women are better at nurturing and empathy and men are more genetically inclined towards logical, analytical occupations? Or, like author Cordelia Fine, do you have a compulsion to argue that our perception of role is socially programmed rather than hardwired by our X and Y chromosomes? Does your score in EQ, SQ, POM and RME tests make you a freak of nature or just proof that we are really more balanced human beings than our genders suggest?

Regardless of whether you have already made up your mind or are still to be convinced one way or the other, borrowing morsels of well researched and pithy analysis from Cordelia Fine’s work will fuel your ability to argue your conviction with flare on talk-back radio.

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards shortlist