Sex Differences and Similarities in Communication: Critical Essays and Empirical Investigations of Sex and Gender in Interaction

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Sex Differences and Similarities in Communication: Critical Essays and Empirical Investigations of Sex and Gender in Interaction. Daniel J. Canary & Kathryn Dindia (Eds.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 1998. 468 pp. ISBN 0-8058-2333-6.

In the preface to Sex Differences and Similarities in Communication, Daniel Canary and Kathryn Dindia preview that "with respect to communicative behavior, men and women are similar in some domains and different in others. The task, then, is to juxtapose similarities and differences." Although these comments capture one goal achieved by this text, the collection of essays accomplishes far more. Across the chapters addressing epistemological issues, providing comprehensive review of the literature, or offering new empirical insights, the authors encourage thoughtful and intellectual engagement in the debate about the nature, prevalence, and import of sex differences in communication.

The majority of the essays verify small sex differences, but suggest that these pale in comparison to the many similarities between males and females. The authors diverge, however, in the extent to which they argue that sex differences are meaningful. Scholars and lay persons need no encouragement to point out trivial sex differences or to magnify the distance between the sexes. They do, however, need to be encouraged to understand the meaning of these differences and our fixation with them. The essays in this volume make substantial progress in this direction.

One important theme that emerges from the text suggests that the polarization of the sexes reflects a perceptual bias or reasoning error. In short, language that draws sharp distinctions along a continuous scale leads to the erroneous exclusion of the middle range. …