Book reviews

Inherently unequal – Does it add up?

Gender Differences in Mathematics:
 An Integrative Psychological Approach
Ann M. Gallagher & James C. Kaufman (Eds)
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2005; Pb £16.99
(ISBN 0 521 53344 9)
Reviewed by Sharon Lloyd

HERE is an intense, interesting book. It is provocative, stimulating and frustrating. The chapters draw upon extensive and intensive histories of research into the area of sex differences in maths and show dramatically the continual ebb and flow of findings seemingly to show differences in one study, only to counter them in another. As Caplan and Caplan point out, the book’s very title shows a lack of neutrality on the question of the usefulness of making such distinctions, though if it must be done ‘gender differences’ is a better term than ‘sex differences’! The fields of research reviewed in this book cover the cognitive, motivational, stereotypic, social, community, personality, educational, physiological, genetic and hormonal influences, thus moving beyond the question of ‘how much’ we attribute variance to biological and environmental factors and towards a multiple type factors model that helps explain gender differences in performance and participation.
Though extensively referenced, and equally so, across the contributors, it disappoints in not delivering what the flysheet promises as ‘most recent research’. Only
by the third chapter is there a reference as current as 2003. Throughout, there are only
a handful of references post-1999. It already feels somewhat outdated and, scandalously, there is no reference to the scanning/imaging evidence of differences.
Though well written, it is not an overly easy book to read. It summarises a vast tranche of research, giving considerable insight into the history, politics and influences that have shaped aspects of our identities, communities, schools and working world through mathematical processes. For those in educational testing and theory or practice, the political, theoretical, commercial and practical forces that have shaped educational testing and practices are clear. Consumers need to actively critique this material if looking to support decision making with respect to teaching, testing, research and application in the 21st century.

- Dr Sharon E. Lloyd is a consultant occupational and educational psychologist in independent practice.

Overcoming Chronic Fatigue:

A Self-help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques
Mary Burgess & Trudie Chalder
London: Robinson; 2005; Pb £9.99
(ISBN 1 84119 942 7)
Reviewed by Shane McCarney

THIS is the first in the ‘Overcoming…’ series I have read, but I will read further titles. All too often self-help guides are none too helpful. In this book, the well-respected authors approach the often controversial topic of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in a way that is functional. The opening part provides an excellent overview of how best the complexities of CFS may be understood, but without overemphasising debate on diagnosis or symptomatology. The other main highlights include the case studies giving an insight into formulation and interventions, and the overall flow of information and techniques that should guide the reader to making progress.

- Dr Shane McCarney works in Clinical Health Psychology in Sperrin Lakeland HSS Trust, Northern Ireland.

Cautionary tales from private practice

The Essential Skills for Setting Up a Counselling and Psychotherapy Practice
Gladeana McMahon, Stephen Palmer & Christine Wilding
London: Routledge, 2005; Pb £15.99 (ISBN 0 415 19776 7) Reviewed by Christina L. Blackwell

WRITTEN from a counselling, cognitive-behavioural perspective, Essential Skills is presented in a workbook style, with ‘reflection’ boxes inviting the reader to stop and consider. It begins with a cautionary tale. This sets the tone, and reflects the authors’ view that ‘planning, organisation and attention to detail are crucial’. At times this borders on patronising as in ‘smells can be cloaked by the use of subtle air fresheners’.
There are three sections. The first, and most useful, covers business plans, marketing, finance and accounting. Section 2 ‘Professional skills’ offers little new to the experienced practitioner, but would be useful to those starting out. Section 3 ‘Self-management skills’ is based on cognitive-behavioural techniques, and includes detailed instructions on interventions, such as relaxation, which might be better placed in a therapeutic skills manual.
This book is helpful. It raises salient issues and provides useful practical information.

- Christina Blackwell is with the Psychological Services Directorate, Newcastle, North Tyneside & Northumberland Mental Health NHS Trust.

Putting music in context

Musical Communication
Dorothy Miell, Raymond MacDonald & David Hargreaves (Eds)
Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2005; Pb £26.95
(ISBN 0-19-852936 8)
Reviewed by Kate Gee

EXPLORING communication in a delightful, multidisciplinary fashion, Musical Communication, the second book edited by Miell, MacDonald and Hargreaves, has its roots buried firmly within psychology. Chapters are penned by a sparkling line-up of academic and applied researchers, including music psychologists, therapists and educationalists; consequently it covers a wide variety of perspectives, holding appeal for musicians, the general public and many breeds of psychologist.
Music is a potent means of communication in many aspects of life; thus the structure of this book is all-encompassing, including cognitive, biological, social and cultural takes on communication. Initial chapters describe the broad nature of musical communication, including the somewhat clichéd comparison between language and music. The next appeal predominantly to cognitive psychologists, including a very readable chapter on music and emotion, (the differences between the emotions portrayed within the music as opposed to the emotions we feel in response). The third section concerns the brain and body, including everything from neuropsychology to music therapy. There are a few chapters on music and education, however it is the final section that is the most readable, discussing communication and cultural contexts; everything from the development of protest music, to cinematic uses and music employed commercially; does, for example, French music encourage you to purchase French wine?
This book aimed to bring together the ‘how, why, what, who and where of musical communication, to set a new agenda for research’; which,
I suspect, would be a rather daunting challenge for many, and yet it is one that this team admirably performs. This book is certainly not one to be read from cover to cover, rather it should be dipped into and used as a basis for future research, whatever your specialism.

- Kate Gee is at the University of Sheffield.

Kaleidophones and thaumatropes

Perception and Illusion: Historical Perspectives
Nicholas J. Wade
New York: Springer; 2005; Hb US$69.95
(ISBN 0 387 22722 9)
Reviewed by Helen E. Ross

THIS is part of the ‘Library of the History of Psychological Theories’ series, which might sound intimidating, but Nicholas Wade is a master of interesting and accessible books, particularly A Natural History of Vision (1998, MIT Press). This book is similar to the latter in that it contains a lot of quotations from early authors, but it goes beyond it by giving detailed accounts of how theories developed. It also considers some other senses besides vision, such as the muscle, temperature and movement senses. But vision dominates the book, as it does our senses. The history of visual perception is essentially
a history of art and illusion, and of advances in optics, instruments and measurement techniques. Illusions have fostered fascination through the centuries, and have stimulated inquiry about perceptual mechanisms. Veridical perception, on the other hand, has been taken for granted. Books on illusions are often confined to somewhat artificial 19th-century geometrical illusions, but Wade covers perceptual phenomena that are easily observed in the everyday world and have been noted since antiquity. Other illusions are dependent on special gadgets that were built to entertain. Some of these, like the stereoscope, became serious scientific instruments that informed our modern understanding of visual perception. The rest are now forgotten, or have been replaced by the computer. The stereoscope lives on, but if you want to know about the kaleidophone, phenakistoscope or thaumatrope you will have to read the book.
- Helen Ross is with the Department of Psychology, University of Stirling.

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