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Sexualized BrainsReview - Sexualized Brains
Scientific Modeling of Emotional Intelligence from a Cultural Perspective
by Nicole C. Karafyllis and Gotlind Ulshöfer (Editors)
MIT Press, 2008
Review by Marion Ledwig, Ph.D.
Dec 30th 2008 (Volume 13, Issue 1)

The editors of this excellent volume on how our brains get sexualized by not only media, pop-culture, laypeople, but also scientists in the view of new discoveries in the neurosciences, are the philosopher and biologist Nicole C. Karafyllis, who is an assistant professor at the Institute of Society and Policy Analysis at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt/M., Germany, and the theologian and economist Gotlind B. Ulshöfer, who is a program director for economics, business ethics, and gender issues at the Protestant Academy of Arnoldshain, Germany. The editors don’t make it explicit how the volume came into being with the exception that they state it got inspired by a congress on “Emotional Intelligence, Gender, and Elites” at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt/M. in spring 2006.

This book consists of thirteen chapters divided into four parts preceded by an introduction into the subject area. While the first part, which consists of chapters two to four, gives an historical overview of the topic of this book focusing on the connection between gender, sex, and elite brains, the second part comprising chapters five to seven is on how emotions and emotional intelligence are represented theoretically and in fact measured in laboratories today. Part three (chapters eight to ten) tries to answer the question in which socioeconomic contexts does one find debates on elites, emotional intelligence, and gender, and in the last part (chapters eleven to thirteen) the media of emotions and self-representations are explored. The authors don’t address for which kind of audience this book is intended. Yet, in my opinion researchers and graduate students coming from very diverse fields in the neurosciences, such as neurophilosophy, neuropsychology, neuropsychiatry, neurobiology, neuroeconomics, neurosociology, etc., and anthropology, cultural and gender studies could profit from this volume, since the authors of this volume and also their articles are written from the perspective of very diverse backgrounds. The book is for the most part written in such a way that it turns out to be understandable for a university educated audience.

While the editors’ introduction is supposed to provide “transdisciplinary insight into the basic concepts … involved in the neuroscientific discourse and the ones on emotional intelligence (EI), preparing the reader for the chapters that follow and showing the cultural range of neuroscientific impact” (Karafyllis and Ulshöfer 2008, p. ix), it unfortunately fails to live up to its aims. For in chapter one the overall picture got lost by having focused on too many details. The book would have profited from having left out the introduction which is exceedingly long, too, namely forty-nine pages. One gets the impression that the introduction and also chapter two were not so carefully edited, because the figures in the introduction and chapter two are supposed to be in color which they are in fact not. The same figures appear in the middle of the book in color in chapter ten between pages 206 and 207 without any relation to the content of the respective chapter. Besides this problematic first chapter, however, the remaining chapters prove to be of excellent quality.

After having given an overall evaluation of the book, here is an overview of the respective chapters of this volume starting with chapter two: Michael Hagner gives an historical overview of the idea of genius thinking pointing out a bias for brains of men in medical brain research until recently. Chapter three is on “The Biosexual Foundations of Our Modern Concept of Gender” by Robert A. Nye. In chapter four William M. Reddy analyzes emotional styles of different cultures which express themselves in showing, suppressing, and naming the respective emotions differently.

Part two begins with chapter five by Bärbel Hüsing who gives a state of the art evaluation of the technology of neuroimaging which is very helpful because so far I have only seen studies employing neuroimaging without a critical evaluation of the techniques given suggesting that no problems go together with it. In chapter six Myriam N. Bechtoldt gives an historical overview of the development of emotional intelligence as a construct in science and pop-culture and its diverse measurement techniques and whether gender differences are in fact given. Chapter seven is coauthored by Carolyn MacCann, Ralf Schulze, Gerald Matthews, Moshe Zeidner, and Richard D. Roberts and distinguishes between a popular-science approach, a misdirected science approach, and a reputable science approach to emotional intelligence. To a certain extent this chapter recapitulates what Matthews, Zeidner, and Roberts (2002) have advanced in Emotional Intelligence: Science and Myth, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Part three starts with chapter eight by Eva Illouz who investigates what kind of effects knowledge of the emotions has on social structure in therapy oriented societies. Chapter nine by Carmen Baumeler deals with affective computing and how one can develop an enhanced second skin in the form of, for example, stress management software programs for employees. In chapter ten Gotlind Ulshöfer looks at neuroeconomics through the lens of gender.

The final part IV starts with chapter eleven by Kathrin Fahlenbrach and Anne Bartsch who explore the role of media aesthetics in shaping empathy. Chapter twelve is written by Nicole C. Karafyllis and looks at autism and emotional intelligence from the viewpoint of pop-science. Finally, in chapter thirteen Malte-Christian Gruber evaluates Antonio Damasio’s writings from the point of view of neurosociology and the law.

© 2008 Marion Ledwig

Marion Ledwig is currently visiting assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has studied psychology and philosophy at the University of Bielefeld, Germany, and received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Konstanz, Germany. She is the author of "Reid's Philosophy of Psychology" (2005), "Emotions: Their Rationality and Consistency" (2006), "Common Sense: Its History, Method, and Applicability" (2007), and "God’s Rational Warriors: The Rationality of Faith Considered" (2008).


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