The award-winning psychologist and writer is taking on the pervasive idea that all differences between men and women can be explained by biology. But would a man be as self-effacing about his success?

If you have ever worked alongside both men and women, you will almost certainly have seen for yourself some of the classic gender differences in behaviour. Anyone still in doubt about their existence could have observed how Cordelia Fine conducted herself this week. On Tuesday night, the distinguished neuroscientist was awarded the Royal Society’s science book prize. One of six nominees, she had flown into London from her home in Melbourne on Monday, and is trailing her suitcase behind her when we meet the following afternoon, before heading back to Heathrow for the 24-hour journey home. I assume she must have known she would win, as who would come all this way otherwise? She looks surprised and shakes her head. “No, no. I was just really, really thrilled and excited about being nominated.”

At 42, Fine is enormously successful. After graduating with a first from Oxford in experimental psychology, she took a masters at Cambridge, followed by a doctorate from University College London. Her first book was nominated for the Royal Society prize in 2007, while her second, Delusions of Gender, was listed by the Huffington Post under: “Books women think men should read”. Her third, Testosterone Rex: Unmaking the Myths of Our Gendered Minds, was acclaimed by the judges this week as an “original”, “very funny”, and “cracking critique of the ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ hypothesis”. With a cheque for £25,000 in her case, Fine could have been forgiven for swaggering – or at the very least strutting – across the hotel lounge to be interviewed.

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