Sunday, February 18, 2007

Men's & Women's Intelligence

I never much cared when I was younger whether men or women were smarter, being much more self-centered than that. So long as I was smarter, I didn't much care who was second. When my sons started going to school, I became a bit more attentive to issues of how boys and girls were perceived and treated at school, but it was not as pressing for Jonathan and Ben as it was for other boys. Both had the poor handwriting and chattiness that is their Wyman heritage, but they also got some self-control and diligence from their mother that gave them a leg up. Both read exceptionally well, and Ben had the added advantage of being in a small Christian school which I still maintain was in its day, the best school in the state.

My eventual oversimplification from those experiences was that schools favor girls, the nonschool environments favor boys.

I was also briefly president of the Prometheus Society (Hey, my name's still in the officers archives. Cool.), and raised quite a bit of controversy when I noted that the membership was 96% male. It was one of those things that everyone knew but no one was supposed to say, apparently. I just thought it was geekness, but research did show that men outnumbered women in greater numbers as one went up the IQ scale.

Less often mentioned was that men dominate at the other end of the scale as well. There just seems to be slightly more variation in men, which becomes increasingly visible at the extremes.

Manchester University's Dr. Paul Irwin has made a more dramatic claim than I had previously seen, that at IQ 120 men already outnumber women 2/1, increasing to 30/1 at IQ 170. That certainly seems extreme, though I haven't looked at the data. Most people leap to the "there must be something wrong with the tests" conclusion, but that has been hard to show evidence for. Males and females both average just about 100, but the Bell curve for women is a touch narrower and taller.

One possible explanation offered has been multi-tasking - that women's brains sacrifice the searing focus of men's in order to do several things simultaneously. People's general observations of society accord with this, perhaps, but it is tough to measure. As we are talking about a very few people when we start throwing around phrases like "IQ 170," it's hard to get good data. A self-selected sample may be misleading. But finding enough people in a random population to run an experiment is difficult.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. More men at either extreme.

jw said...

I've thought the higher standard deviation for males to be true for some time now.

Another way of seeing it is:

males use more CPU power
females use a higher clock speed

Both work, both have advantages and disadvantages.