August 25, 2005

"Men are simply more intelligent than women."

I saw that was a headline in the Times of Oman and had a few outraged thoughts on my way to the link, then was surprised to find an article from London about some British research:
In a paper to be published in a leading research journal, one of Britain’s most outspoken academics will argue that men have larger brains and higher IQs than women, to such an extent that they are better suited to “tasks of high complexity”.

Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster University, who has caused outrage in the past with claims that white people are more intelligent than blacks and that criminal traits are genetic, will publish the work with Paul Irwing, senior lecturer in organisational psychology at Manchester University.

The study, due to be published in the British Journal of Psychology in November, concluded that men not only have larger brains but also higher IQs, on average by about 5 points, than women....

Dr Irwing said that he had initially been reluctant to take part in the study arguing that he would have personally preferred not to have discovered that men had a biological advantage.

“I came from a perspective that I would like to believe that all people, whether men or women, were equal in potential achievement,” he said.
Why does Irwing assume performance on an IQ test is the result of biology as opposed to, say, a stimulating intellectual environment?

UPDATE: Here's the BBC link for the article.

41 comments:

Robert said...

The study aligns with my own experience. I have known lots and lots of bright and very bright people, and they seem pretty evenly divided between men and women. I've known a relative handful of people of truly exceptional gifts, and they were mostly men. (About 4:1 male:female ratio.)

The authors acknowledge that any difference only really makes a difference way out on the right-hand side of the curve; it only takes moderate brightness to be extremely successful in life (hard work and attitude are much more important than further marginal increments of intelligence, for people in the bright range.)

The intellectual-stimulus argument doesn't hold up, IMHO. There's plenty of evidence that insufficient stimulation can cause retardation or mental slowness; no evidence at all (that I know of) that genius-level intelligence is related to the level of stimulus received. Geniuses seek out their own stimulation, they don't wait for it to be delivered.

My daughter shows signs of having a genius-level intellectual capacity. I am more concerned with whether society will permit the development of her individual gifts than whether the distribution of those gifts through the species is fair or even or what have you. The former we have in our power to determine; the latter, probably not so much.

tiggeril said...

I certainly hope it's not based on IQ testing. My IQ has seemingly dropped 40 points in the year and a half I've been out of college, according to the test I took the other day.

tiggeril said...

Based on biology, I meant to say.

Oh, god, maybe they're right.

Smilin' Jack said...

Why does Irwing assume performance on an IQ test is the result of biology as opposed to, say, a stimulating intellectual environment?

That would seem the appropriate null hypothesis. If you want to assert that a sex-IQ correlation results from some factor other than sex, the burden of proof is on you. Anyway, the study doesn't seem to address the question of why men are smarter than women...it just says that they are.

Don't know how I missed this one...must have let my subscription to the Times of Oman run out....

Ann Althouse said...

I'm reading all these newspapers so you don't have to.

And I don't see why the burden of proof is on me! I'm not even purporting to try to prove something here!

Robert said...

I don't see why the burden of proof is on me!

Well, surely you don't expect us hyperintelligent males to spend our time working on it. We have more important things to do. I, for example, need to try and figure out how to get past the laser cannon on that Ninja game that Jonah posted in the Corner the other day.

But seriously. Your commenter is actually mistaken; the burden of proof is on the researcher who asserted (without foundation that I can see) that the difference must be biological. Since he started the "why" game, he has to go first.

Ann Althouse said...

Even if there is a sex difference in IQ and even putting aside the distinct possibility that IQ tests are slanted toward particular mental skills that are naturally stronger in men, there are differences in the way males and females are treated that may affect intelligence. That is, they may tend to be raised in a more stimulating environment or simply in an environment that encourages the development of the skills that are measured on IQ tests (notably, math). Girls may be raised in an environment where they are encouraged to put their efforts into understanding other people's feelings and aesthetic values and so forth, for which you get no credit on a standard IQ test. That's not inborn even if it's sex differentiated.

mcg said...
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mcg said...

Let's not forget the determination of a physiological difference: brain size. Is there even a weak correlation between size and IQ? And is there any evidence that intellectual stimulation increases brain size? If the answers are "yes and no", then I don't see any way around the argument.

But I don't really see the difference being of significant practical importance anyway, except inasmuch as it simply acknowledges the truth that men and women are different.

pst314 said...

I've run across a few articles citing recent studies that show similar or identical averages for men and women, but greater variablity for men (both more geniuses and more dolts.) Darned if I know how valid the studies are (that's not my field.) But although intriguing, such studies have no relevance to how I deal with people in daily life.

george said...

I don't see why anyone cares. There is no practical use or personal interest for such information if true. There are many women and men who are better suited to "tasks of high complexity" than me. To the extent that they have positions requiring such ability I suspect that it is due to individual characteristics rather than whether they are men or women.

Lars said...

If brain size is a strong determinant of intelligence, then whales, elephants and porpoises are smarter than we are. Hey, what do whales do with those big brains?

Robert said...

Girls may be raised in an environment where they are encouraged to put their efforts into understanding other people's feelings and aesthetic values and so forth

And yet y'all go around trying to make us wear long pants for aesthetic reasons, which hurts our feelings.

'Thought & Humor' said...
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Ann Althouse said...

Robert: Just because we understand your feelings doesn't mean we will cater to them. We might use our understanding to manipulate you ... or make you suffer!

Robert said...

Ha! I've used my enormous brain to route around your long-pants manipulation to get what I want.

Although now I'm wondering if maybe you've manipulated me into thinking I want something when actually it's you who want it...oh my God, you've cleverly tricked me into wearing shorts so you can scope out my gams.

You're a fiend, Althouse, a fiend!

Freeman Hunt said...

Hey, what do whales do with those big brains?

Count all those krill?

cordwainer said...

This is a question fraught with high emotions,but I'm not sure there is much academic controversy anymore.First,all of us should remember we belong "to a unique group of persons,that is to say myself"-from
'The Green Pearl' by Jack Vance.I recommend it highly.So even if nothing else good comes from this comment lok into that. Great fantasy trilogy.
Now,these reports on IQ surface every so often and generate lots of controversy in the popular press.To recapitulate the basis of Dr. Summers'comment earlier in the year,it was based on Benbow and Stanley's work at Hopkins about 20years ago.(I remember readong it at a hospital library when I was supposed to be studying.)It looked at tremendously gifted(in terms of math ability)preadolescnts.Twelve year olds who scored 8oo on that portion of the SAT(before they had even algebra classses) were obviosly innately gifted.The study was being performed because arguments were made females were subtly pushed away from sciences in HS.About 94% of these little buggers were male.Nobody could come up with an environmental explanation of this discrepancy.
But,SO WHAT!This is an extremely tiny portion of the population,akin tothe number of Olympic athletes.So ,even if I'm in a group- white males- ,which to some extent includes John von Neumann,who was the greatest math and probably the greatest mind of thelast century,it doesn't mean that I am as talented in math or general intelligence ,as say,Marina von Neumann Whitman who teaches at Ann Arbor(some rinky dink school).
Also,a little bit more confusion about genes and environment.JVN was
"accused of being a Martian",because,like Teller and the others from his village in Hungary,he was too intelligent to be explained any other way.Three of the emigres from that area (not including the above two) won Nobel's in physics.Genes?They all had a secondary instructer who was a an extremely gifted and inspiring teacher.(Environment?)
One final note.I recall at an undergraduate lecture when an instructor mentioned JVN as the pre-eminentmind of the century and a student accused him of being anti Semitic for not picking Einstein.Von Neumann Anglicized his name and(I believe ) convertd to Catholicism, butwas born in a Hungarian Jewish household.(The rate of Nobel winners in the sciences who are Jewish is 22 times expected by chance.And,no,I'm not -just in case someone thinks I'm group identifying.)

PS.There is a positive correlation between brain size and IQ.Source,a brother and cousin who are Ph.D's in
psycholgy and anatomy,and.no,there's no evidence stimulation increases brain size.
PPS My ex is brighter than I.And she was a math major as an undergrad.I hope she's gotten fat.

XWL said...

Actually the really surprising thing is that a psychology professor claims to have participated in a study that came to a different conclusion than the one he/she expected when they started the study.

All the social sciences seem to have lost the habit of scientific discovery and instead are just doing research and studies to justify the conclusions they have already made.

I bet that someone with experience in academics could look at a professor's CV, personal statement, and syllabi and determine what the outcome of a given study was simply from the subject matter (that could become a new game on the internet, provide a paper's title, the appropriate links, and then post the guesses as to the results).

I think the second professor's statement about being surprised about the data is a conscious deflection to assuage critics who may find his choice of research partners distasteful.

As far as the merits, all studies of this kind can be easily gamed so results should always be taken with an entire salt lick.

(did I post this in the short pants thread by mistake? That one seems as contentious as the couples in Butterfield 8)

mcg said...

If brain size is a strong determinant of intelligence, then whales, elephants and porpoises are smarter than we are. Hey, what do whales do with those big brains?

I think it is reasonable to recognize a distinction between brain size variation within a species versus across species.

SippicanCottage said...
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Monty Loree said...

"Men are simply more intelligent than women."

That quote, said by me, near my wife, would surely mean a large object being thrown directly at my head, instantly.

If I have a little extra energy in the day and some time for playfulness, I sometimes take the challenge.

hilarious.

gs said...

Cordwainer: An emphatic second to your recommendation of Jack Vance. The Eric Hoffer of science fiction. Though like Doris Lessing (whose work I haven't read), he used sci-fi to say things that aren't sci-fi.

I've gone off-topic because it just struck me that this blog has a bit of Vancean flavor.

Bruce Hayden said...

One theory is that genetic IQ potential (controlling for stimulating environment) is partially located on the X chromosones. Since girls have 2, and boys 1, the girls have theirs averaged from both parents, while the boys get theirs from their mothers. Seemed to make some sense, esp. in view of my experience, until I found that a lot of the 2nd X chromosone is turned off at some point in girls.

Apparently, a lot of IQ tests show the same mean but a higher standard deviation for males than for females. This means slightly more males out on both tails. Probably not something that most of us would run into, unless we are doing Nobel level work. But, of course, there may be other explanations for this, including testing bias - though how a test could advantage some males more and some less than females is beyond me.

Finally, as to brain size. In my family, our heads ranged from 6 3/4 upto 7 3/4 with almost identical IQ and SAT scores. Small sample size, but still...

Kim said...

Leroy W: All the social sciences seem to have lost the habit of scientific discovery and instead are just doing research and studies to justify the conclusions they have already made.

I bet that someone with experience in academics ...


Ah, I see. So you've made a blanket conclusion about "all the social sciences" even though you don't have much experience "in academics [sic]."

Ann Althouse said...

Bruce writes: "Finally, as to brain size. In my family, our heads ranged from 6 3/4 upto 7 3/4 with almost identical IQ and SAT scores. Small sample size, but still..."

That's a head measurement. How thick is your skull?

Freeman Hunt said...

Ah, I see. So you've made a blanket conclusion about "all the social sciences" even though you don't have much experience "in academics [sic]."

I would imagine he made that statement based on the number of press releases in which scientists state that they thought the outcome would be X and in fact it was X/Y.

Just curious: was there supposed to be a tinge of elitism in your post?

downtownlad said...

I don't buy it.

I studied mathematics in college and half of my classmates were female.

In the workplace, I see zero difference between men and women in terms of intellect. The "brightest" are probably equally divided between the sexes, despite the fact that I work in a male dominated workplace.

miklos rosza said...

otto weininger in his book "sex and charcter" (1903) postulated that in the next century (the 20th)we were going to see less genius and heroism as men became more like women (intellectually) and women more like men.

wittgenstein and freud were both interested in weininger; wittgenstein said that everything weininger said could have "not" in front of it and still be of interest.

otto weininger was 23 when he shot himself in vienna in beethoven's bedroom.

personally, i dont believe in "essentialism" of this sort,k though i too find weininger interesting even when he is wrong.

Ann Althouse said...

Miklos: Interesting! Wittgenstein had a way with words.

Smilin' Jack said...

That is, they may tend to be raised in a more stimulating environment or simply in an environment that encourages the development of the skills that are measured on IQ tests (notably, math).

This statement in the BBC link would seem to rule that out:

Dr Irwing, a senior lecturer in organisational psychology at Manchester University, told the Today programme on BBC Radio Four the study showed that, up to the age of 14, there was no difference between the IQs of boys and girls.

"But beyond that age and into adulthood there is a difference of five points, which is small but it can have important implications," he said.


But again, the study doesn't seem to be making any claims about the source of the difference (nature v. nurture)...it's just showing that there is one. But if one did want to speculate on the source, the simplest explanation would be that it's a secondary sex characteristic with onset at puberty. That explanation should be preferred unless and until another study is able to refute it with data showing a predominant environmental influence.

Diane said...

Basing general intellegence on I.Q. is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. Even the people who made the test to begin with admit that I.Q. is not a perfect measure of intellegence. It is a good estimation of intellegence.

I say this as a woman with a 158 I.Q. , so please do not think this is sour grapes.

I think the real problem with these tests is that there is a fundamental difference between "male" and "female" brains, and that the types of intellegence most common in male brains is more easily measured.

Not to say that women are not capable of having high I.Q.s, or that they are even unusual. But I.Q. is not real measure of intellegence, or even an accurate measure of a person's worth to society.

After all, with my I.Q. I am nothing more than a Trophy wife. I'm not really contributing much, now am I?

Freeman Hunt said...

Would anyone else guess that the most high-acheiving group of people would be those who are *almost* extremely intelligent?

This is just a guess based on my own experience. It seems that the few people I've known who are truly outrageously intelligent have done fine but nothing really spectacular, but those who are well above average but not quite there have done some amazing things. I wonder if it's because there is a point at which a person doesn't feel as though he has anything to prove and a slightly lower IQ point at which one feels extremely motivated to prove himself.

Freeman Hunt said...

A caveat to my last post: I don't mean that as a hard and fast rule. I'm sure there are many exceptions.

stoqboy said...

Diane - wow! smart (158 IQ) and beatiful (Trophy wife). How did you ever get married?

Ann Althouse said...

Freeman: This is quite believable. I've read that once you have a 120 IQ you can succeed in pretty much any field (excluding, I suppose, some of the sciences). People who are exceedingly brilliant are going to have trouble fitting into the group and putting up with the slow parts of the effort or avoiding getting sucked into some sort of existential dispair or other. Oh, you may be able to sit on the sidelines -- maybe blogging or something -- but just try getting anything mainstream done. The greatest advantage lies in being in the top 10% but not the top 1%.

Simon Kenton said...

Sherlock Holmes associated intellectualism with brain size: "It is a question of cubic capacity, Watson." Conversely, John Wesley Powell, one of the most brilliant men of the 19th century in the United States, left his brain to be measured, and it was not particularly large. Carl Sagan instanced a whale, never having heard it before (how could he know?), listening to another whale's hour-long song for the first time (how could he know?), and repeating it back perfectly. At approximately 10^10 bits of information (but how could he assess or ascribe to the whales an encoding scheme that would comprise intonation, pitch, and cadence as well as content, so how could he estimate the number of bits?), this was the equivalent of one of us hearing the Odyssey once and repeating it back faultlessly.

It was codswallop, but Sagan was just such a GENIUS at writing codswallop.

AST said...

How much difference is 5 points. I'd have thought it was within the margin of error since IQ tests are so culturally biased.

I've always thought that the IQ scale is a poor way to judge how smart someone is, just as some people think you're smart because you have a good memory for factoids, or a good vocabulary or read a lot of books. One thing I'm sure of, is that high IQ doesn't necessarily correlate with logic, wisdom or being able to communicate.

bill said...

Related to this discussion is a conversation in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, the ultimate geek as hero novel.

I have it over here at it's about how men are deficient, but here's a nut.


“If there is any generalization at all that you can draw about how men think versus how women think, I believe it is that men can narrow themselves down to this incredibly narrow laser-beam focus on one tiny little subject and think about nothing else.”

“Whereas women can’t?”

“I suppose women can. They rarely seem to want to. What I’m characterizing here, as the female approach, is essentially saner and healthier.”

master_of_metacognition said...

I support real science, no matter how politically incorrect. But I disagree with these findings. I am no psychometrian or scientist, but I have asked about the intrinsic differences of women to one who could actually give me insight- Marilyn Savant, the human with the highest tested i.q. in the world (and female!). She argues that while male dispersion of i.q. is more variable (more at the bottom and the top), that women are not inferior in mental skills at all and that dispersion in careers is not an adequate reflection in differences of intelligence. Look at Parade.com archives under "Ask Marilyn" to read it. I asked her in August of 2004 in response to Harvard President Summer's comments about the intrinsic differences of women in relation to gender disparity in the sciences (with the stupid anecdotal comment about dolls) and she turned the issue into a full editorial for the magazine.

Note: from personal experience
My mother is average though she has never been formally tested. My father has tested differently at various times and is considered gifted or highly gifted (137, 146). I am female and have tested around 135 IQ.

In my classes, I have noticed that some girls do not seem to take an interest in the material or to put forth their best efforts. But I believe that most of this is due to differences in socialization between men and women. Men are associated with activity, strength, masculinity, progress, and the hard sciences. Women tend to be associated with passivity, aesthetics, needless preening (see "Vogue" for more details, and docility. There is nothing wrong with following chosen, self-selected behaviors, no matter what gender they may be associated with (read: I do not have anything against stay-at-home mothers). But society may unwittingly place obstacles in the path of women who aspire to become successful in male-oriented fields. Some of these may be based on attitudes and assumptions about women vs. men.

Back to the class girls: Many of the girls are simply vain, and have more interest in inane physical characteristics, such as hair or makeup, and fitting in with the group. In addition, they tend to be lax on the more important things, such as understanding science, math, rationality, etc. Are these traits frustrating for smart women to see? Of course! But is it intrinsic? Probably not. Again, Ask Marilyn!

soufie77 said...

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is much much more scientific evidence accruing which reveals sizeable psychometric differences between men and women at almost all levels (behavioural, motivational and cognitive); and that these differences reflect and affirm traditionalist heteropatriarchal modes of male-female interaction as a biological norm.

It's a simple matter of intuition to honest men and women that feminism has spent 40 years trying to socially condition us against our very own neurobiological and intrinsic design. I wonder to what depths of twisted sophistry and fallacy they will now resort to maintain their world view?