Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A higher proportion of male geniuses may not be biologically determined after all.

When it came to the debate over whether there were more male maths geniuses than female, it always bothered me that the data appeared to demostrate a larger number of men at the extremes of IQ (both low and high), while women tended to be bunched in the middle, be it with an identical average score. This difference has been assumed to be universal and thus biological.

This data bothered me not because I beleived it was false, I’ve always been happy to accept the data might be real, but because it was invariably used as proof that intelectual superiority is the domain of men. A fact which despite only applying to the most extreme upper reaches of academia, was routinely extended down into the general professional workforce. While the male engineers I work with need to be extremely intelligent, I would never class them as “genius” and thus such biological differences between men and women do nothing to explain why so few women embark on STEM careers. Try as they might to claim that it does.

So it brings me comfort evidence is starting to emerge that these differences in IQ between men and women don’t appear to reliably exist in cultures outside of our own. Which would not be the case if this was purely as a result of biology. So yet another aspect of human intelligence is starting to look like it is also governed by nurture rather than nature. Which makes sense to a lay person like me because it appears increasingly evident that a very large proportion of the sucess of a child might have in adult life lies in how they were raised. Which seems more fair in a way. Everyone starts off with the same advantage genetically. If you ignore the fact that for many children, environmental disadvatages are so unavoidable they may as well be genetic anyway.

Monika

  1. Plasma Engineer

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - 11:39:24

    Interesting post, and I hope your aspirations to find an explanation come true and that you will tell us about them.

    I work with a lot of brilliant people, male and female in a physics/engineering environment. Not having access to their IQ data your post made me speculate about the statistics of the male/female split of intelligence. I think that among the people older than me, the most intelligent happen to be male. At my own age and below I would say that the balance is tipped the other way - but only slightly.

    That is not to say that the most brilliant are the most practical (so perhaps there is hope for me yet)!

    People often say that there are two differences between male and female, namely map reading ability and the size of their bunches of keys. :)

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Feasibility is an engineering based blog designed to reach other STEM people. Non-STEM people are also welcome! I try to give good advice and well-reasoned opinions but please don’t hesitate to disagree with me. This blog exists because I realised that I live in a metaphorical bubble and that simply wont do. Nup.

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