By Scott Jameson
Long and short of this issue is that something has to explain why most of the really, really smart people are men. There are two hypotheses: men have a higher mean, and men have a higher standard deviation. They don’t really have to compete, and so some people believe that both are true. Some believe neither, of course.
Let’s start with three facts:
- Women tend to get slammed by men on Raven’s Progressive Matrices; the second graph in the post linked above details this. It’s a difference of 5 IQ points on average, quite a bit, certainly more than on other IQ tests.
- Women tend to lose even harder in visuospatial measures. John Loehlin pointed out in The Handbook of Intelligence that the gap here was a whopping 13.5 points.
- Raven’s is so g loaded because your score is primarily driven by spatial and verbal-analytic abilities.
The biggest subtest difference is spatial, and I think that likely explains the abnormally large differences in Raven’s scores. Other IQ tests, like the SAT, hardly use visual abilities. Women do about as well as men on the SAT. I’ve also seen the White-Asian gap smaller on the SAT than in other IQ tests, and that gap is also driven in large part by spatial scores. Conversely you might expect the SAT to go better for a hypothetical demographic that scores well in math and verbal abilities, but not especially well in spatial. By hypothetically I mean that these people make up like a fifth of the kids at the Ivy Leagues, even more than you’d expect from an average IQ of, I don’t know, 111ish.
Off topic: these differences are probably going to be slighter still now that they’re fastidiously removing every useful element of the test in an effort to make it less “biased” by race. I wonder if colleges will just throw up their shoulders and start looking for kids who do well on the ACT. Moving on.
There are other sex differences in subtest scores. Pulling from Loehlin again: “females tend to have an advantage on verbal tests involving the fluent production of words belonging to a category, such as synonyms.” Women are known to do better on verbal than on math.
Loehlin also points out that girls do better at math in early childhood, but that boys outstrip them by the time it, uh, matters, when they take standardized tests in adolescence.
I have a wild hypothesis that men and women respectively being more oriented towards mathematical and verbal thought corresponds to observed differences in interests. Women are known to read more often than men on average, whereas male dominated activities like sports and video games often have a distinctly mathematical bent. My spurious hypothesis is that doing these different things differentially develops their abilities, constituting an example of crystallized intelligence rather than fluid intelligence; alternatively, they were differentially selected for ability to perform well on tasks that their respective sex does more of, in which case the abilities are innate.
Even if they aren’t innate, it’d be an instance of secondary heritability because evidence tends to show male-female personality differences as innate; in this scenario they are innately prone to practicing different abilities to different extents.
Loehlin points to Hedges and Nowell’s 1995 meta-analysis, showing a higher male variation in IQ and elucidating a few more small subtest differences. I’ve lifted a meaty bit here:
On average, females exhibited a slight tendency to perform better on tests of reading comprehension, perceptual speed, and associative memory, and males exhibited a
slight tendency to perform better on tests of mathematics and social studies. All of the effect sizes were relatively small except for those associated with vocational aptitude scales (mechanical reasoning, electronics information, and auto and shop information) in which average males performed much better than average females. The effect sizes for science were slightly to moderately positive, and those for perceptual speed were slightly to moderately negative. Thus, with respect to the effect size convention, these data suggest that average sex differences are generally rather small.
- There are sex differences in scores of various IQ subtests, including but not limited to female orientation towards verbal and male orientation towards mathematical ability.
- The largest of these differences is a substantial male advantage in spatial ability.
- On any IQ test that doesn’t weight subtests such that men and women perform equally by default, men tend to score a hair better.
- Men also have a higher standard deviation in IQ.
There are more male geniuses, particularly with respect to mathematical genius. There are also more mentally retarded males. I just explained why men tend to populate CERN, NASA, Silicon Valley, and lists of who’s died in the Running of the Bulls.