Are men smarter than women?
According to research, on average, men are not smarter than women, and vice-versa; there are no differences in how they perform on IQ tests (on average). However, there are important differences in intelligence between both sexes, and some of them will surprise you. There are certain ways in which we could say men are more intelligent, and others in which women outperform men. Keep reading to learn everything about the men vs women debate!
Differences in IQ between men and women
According to research, and the current scientific consensus, women’s IQ does not differe from men’s, there are no significant differences between both sexes in terms of intelligence.
Some studies have encountered men had higher IQ scores by small margins, with differences ranging between 4 and 6 points in favor to men.
However, the samples used in these studies were relatively small, definitely not large enough to make the sound and definitive conclusion in a reliable way that men are smarter than women, the current consensus is that both sexes are equal in terms of IQ.
However, this does not mean that there are absolutely no differences. It has been found that the variance of both IQ distributions (men’s and women’s) is different.
Let’s explain what this means.
The definition of variance is the following one “the variance is defined as the sum of the squared distances of each term in the distribution from the mean (μ)”.
Roughly speaking, the variance of a variable is the amount of spread that there is in the measurements/observations of the said variable.
For instance, imagine we measured the temperature of an object throughout the day, and we obtained the following measurements: 5, 10, 20, 4, 4.
We can see that each observation has produced a different result, there are quantifiable differences across all the measurements. There is a certain amount of spread in the scores.
That is what this statistic, the variance, measures.
Imagine all the observations had yielded the following results: 5, 5, 5, 5, 5.
In this case, there would not be any variance, it would be 0.
Let’s put another example. Imagine we wanted to measure the height of two different samples of people.
In the sample one, these are the results we get: 170cm, 177cm, 191cm, 151cm, 162cm.
In the second sample, we get the following data: 171cm, 169cm, 171cm, 170cm, 169cm.
What scores have a higher spread? What sample exhibits a higher variance?
And yes, if you calculate the mean, you will notice it is the same in the two samples.
However, even though the mean is the same, one sample has a higher variance, that is, its scores are more spread.
So this is exactly the same that occurs between the IQ distributions of women and men.
According to scientists, men have a higher variance in their IQ scores than women, which means that there are more men with super high IQs (than women), and more men with very low IQs (than women). This is what has been termed “the variability hypothesis”. There are many studies that have discussed the topic.
There are more men that are geniuses, and more men that suffer from mental retardation (though fun enough, the smartest man/woman/person known is, to date, a woman).
Differences in cognitive ability between men and women
Research has also found that men and women, even though they are equal in terms of general intelligence, differ in certain subintellectual abilities.
For instance, the current consensus is that men are better spatial thinkers than women; they have a higher spatial intelligence. Spatial intelligence is comprised of different subcognitive abilities of spatial nature. These sex differences do not arise in all of them, but only in some, such as in 3D mental rotation.
Spatial intelligence has also been found to be a very important predictor of success in STEM fields, it is an indispensable cognitive ability in fields such as engineering, math, chemistry or computer science.
This poses very interesting questions.
Could it be one of the reasons why there are more men in scientific fields than women? Or why men are said to be better at math than women? What is the cause of such differences?
Answering to all these questions you might have is definitely beyond the scope of this article, but if you are interested in knowing more about spatial intelligence and how it is related with IQ, we recommend you to have a look at iqubelab.com.
Apparently, the good news is that spatial intelligence has been proven to be malleable (improvable, indeed, it is the only subintellectual ability that can be improved), and training spatial intelligence has been shown to increase performance in STEM domains. For instance, it has been proven to reduce dropout rates and to increase grades. Professor Sheryl A. Sorby from the Michigan Technological University, administered spatial intelligence training to the 1st-year students of several engineering degrees who had not passed a spatial intelligence test. These students had been found to show more difficulties in class and to obtain worse grades than their counterparts who passed the spatial intelligence test mentioned. She found that after completing the training, not only these students had improved their spatial intelligence, but they also tended to get better grades (to have a better performance) than those who had initially passed the aforementioned test. Amazing!
You can find one of the many studies she did on the topic here.
According to her, the fact that women have lower spatial intelligence than men is a big barrier for women in graduating and achieving success in STEM.
If you are interested in training and improving your spatial intelligence in order to maximize your performance in STEM fields, or even if you just want to do it for the sake of personal development and cognitive health, we encourage you to have a look at iqubelab.com
Iqube is a startup that provides web-based custom spatial intelligence training through their software, it is an excellent option to get smarter!
Spatial intelligence is not the only cognitive ability or aptitude in which men and women differ, although it is the one in which these differences are most robust.
Women have been found to outperform men in verbal ability. They tend to get better scores in language-related tests. Some studies even found that they also performed better in associate memory tasks. On the other hand, the same study also showed that males scored higher in math.
Although there is a big consensus around the fact that women are slightly better than men in linguistically-related tasks, the evidence of whether men are better at math is mixed. Indeed, some argue that this difference might in reality not exist at all, it might just be an effect of the fact that women tend to experience more performance anxiety than men when doing math tests.