When people who are not experts discuss gender comparisons in thinking they almost
emphasize gender difference. Furthermore, they typically highlight biological explanations for
the small number of comparisons that reveal significant gender differences.
Cautions about research on gender comparisons: A variety of biases can have a powerful effect
when psychologists conduct research about either women or gender comparisons, below are 5
specific cautions to be aware about:
o Biased Samples can influence results
All research on cognitive abilities focuses on college going students, know
almost nothing about adults who have not attended college, most of the
research examines white men and women in the United States and Canada.
o People’s expectations can influence results
Biases can interfere at every stage in research
o If we measure some ability, and then we create one grapy for the scores of males and
another graph for the scores of females, the two distributions of scores will overlap
A frequency Distribution tells us how many people in a sample receive each
When the two distributions show such a small overlap this pattern tells us that
they two distributions are very different.
In real life situations, distributions of male and females are likely to show a small
separation and a large overlap.
o Researchers seldom find gender differences in all situations
We cannot make general statements about gender differences. Gender
differences can me modified, they are not inevitable. In short, males and
females have remarkably similar psychological characteristics in many
o The cognitive gender differences are not large enough to have a major influence on a
person’s career choice
When using the box-score approach (also called the counting approach), researchers read
through all the appropriate studies on a given topic and draw conclusions based on a tally of
o Often produces ambiguous tallies, this does not provide a systematic method of
Meta-Analysis provides a statistical method for combining numerous studies on a single topic.
o Researchers first try to locate all appropriate studies on the topic, they then perform a
statistical analysis that combines the results from all these studies, taking into account
the variability of the scores for both males and females. This analysis calculates the size
of the overall difference between the two groups of people.
o A meta-analysis yields a number known as effect size, or d.
If the meta analysis of numerous studies shows that males and females received
exactly the same overall score, then d = 0 Now consider the d for the gender difference in height, here d = 2 – Huge
Important study by Jane Hyde (2005)
Examined 128 different meta-analysis measures that focused on gender
comparisons in cognitive skills. She found 30% of these gender
comparisons were in the ‘close to zero’ range (d = less than 0.11), 48%
had a small effect size (d = 0.11 to 0.35), 15% had a moderate effect size
(d = 0.36 to 0.65) and only 8% had a large effect size ( d = greater than
In other words, the clear majority of these comparisons of cognitive ability
showed either no gender difference or a small gender difference.
Where gender similarities are typical
o General Intelligence: males and females are similar in their IQ level; however IQ scores
for males show greater variability than IQ scores for females. Researchers have not
noted systematic gender differences when it comes to multi-tasking.
o Complex cognitive task: Males and females are equally competent when they form
concepts and when they solve a variety of complex problems. Males and females are
similar in their performance on a variety of creativity tasks.
o Research shows that women tend to score higher on a variety of memory tasks.
o Research also shows that women tend to be more accurate than men in remembering
events from their own lives.
o Mothers are more likely to discuss emotional topics with their daughters, rather than
their sons. As a result girls have more opportunities to practice remembering those
o Women tend to be more accurate than men in recognizing faces. Women’s greater
accuracy even holds true for recognizing faces from different ethnic groups. Women are
also more accurate than men in recalling details about a person’s hair and clothing.
o Women are also be better than men in remembering objects that they have seen at an
earlier time and also in remembering where they have seen these objects, according to
Voyer and his colleagues. However men and women are similar in remembering
o General Verbal Ability:
Some early research suggests that girls have larger vocabularies than boys have
before the age of 2, but these gender differences disappear before the age of 3.
Adolescents and adults – show gender similarities in language skills such as
spelling, vocab, word associations etc. However females tend to be better at
verbal fluency, or naming objects that meet certain criteria such as beginning
with the letter S. In recent years, females have scored higher on tests of writing ability – not clear
whether this gender difference has practical implications for women’s success in
the classroom or job
Janet Hyde and Marcia Lin conducted a meta-analysis on overall gender
comparisons on verbal ability. The average effect size (d) was only 0.11, just
slightly favouring females. This value is very close to zero, so Hyde and Lin
concluded that overall gender differences do not exist.
SAT and advancement placement examination = very minimal differences
between men and women.
o Research suggests that males are more likely than females to have language problems.
o According to Shaywitz, an objective measure of the term reading disability should refer
to poor reading skills that are not accounted for by the level of general intelligence. This
operational definition was used to study children and resulted in roughly the same
number or boys and girls meeting the criterion.
o When recently done in NZ, boys were about twice as likely as girls to have reading
disabilities – research shows that boys have trouble focusing their attention, whereas
girls are more skilled at controlling their behaviour.
o Females actually receive higher grades in math courses. The only measure in which
males perform substantially better than females is the mathematics section of the SAT.
General Mathematics Ability
Comparisons of male and female show gender similarities, when done a
meta-analysis of 100 studies found a d of only 0.15 – distributions are
Researchers analyzed scores for 7.2 million students in 10 US states,
they found consistent similarities for students of all ages from 2 grade
through 11 grade.
The results of the research on general math abilities make a clear
statement about gender similarities in mathematics.
Grades in Mathematics courses
th th th
Research studies show that females earn higher grades in 5 , 6 , 8 and
10 grade mathematics as well as in college math courses.
Kimball proposed that females performed better when dealing with
familiar situations, such as exams on material covered in a mathematics
course. In contrast, males perform better when dealing with unfamiliar
situations, especially the kinds of math problems included on the SAT.
The Mathematics SAT
A test has high validity is it measures what it is supposed to measure.
For example, the SAT is supposed to predict students’ grades in college course. The SAT has high overall validity because people with higher SAT
scores generally do earn higher grades in college math courses.
However the math portion of the SAT is not valid with respect to its
prediction that women will earn lower grades in college math courses.
The math SAT underestimates women’s actual math performance
o Spatial abilities include understanding, perceiving and manipulating shapes and figures.
Many researchers propose 3 components:
Tasks that use spatial visualization require complex processing of
spatially presented information.
Many individual studies ad met-analyses have shown that males and