Intelligence differences between men and women
If we look at the merely physical, in general we can say that there are some obvious differences between men and women.
The size, muscle strength, gravity and tone of the voice, hair, the disposition of body fat, hormonal cycles ... in all these aspects we can find differences of the sexual dimorphism. In fact, even at the brain level we can find some differential aspects.
But ... what happens when we talk about factors like intelligence? Are there differences in intelligence between men and women? Are people born with one sex more mentally capable than those of the other? This is an issue that has generated a lot of controversy for decades but has also served to initiate very interesting research.
- Related article: "The 7 differences between men and women"
Remembering: what is intelligence?
To be able to see if the intelligence of men and women differs or not, it is necessary first of all to remember what we are talking about exactly when we use the word "intelligence".
While there are several positions in this regard, intelligence is generally understood as that capacity or set of capabilities which allow an efficient and functional adaptation to the environment in real time , using correctly the resources available and developing different strategies depending on the challenge or problem that the environment presents.
Thus, intelligence allows us to understand both ourselves and the different types of stimuli that surround us, organize our thinking, process information, reason, plan, inhibit or develop behaviors and procedures among other things. It is a vital element for the survival and functionality of the human being in nature and in society.
Once the intelligence is defined generically, let's return to the subject that gives title to this article: are there significant differences in this capacity between men and women?
Men and women: different or equally smart?
Throughout history this capacity or set of capabilities has been measured through various methods and evaluation mechanisms. One of the most used is the use of psychometric tests, which can measure both intelligence at the general level as subcomponents of this or more specific skills.
In the studies carried out regarding the differences between the sexes with regard to intellectual capacity, it has been found that there are no significant differences at a general level, being women and men just as smart or, rather, not depending on the level of intelligence of the biological sex with which we were born.
In addition, although it has been seen that the brains of men are proportionally greater than that of women , it has been proven that the difference in sizes does not have to imply a difference in intelligence levels unless it is very marked.
Thus, both men and women are equally capable of adapting to the environment and establishing action plans, among many other options. However, when you look at the different capacities or subcomponents that are part of what we call intelligence, you can see that there are some differences in specific aspects.
Although in general we can say that men and women, as collectives, have similar levels of intelligence so that neither of them is superior to the other in the global calculation, the performance of different tests, tests and tasks reflect that there are some points or elements in which one sex is slightly higher.
It also highlights the existence of differences in how intelligence is distributed, being more variable in one case than in the other.
In them: slight superiority in mathematical and visuospatial skills
The logical-mathematical skills and especially those of visuospatial manipulation are elements in which males as a rule have had higher scores compared to them. A) Yes in tests of logic, calculation or manipulation of space men tend to be better .
The graphic and visual material is usually better processed by men, and also tend to be slightly better when it comes to orientation in space.
In them: slight superiority in verbal and language skills
The woman has shown in the various tests conducted that as a rule she has a greater command of the verbal sphere and language than her male counterparts. They are usually better in tasks in which capacity for association, understanding and expression is requested . They also usually take a little less time to code the information received through the language.
Linked with this fact we can observe that the female sex tends to have a higher level of emotionality than the male.As a general rule, women tend to express themselves more and to be more conscious and expansive with their emotions, reflecting to a greater extent than, how and why they feel as they do.
However, it is necessary to bear in mind that in this phenomenon gender roles also interfere, which, among other things, penalize men who show their emotions a lot.
Dispersion or homogeneity of the CI
It has been observed at the statistical level that although men and women have the same level of intelligence, understanding this as general mental capacity measurable by the IQ, there are differences in how it is distributed among the population.
The data show that, as a general rule, the female sex has a lower dispersion in terms of intellectual quotient , while the male tends to be much more dispersed.
This means that although there are cases of intellectual disability and giftedness in women as a general rule, their intelligence values are usually very close to the average, with a fairly homogeneous population level.
As for men, most of them also have a level close to the average, but there are many more cases with extreme values both above and below said average than in women. In other words, there is much more intellectual disability and giftedness in the male than in the female.
Differences in the brain
At the neuroanatomical level, a series of small differences in intelligence by sex have been found that could help explain the divergences found at the experimental level. There are several parts of the brain that statistically they are larger or smaller in one of the two sexes .
For example, the female sex usually has a greater proportion of white matter and a larger corpus callosum, which is linked to a faster transmission of information between different hemispheres and structures. In addition, the limbic system, the part of the brain that generates emotions, tends to be somewhat larger.
With regard to the male sex, your brain has a greater proportion of gray matter, responsible for the processing of information once it has been sent from another part of the nervous system. In men there is also usually a larger hypothalamus.
However, we must bear in mind that what we live and the way in which we act is not a unidirectional product of what we have in our brain, but that it is will be affected and will be developed by being influenced by environmental stimulation .
Thus, if for example, a person who is dedicated for years to music will end up developing and strengthening certain brain locations due to training. With this I intend to say that, apart from anatomical differences that are mainly due to the genetic inheritance of sexual dimorphism, some of the differences found are mediated by education, cultural and social expectations, our roles and our experiences.
The role of education and gender roles
Although the differences found have often been linked to the sex of the people studied, the truth is that socio-cultural factors have a great impact on their explanation.
Thus, the differences found can not be solely attributable to the fact of being a man or a woman, but also we must consider the effects provoked by the different gender roles that have been granted to each sex . That is why the researches that cross information relative to the difference of men and women with the one that has to do with different cultures are very relevant, because they allow to better separate the genetics and the gender roles.
Traditionally, the role of the male has been that of protector, that hardworking and implacable worker who must bring sustenance to the home. Therefore, it must be strong and capable of dealing with the multiple problems that the environment poses to them by manipulating the physical environment. In the case of women, their traditional role has been that of a giver of life, a loving housewife who cares for their offspring and is dedicated to offering well-being at home and / or outside the home. These labels make us see that the traditional role of man has been more instrumental and that of the most emotional-relational woman .
Thus, throughout a large part of history, each sex has been educated in pursuit of values and customs that perpetuate these roles to a greater or lesser degree. Since childhood, different skills have been demanded from each other, something that over time produces differences in the way of organizing and seeing the world.
The fact that a large part of the differences are due to educational factors is easily visible if we take into account the current situation: with the progressive increase of equality in education and the relaxation and relaxation of gender roles we see more and more women dedicated to more technical issues and more and more men with a high level of expressiveness and emotion. Over time it has been observed that the differences are gradually decreasing .
- Bausela, E .; Colom, R. and Zara, M.J. (2004).The psychology of sex differences. Madrid: New Library, 429.Indivisa. Research and Studies Bulletin [online]: [Date of consultation: February 5, 2017]. Available here
- Colom, R. & García, O. (2002). Sex differences in fluid intelligence among high school graduates. Personality and Individual Differences, 32 (3), 445-451.
- Maccoby, E. E. & Jacklin, C. N. (1974). The psychology of sex differences. Stanford: Stanford University Press.