Which Sex is the Smarter? (Jun, 1954)

“All other factors being equal”? So they controlled for the widespread gender bias that was present at the time? Because if girls even think that boys will do better than them on a test (or vice versa, or any particular group) it can have a negative impact on their test scores. It’s called the Stereotype Threat.

Which Sex is the Smarter?

Other factors being equal, men are as much as 50 percent better than women at solving complicated problems, according to Edward J. Sweeney, Stanford University research psychologist. It took Dr. Sweeney two years and multitudes of tests given to male and female students to arrive at this conclusion.

Intelligence is a combination of many special abilities, says Dr. Sweeney, and problem-solving is only one of them. As for general intelligence, he adds, there has never been any demonstrable superiority of either sex at any age.

To give the sexes an even-up start, Dr. Sweeney first gave intelligence tests to a large number of men and women students. Using the scores, he selected groups of 50 to 100 matched in general intelligence.

The matched-intelligence groups then took a new battery of tests. Men won out in problem-solving, though women—as expected—showed superiority in verbal abilities.

At this point the sexes were re-matched for mathematical, mechanical, or visualization abilities—those in which men have previously shown themselves superior to women.

The ensuing tests demonstrated that these re-matched groups were about equal in problem-solving ability as long as the problems were simple and straightforward. But as the problems grew more complicated, the men once more took a commanding lead.

The problem complications involved “restructuring,” as psychologists put it. In such a problem the obvious means of solution won’t work, and an entirely new way must be found.

Sex differences in problem-solving have been reported previously as byproducts of other psychological experiments. But Dr. Sweeney’s experiments were the first ever designed specifically to test men’s problem-solving abilities against women’s.

2 comments
  1. Charlene says: January 4, 201211:04 am

    At my school, in the late 70s – early 1980s, the implication was that it was very suspect for a girl to be good in math, science, or really anything but home economics, the arts, and languages. Decent girls didn’t selfishly, cruelly hog awards that were really meant for boys; they knew their place and kept it.

  2. Hirudinea says: January 5, 201210:35 pm

    @ Charlene – I liked Home Economics.

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