The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

29 August 2005

Man smart, woman dismissed

A British study purports to show that men have a higher IQ than women on average.

Well, actually it doesn't. What it does show is that there are more men than women near the top of the, um, curve:

Genetic differences in intelligence between the sexes helped to explain why many more men than women won Nobel Prizes or became chess grandmasters, the study by Paul Irwing and Professor Richard Lynn concluded.

They showed that men outnumbered women in increasing numbers as intelligence levels rise. There were twice as many with IQ scores of 125, a level typical for people with first-class degrees.

When scores rose to 155, a level associated with genius, there were 5.5 men for every woman.

My immediate reaction, of course, is "So?" The roster of Nobel winners or chess grandmasters is sufficiently small to insure that the sexual demographics of those groups would be of interest only to those people who are sniffing around for sexual discrimination in every corner.

And a personal note: My own way-up-the-scale (or so I'm told) IQ is at least somewhat offset by an uncanny ability to piss away my presumed assets. I suspect this trait is biological, if not necessarily heritable.

Addendum: An observation from Kim du Toit:

That ... doesn't mean that the IQ divide between men and women is permanent, either: what will be really fascinating is if this study is repeated in a hundred years' time, and the divide has shrunk or disappeared completely.

I mean, a five-point differential is nothing, really: the difference between someone with a 140 IQ and another with a 145 IQ is barely measurable. Is it possible that two hundred years ago, the IQ difference between the sexes was 25 points?

This latter seems unlikely, but how would we be able to tell? You can extrapolate only so much from existing writings.

And IQ tests generally have a standard deviation of 15 points, suggesting that five or ten points isn't such a big difference after all.

Posted at 9:04 AM to Dyssynergy


Every time I see a story or a post about IQ studies I am tempted to brag about my high IQ (over 135).

But today I am going to resist this temptation.

Posted by: lemuel at 2:06 PM on 29 August 2005

er, damn...

Posted by: lemuel at 2:07 PM on 29 August 2005

I heard about a similar study several years ago that said there are more men with very high IQs AND more men with very low IQs. Women tend to be nearer the middle.

Posted by: Lynn S at 9:18 PM on 29 August 2005

We're the wild and divergent part of the species, I guess. I found this comment by Bryan Travis on the du Toit post I linked:

My recent college courses in the area of testing and test development brought out clearly that the males distribution had wider tales, and when the aggregate measure was spatial reasoning ability, the center of the wide male distribution was always higher than the shorter tailed female distribution.

But the tail for males is wider in many areas, not just IQ measures. When looking at distributions of male vs female heights, or weights, or density of back hairs, or nearly any other thing you'd like to measure, the male distributions are wider (have greater variance=have longer tails) than the female distributions throughout all species. One theory for this has to do with evolutionary pressures on the females (X chromosome only) vs males. Male individuals can have a wider range of variation in many things, whereas a female, to pass her genes along successfully, cannot be too far off the charts in things like birth canal size or any number of a zillion other things that have to go right with her plumbing from conception to weaning of the child. Also, to the degree one produces several male children, variations in the competitive environment will make some less adapted than others, but the ones that happen to be adapted can have lots of offspring. Successful females would tend to have much fewer children than well adapted males, therefore it is better to produce multiple female children well calibrated for successful reproduction (and thus more similar to each other ... narrow distribution ... less variance of features) than to produce widely variables ones, only a few of which might reproduce....

There's a reason for everything, or so it seems sometimes.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:32 PM on 29 August 2005

So, does that mean if women were to raise their IQs they would be smart enough not to have children? (just kidding).

In the materials I studied this summer it would seem that research is indicating differences between certain categories of IQ. There are still variations on what IQ below 130 is considered gifted. Many will accept 125 and some still accept 120. It mostly depends on the learning style and creative thinking abilities. Experts have categorized 130-155 as moderately gifted; 155-179 exceptionally gifted, and 180 or above as profoundly gifted. So, 15 points can make a difference depending on where the number falls; and that difference is generally seen in their ability to relate to others in the general population.

Me? I'm skating on the edge as a wannabe.

Posted by: Babs at 10:11 PM on 29 August 2005

I can't relate to anyone, so maybe I'm off the scale. :)

Posted by: CGHill at 7:10 AM on 30 August 2005

You have it all! We already knew you were one of a kind.

Posted by: Babs at 7:43 AM on 30 August 2005