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« Elsewhere | Main | Blogging and Economics »

December 02, 2006

Gals, Guys, Gifts

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Could it be that there really are more men than women among the super-high-IQ crowd? Britain's Dr. Paul Irwing, who describes himself as a leftie who wishes that this weren't the case, says that it's true. I don't know what the fuss is about myself. 1) In my own experience, men have been much more common than women among the cognitively high-powered. 2) Given that women are so much (and so obviously) better than men at so many things, why be surprised that men should show a few talents of their own?

I gassed on about G and the arts here.



UPDATE: From the BBC: "Although the average IQ of men and women is equal, men are more frequently found at both extremes of intelligence."

posted by Michael at December 2, 2006


Okay, so Y defines IQ as the score by which one decides a Y is likely to succeed at the sorts of occupations that Y's value. In fact, Y devises the test and administers it.

Strangely enough, X and O and B just don't seem to score as well as Y does.

Should they care? Only if they want to be seen as Y's. And properous. Employable. You know -- one of "us."

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on December 2, 2006 3:25 PM

Oddly enough, J and C do better than Y.

Posted by: gcochran on December 2, 2006 4:43 PM

Y defines IQ as the score by which one decides a Y is likely to succeed at the sorts of occupations that Y's value. In fact, Y devises the test and administers it.

This presumes that the standard is a purely societal one. However

1) Those who score well on Y's test are those most adept at manipulating *nature* via mathematics and science. That is an external standard which disproves the hypothesis that IQ is "arbitrary".

2) Moreover, those who score well on "Y's" test include those who are not from "Y's" background, including individuals with ancestry from the Far East, the Near East, and South Asia.

Posted by: gc on December 2, 2006 4:47 PM

There are also more total morons among the men, yet nobody ever mentions this. Still, it's just the standard deviation.

Posted by: ijsbrand on December 2, 2006 5:39 PM

Yup! Notice the way they say in the intro that Irwin says men are smarter, allowing people to write it off as 'sexist tripe' rather than focusing on the wider spread?

Posted by: SFG on December 2, 2006 8:32 PM

I used to do well on those things, but they are so so dull, really what is the point? Intelligence comes in different forms, arranging funny squiggles in the right order is only one of them.

Posted by: Alice Bachini on December 2, 2006 8:43 PM

Some researchers say that males and females have identical mean IQ scores but males have a larger standard deviation. As ijsbrand notes, one consequence is an excess of males among the very lowest IQ groups, a counterpoint to the male excess among the extremely intelligent.
It's hard to say whether males or females are better off in this respect.

Posted by: Peter on December 2, 2006 9:31 PM

As ijsbrand above noted, there are also more low IQ's among men, so this is a mixed bag for guys. Women are more closely clustered around the average, while the tail of the bell curve is longer for men. We're both smarter and dumber. I'm sure this is probably related to some type of evolutionary survival strategy that our species adopted.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on December 2, 2006 9:58 PM

If you remember, I once remarked that I worked for a organization that did aptitude testing on individuals. Specifically we administered 18 different tests that purported to measure various distinct aptitudes.

We never found anything in our research to support the contention made by this article. We found that twice as many males scored high in 3-D visualization tests than females, but females tended to score higher than males on several tests (for clerical speed, visual observation, finger dexterity, and idea fluency); in fact, they scored high on more aptitudes in general than males.

So these results don't gibe with results I'm familiar with. The problem is that many IQ tests that purport to measure something called "g" which involves a strong component on 3-d thinking. The question is whether you believe intelligence clusters around the statistical notion of g or whether there are separate kinds of intelligences (i.e, Gardner).

One frustrating thing about this kind of research is that they never mention what kind of IQ test is used. For the WAIS and probably the Stanford-Binet, you could break down the scores even further and compare those.

Posted by: Robert Nagle on December 3, 2006 1:11 AM

RE: There are also more total morons among the men, yet nobody ever mentions this. Still, it's just the standard deviation.

This is a great point, ijsbrand. I always find it fascinating when some people take a fairly trivial point, that there may be more men than women at the upper end of IQs, and then jump to the entirely erroneous conclusion that “on average” all men are more intelligent than women. And even though there are more total morons among men, and men also apparently suffer from learning disabilities more than women do, no man is eager to suggest that “on average” all men are less intelligent than women.

Also, I find it interesting that despite the tremendous amount of money involved in human and animal sporting activities (from soccer to baseball to horse racing), and the huge investment of time and money in trying to find the best future performers, no one in his or her right mind wastes time looking for general athletic ability, or “a,” in either humans or animals. The qualities that you look for in a quarter horse are quite different than those you look for in a potential Triple Crown winner, and no one would say that a great boxer must inherently be a great NASCAR driver as well.

Posted by: Alec on December 3, 2006 5:53 AM

Yeah, but women are sheer geniuses at making men feel 2 inches tall. 8^[

Posted by: ricpic on December 3, 2006 9:37 AM

it's a vestige of past female diminance, along with lunar-coordianted menstrual cycle.

You know, just to remind who is the boss.

Posted by: Tatyana on December 3, 2006 10:37 AM

You know, just to remind who is the boss.

Posted by Tatyana at December 3, 2006

Don't worry, we know

Posted by: Reid Farmer on December 3, 2006 12:24 PM

There are also more total morons among the men, yet nobody ever mentions this. Still, it's just the standard deviation.

Nobody ever mentions this? Almost everything that deals with general IQ differentials between men and women mentions this. It's pretty much verboten to broach the subject otherwise. one in his or her right mind wastes time looking for general athletic ability, or “a,” in either humans or animals.

Why waste time "looking for" something that's, for the most part, perfectly obvious?

From what I know about the subject it seems to me that you are putting the cart before the horse, so-to-speak, in your attempt to frame this issue. It is not so much that people have devised an arbitrary concept of "g" which they have been ardently searching for, but rather that a factor which has come to be known as "g" has emerged as a critical point in explaining variance in performance on IQ tests.

Posted by: Cineris on December 3, 2006 1:18 PM

Reid, that's it: I don't worry anymore.

My shameful misspelings above cast doubt on my female qualifications though: diminished finger dexterity. Apologies.

Posted by: Tatyana on December 3, 2006 1:52 PM

all I wanna know is: what are the divorce percentages in the US amongst females from different IQ scores and if there is a correlation between the two.

Posted by: Michael G. on December 3, 2006 2:13 PM

Cineris – RE: Why waste time "looking for" something that's, for the most part, perfectly obvious (general athletic ability, or “a,” in either humans or animals)?
It’s not obvious because “a” clearly, and obviously, does not exist. People who assess athletic performance always are task specific, not looking for general ability, which is a pointless measure.

Consider Kevin Conley’s short and fun book on horse breeding, “Stud: Adventures in Breeding.” Horse bloodlines are maintained in detail for thoroughbreds, and past performance is studied to give a clue as to which studs will produce the best offspring, but no one has ever, in the history of the universe, documented a horse’s “a,” and if you went to a breeding farm and asked for the horse with the highest “a,” people would rightly look at you like an idiot.

If “a” for horses were real or meaningful, it would obviously be a critical piece of information used by gamblers to handicap a race. But it’s not. Never has been. Probably never will be.

If “a” were obvious, it should be simple to quantify it. If it were significant or meaningful, it would be used. But this has not happened.

The problem with IQ is that people have made it a big thing because psychologists have told them that it is important, and have huffed and puffed with correlations to “prove” that it is important. But you have hit on the key point, and the key weakness of the IQ fetish. It is a factor that explains variance in performance on IQ tests. This is not quite the same thing as demonstrating that it is significant in the real world.

By the way, I think that while IQ may be a useful measure in some ways, it is incomplete and not particularly significant, and psychologists and social critics who want to make it more than it is, or can be, are wasting time and leading researchers down a blind alley. Also, by the way, I am not totally convinced that psychologists who talk about multiple intelligences have quite got it right.

Posted by: Alec on December 3, 2006 4:22 PM

The surprising and novel claim is that men are more intelligent than women. It has long been a truism that male IQs show more variance (yes, *everybody* mentions the greater number of male idiots), and also that the averages for the sexes are the same. But I was interested by the immmediate bald claim by Dr Irwing, contradicting the second truism, that "There is a mean difference of about five IQ points". (This claim has most prominently been made by Richard Lynn and Dr Irwing, as far as I can tell from a quick scan of Wikipedia.)

Posted by: Graham Asher on December 3, 2006 4:25 PM

In terms of the underlying genetics: Suppose there is an intelligence gene on the X chromosome that could code for one of three equally likely values: moron, normal, or genius. If you have TWO such genes either they average out - both genes are expressed - or "Normal" is dominant.

Men only get one X, so 1/3 of men would be geniuses. Women have two X's, so they need to be twice as lucky in the genetic lottery: 1/9th of women would be geniuses in my scenario.

Similarly, a level of genius (or of moron) that's 1 in 100 among men would be 1 in 10000 among women.

Posted by: Glen Raphael on December 3, 2006 4:33 PM

Here's David Stove wonderfully un-PC examination of this topic:

From the article:

"...By contrast, there is no difficulty at all in saying what the evidence is, and always was, for the other theory, the theory of the inferior intellectual capacity of women. This evidence is not at all esoteric, but on the contrary is of the most familiar and homely kind. The main reason why I believe, and the main reason why nearly everyone always has believed, that the intellectual capacity of women is inferior to that of men, is just this: that the intellectual performance of women is inferior to that of men.

The reasoning involved, then, is reasoning from inferior performance to inferior capacity. It is reasoning of the same general kind, therefore, as that which convinces us, even if we understand nothing of the internal make-up of cars, that Fords are on the whole inferior to Mercedes; or as that which convinces dog-fanciers that Irish setters are not as smart as labradors; or as that which convinces everyone that the intellectual capacity of seven-year-old children is on the whole inferior to that of nine-year-olds. They do not do as well, and we infer from this that they cannot do as well."

Posted by: jimbo on December 3, 2006 5:34 PM

Glen Raphael - Some interesting speculation, but I think that we have to disentangle "High IQ" from "genius." For example, idiot-savants like the Rain Man and his real world counterparts exhibit talents that would mark them as geniuses in "normal" people, but are limited by other developmental problems, so that one could not reasonably say that they have high IQs. Or you could say that their high IQs are limited by other functional problems. This also complicates the notion of an intelligence gene on the X chromosome being averaged out.

By the way, one purely anecdotal thing that I have noticed is a number of highly intelligent women who have no interest in competing with men, or in using their intelligence in the ways that some men typically use them. This is not the same thing as the stereotypical, and false pseudo-feminist notion of "society" or the patriarchy stifling women. I think, for example, of a woman who learned to play poker in a week, beat her husband and his buddies, and then declined to play anymore afterwards because she thought the game was stupid.

One component of "genius" seems to be temperament, or drive, something not easily quantified or identified with any particular set of genes.

Posted by: Alec on December 3, 2006 5:47 PM

Males are more genetically volatile from the time they are differentiated as males, because of the very fact that they need differentiation to begin with. A lot can go right and wrong during that process.

That is my wholly uneducated opinion.

Posted by: the patriarch on December 4, 2006 12:29 PM

"Rich Kid Smart Kid" by Robert Kiyosaki points out that there are (at minimum IMO) 12 types of intelligences and that mental, test-taking, ability is not necessarily the most important in a majority of situations.

Posted by: Bob Durtschi on December 4, 2006 7:12 PM

"The Return of Merlin" by Deepak Chopra points out that spam-like references to the opinions of people who make money through deception and manipulation isn't a good way to make a case.

Posted by: Cineris on December 5, 2006 5:23 AM

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