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Which Is The Smarter Sex

Which is the smarter sex – male or female? This common question has seldom been asked in many different ways, in multiple contexts, and with a variety political agenda in minds. But, does it make sense to measure intelligence of different genders when we already knew that despite the physical differences between men and women, they also have their own specialities in terms of intelligence. So, what is intelligence, you may ask. To answer the question is to ask yourself on what definition of “smart” that you may possess. This is because the word “intelligence” itself is a complex topic where there’s still no standard definition of intelligence although there a long history of research and debate on the topic. In addition, the definition of intelligence is divided into several groups, which are psychologist, artificial and collective.

Firstly, the psychologist group is a collection of psychologist opinion on the definition of intelligence. For example, (Boring, E.,1923) stated that “Intelligence is what is measured by intelligence tests.” Next, (Gardner, H.,1983) also stated that “Intelligence is the ability to solve problems or to create products that are valued within one or more cultural settings.” Lastly, (Herrnstein, R. J., & Murray, C.,1970) defined intelligence as the cognitive ability of a person.

Meanwhile, the artificial group of definition is the collection of views of the artificial intelligence researchers. For example, (Minsky, M,1985) define intelligence as the ability of a person to solve the problem. Next, “Intelligence is the computational part of the ability to achieve goals in the world. Varying kinds and degrees of intelligence occur in people, many animals and some machines.” (McCarthy, J.,2003). Lastly, (Legg and Hutter,2007) states that “Intelligence measures an agent’s ability to achieve goals in a wide range of environments.”

Furthermore, collective group of definition on intelligence are definitions which are defined by groups or organisations. For example, (Longman Dictionary,2006) defines intelligence as the ability to learn, understands, and thinks about things. Next, according to (Word Central Student Dictionary,2006), intelligence is the ability for a person to learn and understand or to deal with problems. Lastly, The (American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Ed.,2000) define intelligence as a capacity for a person to acquire and apply knowledge.

Thus, to simplify intelligence is the ability and capability of a person to acquire and apply knowledge and skills in solving problems. On the basis of the simplified definition of intelligence, we found some information regarding the level of intelligence for both genders. Based on an abstract and logical reasoning test namely, ‘Raven’s Progressive Matrices’ where the test consist of 500 peoples of each gender at the age of 14-18 in five different nation. The test is carried out by James Flynn (1982), maintaining all men in each nation at 100 scores, women scored the lowest in Australia (99.5) where for other four nations (New Zealand, White South Africa, Estonia, and Argentina), women scores varied from 100.5 to 101.5.

From this test, although there is a slight difference in the scores where women scored higher than men, but the difference is said to be a characterological trait, not an intellectual trait. To conclude the test, Flynn (1982) stated that his conclusion on the sexes from the Raven’s is probably a dead equal for cognitive factors and a very slight female advantage for character logical traits. He also said that we should expect a little female (secondary school) advantage due to temperamental differences.

So, basically does gender affects intelligence? Well, we are totally disagree with the topic as gender is not one of the keys for a person intelligence due to biological aspects, IQ and EI tests and problem-solving abilities.

First of all is biological aspect. Biological aspect is the study of the biology of the human body for both genders which also includes hormones. The main component that is used to detect the intelligence of a person is the brain. Based on oxford dictionary, brain is define as an organ of soft nervous tissue that contained in the skull of vertebrates which function as the coordinating centre for sensation, intellectual and nervous activity. Brain are made up of two hemispheres knowingly as right and left hemisphere. Both hemisphere have different speciality for example, spatial ability is depends on the right brain hemisphere whereas the left brain hemisphere works on the verbal and memorizing ability. Scientifically, men on average would use more on the right brain hemisphere thus; possess a higher spatial ability than most women. In contrast, women on average would use more on the left brain hemisphere thus, has a higher verbal and memorizing ability than men. But, there are some special cases where the person uses both brain hemisphere equally thus, the person would enquire both abilities.

Such findings are relevant to the suggestion by (Camilla P. B.,2007), that high mathematical ability (spatial ability) has a significant biological determinant. Besides, based on other researchers’ research, they found that a major neural system connecting the two hemispheres, as well as another connector, the anterior commissure which is the parts of the corpus callosum, appeared to be larger in women’s brain. This is the reason why most women would have high verbal ability. In addition, from (Lucia F. J.,1991) experiments on female and male rodent, the result found was that the hippocampus found in male rodents is larger than the females. Hippocampus is a component in the brain where it is thought to be involved in spatial learning.

Besides brain, there is a research claiming that sex hormones also contribute to the biological aspect of gender. The sex hormones identify to be the contributor is testosterone or androgen. Although in general testosterone is mainly found in man where it is produced by the testes, research have found that women also produce the testosterone hormone but not as many as man. The testosterone functions as an indicator to spatial ability of the person. This has been proved by many tests that were conducted by researchers along time such as the IQ self-estimates test. One of the tests compares the spatial performance and perceptual speed on the participant which is about 50 male and female participants. The results are women with high levels of testosterone perform better on spatial tasks than women with low levels of testosterone. While men with low levels scored higher than men with high levels of testosterone.

From the test it is found that the level of testosterone in a person does affect the spatial ability of the person but if it is too much, it will decrease their spatial ability. For the perceptual speed, it is found that the level of testosterone does not affect the performance of the participant. Thus, the biological effect prove that men and women can also have the same level of intelligence and have their own intelligence speciality.

Next point is the problem-solving abilities of each gender. In reality, both men and women are not just physically different but they also show mental differences which are their problem-solving abilities. From what we have discussed on the biological aspect, it is found that men are more towards spatial ability while women are more towards verbal memory. This is proved by (Christina L. W.,1997) rodents’ findings whereby she found that male and female rodents have also been found to solve problems differently where female rats have a greater tendency to use landmarks in spatial learning tasks, and as it appears most women possess the same. In the findings, William’s found that female rodents used landmark cues, such as pictures on the wall instead of geometric cues which are the angles and shape of the room. But, if no landmarks available, the female rodents would use geometric cues but for males’ rodents, they did not use any landmarks at all. Male rodents only depend on geometric cues. As in research, rodents and humans are both mammals and have quite similar biological aspect, thus it is reliable to use the test.

Besides, based on the congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) girls’ research, it is found that CAH girls had a greater interest in male-typical activities and careers due to abnormally large quantities of adrenal androgens production in the girls as if in men. It is also found that CAH girls performed higher in their spatial thinking than other girls. This proved that men naturally possess a high level of spatial ability. Thus, from all the findings, it is proved that both genders possess their own strong problem-solving abilities.

Then, another reason why gender is not one of the key for person intelligence is based on intelligence quotient (IQ) self-estimates and emotional intelligence (EI). Intelligence quotient (IQ) in general, is an assessment of individual ability to think and a reason for problem solving which includes outside factors that may have a negative impact affecting the score. For instance, someone is not feeling well or the person is having a distraction on that important day, this will lower down the person performance. In contrast, emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the ability to identify and manage our and others emotions by few skills. To simplify, it is the capability for us to understand other person’s emotions, besides our emotions.

An important aspect remains as to why we should be interested in gender differences in EI, IQ, and other traits and abilities. For example, in aspects of an intelligence quotient (IQ) self-estimates and emotional intelligence (EI) was strongly stated that the gender differences in self-evaluations of performance (Beyer, 1990) and IQ in particular (Furnham & Rawles, 1995) have shown that there is a self-enhancing bias in men and women. That is also specifically concerned with gender differences in self-estimated and measured trait EI. This is because even though theoretical and empirical observations have been made with regard to both points of IQ and EI, our major view about the dimensionality questions of the two constructs cannot be answered with great confidence or even with the strong evidence.

Based on Petrides, K. V., and Adrian, F. EI reports on 620 participants (85 males and 175 females), there is significant difference on the ‘‘social skills’’ factor of the questionnaire where females scored higher than males. But, this was in the opposite direction from the difference in self-estimated EI, where males’ self-estimates was higher than females’ which indicates that the process of self-estimation is biased. In other views, (Williams & Best,1982) states that “sex differences in the self-estimation of ability may not exist although this interpretation of the data requires further observation, the present findings nevertheless indicate that sex differences in the self-estimation of ability are not general but, more on a specific ability”. To conclude, (Schutte et al.,1998) stated that there is no significant gender difference in total measured trait EI which relays on difference intelligence between both genders.

We continue with the opposing view which is hippocampus in rodents is not the same as a human. It is found that the size of the hippocampus of humans is 100 times larger than in rodents although the hippocampal architecture is common for both species. Besides, there are three major differences have been identified. Firstly, the compact pyramidal cell layer in human is thicker than rodents. Next, the cytoarchitectural distinct subdivision. Human has 27 cytoarchitectonic distinct subdivisions where rodents cytoarchitectural distinct subdivision is one of their ethonical complexes. Lastly, the layers thick of hippocampus in rodents are only 5 layers but a human has 30 layers thick. All of these differences may give different results on both species abilities although the patterns of connectivity appear to be generally similar between both humans and rodents.

In addition, (Dr. Shock Md,2008) also has stated that “Sex influences the role of the hippocampus in learning and memory in animals. Whether and how sex influences hippocampal function in humans has not yet been systematically examined.” This shows that the hippocampus in rodents and humans are not biologically the same thus, may have different results in their abilities.

But, there was a debate that took place in the early 1860s, after the publication of Darwin’s famous book findings that based on neuroanatomical analysis of such cases and understanding, there are multiple memory systems with different properties, has served to emphasize the similarities in memory function across mammalian species.

Next opposing view is problem solving abilities only comes after puberty. Since the observations include human and animals which show that males are more aggressive than females, so that as overall, males are better at a variety of spatial or navigational tasks compared to women. Well, this sex differences in problem solving did not appear until they reach puberty. One of the researchers from the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland, Richard Lynn has found out on Iowa Card Task which shows that males children at age below 12 do not perform as females are, but there was a negative correlation between testosterone levels and performance in the card task which indicates gonadal hormones influence decision-making. This shows that each gender only possess strong problem solving abilities after they reach puberty.

Researchers also found that at the age 3 and 4 years old, boys were better at targeting and mentally rotating figures compared to girls at the same age. On the other hands, prepubescent girls were excelled at recalling lists of words. As claimed by (Tifani R.H.,2003), for about 50 men and 53 women viewed pictures of 60 objects for about 3 minutes to recall as many objects and locations as they could. As a result came out, shows that women performed better than men, and the difference increased across the trials. (Doreen Kimura,2002) also added that women were good on tests that measure recall of words and as tests that challenge the person to find those words with a specific letter and symbols. It can be seen too, that women better than men on identifying matching items and performing certain tasks. Then, for prepubescent girls, they excelled at recalling lists of words. While these sex differences in cognition correspond to patterns of ability rather than overall intelligence.

Most psychological literature supports that there is a significant gender difference in memory favoring females and males (Casey, 1996; Kimura, 1999; Silverman & Eals, 1992; Stumpf, 1998). Which is cannot be assumed that women or prepubescent girl are intelligence because it was stated that it is just a personal abilities, not the major concept. As a conclusions, Gaulin and Hoffman (1988) was strongly argued that spatial ability is determined by the navigational demands of the organism, which are different from species to species. It is difficult to apply this theory to modern life nowadays.

In conclusion, the future of intelligence research is likely to move beyond simply examining gender differences at a single time in a given society. There will be new research that will examine sex differences in intelligence in the society which takes into account conditions, practices, changes over time, and will use more modern experimental methods to show the effects of gender stereotypes on intelligence performance. In this way, scientific research will strongly lead to clear pictures of the foundations of gender differences and similarities in intelligence. These helps to solve the ‘gender gap’ extends well beyond ‘general intelligence,’ in society. In addition, an IQ researcher, James Flynn in Cambridge, England also agreed with Scott Barry Kaufman statement:

"So they certainly equaled men, and perhaps were slightly above.

This has been distorted in the news of my saying that

women are incredibly more intelligent than men.

As you can see, this somewhat goes beyond what was claimed."

(Scott Barry Kaufman, 2012)

Meaning, there was a score which can prove that women can be in the same group of men in intelligent levels. In facts, there are no differences between both genders thus, asking the unreasonable question such as “who are cleverer” among them is a waste of time. Last but not least, we conclude that based on all readings and understanding about all the discussed factors, gender differences in intelligence is clearly not one of the key for person intelligence.

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.