Bias in my favour

Men vs womenYou know the punchline: “I don’t make the rules, I just enjoy them.” I pull this out every now and then when Dr. Wife points out to me some way in which our society is constructed to make things better for men, while giving women the less pleasant end of the stick.

I’m sure I’ll get a chance to use it when we get around to discussing the article in Newsweek about studies in perceived intelligence…

It’s what we call the male hubris and female humility effect. Men are more confident about their IQ. These studies show that on average, women underestimate their IQ scores by about five points while men overestimate their own IQs. Since these studies were international in scope, the results were essentially the same whether women were from Argentina, America, Britain, Japan or Zimbabwe. Another factor affecting perception may be distribution of IQ … Although [men and women] are on average the same, the people at the very top and the very bottom of the IQ bell curve are more likely to be men.

Note that the article is about perception–while there’s lots of interesting history of research about whether or not there is any actual difference, including some pretty clear evidence that men’s intelligence has greater variance, that men might actually be slightly ahead, and that how intelligence is achieved is different in the sexes, and so on, the discussion here is about how things are perceived. And that’s actually more interesting in many ways that the more objective questions.

While there’s lots of meat there for battle-of-the-sexes banter in the perception findigns, the line in the article that I actually think is most interesting is this one: “Beliefs may be more important than actual ability in certain settings.” At some point I’m going to write up my theory of useful personal mythologies, and that line (in context) overlaps significantly with it.

  2 comments for “Bias in my favour

  1. Trish
    December 9, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Aren’t all of those discussions and arguments completely undermined by the fact that testing a person’s IQ is such a flawed process – even the theory behind it is questionable.

  2. December 9, 2009 at 10:51 am

    The tangential discussions of whether or not there is some objective difference in IQ scores might be undermined by that. I’m not sure that the more general objective research into things like men being generally more spatial or women having better memory, etc, are touched by that in any way.

    I am sure though, that the perception question isn’t undermined by the questionable validity of IQ scores. Primarily because the results are consistent across sample around the world, removing the normal class-centric/ethno-centric bias issues from contention, but also because the core issue is perception and is thus subjective.

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This work by Chris McLaren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada.