What a question, eh?
By all accounts… There is no real one-way answer to this question.
Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the slant offered in most intelligence research had been that men and women had the same average intelligence, but men had greater variance in their distribution than women.
What do you think? Is this the case? Girls do much better at schools these days here in the UK… Is that anything at all to do with intelligence?
I get interested in intelligence because people say that hypnosis is more effective if you are intelligent… I am not sure I agree.
Let me go into this a bit further…
Most geniuses were men, and most imbeciles were men, the research said, while most women were in the ‘normal’ range. This conclusion, however, was manufactured out of political expediency. Not wanting to discover any sex differences in intelligence, psychometricians (posh word for people who run these tests) simply deleted from the standardised IQ tests any item on which the performance of men and women differed.
More recently, however, especially since the turn of the millennium, there have been an increasing number of studies that cast doubt on this politically correct conclusion… Uh-oh… I can sense the kind of thoughts people are now thinking… 😉
Studies with large representative national samples from Spain, Denmark, and the United States, as well as in depth analyses of a large number of published studies throughout the world, all conclude that men on average are not just slightly but significantly more intelligent than women, by about 3-5 IQ points. So this has now become the new (albeit tentative) consensus in intelligence research.
Hmmm… Everyone agree?
However, these studies do not answer the ultimate evolutionary question of why men should be more intelligent than women. Allow me to quote a fabulous article from Satoshi Kanazzawa:
General intelligence likely evolved as a domain-specific psychological mechanism to deal with evolutionary novelty. However, unlike populations in different geographic parts of the world, men and women within a population have always faced the same level of evolutionary novelty throughout evolutionary history, because they have always migrated together. If general intelligence is a function of the evolutionary novelty of the environment, why then are men on average slightly more intelligent than women?
My LSE colleague, Diane J. Reyniers, and I offer one possible explanation in our article, forthcoming in the American Journal of Psychology. Psychometricians have known since the end of the 19th century that height is positively correlated with intelligence: Taller people on average are more intelligent than shorter people. And men in every human population are taller than women. So one possibility is that men are more intelligent than women, not because they are men, but because they are taller.
Our analysis of a large representative American sample from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health shows that this is indeed the case. In fact, once we control for height, women are slightly but significantly more intelligent than men. Further controlling for health, physical attractiveness, age, race, education, and earnings does not alter this conclusion. Height has exactly the same effect on intelligence for men and women: Each inch in height increases the IQ by about .4 point. The partial effect of height on intelligence is more than three times as strong as the partial effect of sex.
So it is not that men are more intelligent than women, but that taller people are more intelligent than shorter people, but net of height women are more intelligent than men. Women who are 5’10” are on average more intelligent than men who are 5’10”, and women who are 5’5” are on average more intelligent than men who are 5’5”. But, more importantly, people who are 5’10” are significantly more intelligent than people who are 5’5”, and most people who are 5’10” are men and most people who are 5’5” are women.
So over and beyond all the fancy words… Tall people are more intelligent? It is as simple as that, is it? No further opportunity for me to tempestuously get blood boiling by suggesting it is gender specific? Darn…
By the way, I am 6’2″ so that would prove this theory correct… Ok, so I felt cheeky this morning. Have a great day… Back on to hypnosis tomorrow.
That is exactly the answer that most of my female readers were just about to write… So forget the plan to all get stretching racks in your garages ladies… 😉
Marty, as usual… Your contribution is appreciated… Thank you 🙂
No hope for me then, Adam… 🙂
Don’t you worry Sophie… maybe consider getting a rack installed in your garage?
Most geniuses were men? What’s that? Oh, it’s the sound of Marie Curie, Virginia Wolf, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Emily Bronte, Anne Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Elizabeth Blackwell, Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Arden, Virginia Apgar, Maria Agnesi, Emily Pankhurst and Ada Lovelace walking out of the room and slamming the door behind them.
I’m also informed that Einstein was 5 foot 9. Which, according to the research, doesn’t make him that intelligent at all. I’m not sure but I am beginning to think the research done on this question is a bit like the movie Valentine. In that film, you could drive a truck through the plot holes and I think you might at least be able to drive a car through the holes in the research done on this question. Also, research is not proof. Findings have a long way to go before they become fact. What we have here is evidence of a kind and not a conclusion. The jury, as they say, is still out.
I’d hazard a guess that I’m taller than both Carol Voderman and her successor on Countdown, Rachel Riley. But both those women could kick my bum to the curb when it comes to maths and quite a lot of other things to do with the intellect.
Some people have been kind enough to say that I’ve got a pretty powerful mind and some have even called me “brilliant” over the years. But any intellectual prowess I have isn’t, as far as I believe, connected to my gender or my height. Surely, if we take these findings as they are then the whole process of learning goes out the window? Why bother going to school if you’re short? Why bother going to school if you’re female? I mean, seriously.
At university, I was outnumbered by women. Which was fantastic as far as I was concerned. Seriously, I’m not that good on beauty secrets and the fashion police have a file on me. But if a woman talks about Dickens, Shakespeare or science to me, I find it incredibly sexy. Intelligent women are amazingly sexy. In fact, most (if not all) women are intelligent. The only thing that is more sexy in a woman than intellect is passion and personality. A powerful mind is good but there has to be some driving force, something that gets her up in the morning and helps her enjoy life. Even though I don’t know because I don’t tend to fancy blokes, I assume similar attributes are sexy in men.
Intelligence is one of those things you can’t contain or predict. So many factors contribute to it. A short person who lives in the rich side of town and has access to books and learning materials may well end up more intelligent than a person from the rough side of town who can’t read books all day as he/she has to go out and feed their family.
Besides, what is “intelligence”? Are we talking maths puzzles, skill with words? What about emotional intelligence? What about creative intelligence? It’s a rich tapestry and we all have a lot to be proud of.
Suppose one could apply the same ideas of perceived intelligence to height perhaps?
But, obviously, I wouldn’t know….what with being female and under 5ft tall. It was a struggle to remember how to switch on the laptop. Silly little me! 😉
Love Martin’s response. It is quite brilliant and sums things up nicely. His closing point is very interesting also-the definition of intelligence. IQ tests have their uses I suppose. They do give some indication of academic ability. But they are a very blunt tool at best I reckon and remain very biased towards those with a standard education. And they in no way predict success. Plenty of Mensa members work in shops alongside people with perfectly average IQs…
Actually came back to read this because I missed it during the week (you were being particularly productive and had some great topics) and because I also wondered about something: do women tend to seek out partners more intelligent than themselves?
Reckoned it was probably so in evolutionary terms…but wanted to find a paper. Have not paid for full one though:
Height can be correlated with brain size, thus being taller means you need a larger brain for encephalization.
Im a 5″8″ male with a 23.5 inch circumference head. My head is rather large for my height and so is my brain. it is often larger than most taller people.
Therefore this theory has room for improvement, as it does not consider people who fall outside of the norm for the percieved norm.
I’d say every theory that I ever write about has room for improvement Johnny… I would not want it any other way, that is what makes the discussion so enjoyable… For me at any rate 🙂
Thanks for your contribution here, Adam.
I find it amusing that after explaining that you are intelligent you dismiss the evidence as being silly. Yes of course there are many intelligent women, but on “AVERAGE” men are more intelligent(the study claims). Similarly,just because the average height of a male is 5′ 9″ does not mean that all men are that exact height. It’s simply an observed correlation between height and intelligence.It in no way says that taller people are “always” more intelligent that shorter people, or that men are always smarter than women.You providing evidence of intelligent female writers/mathematicians/friends in no way negates the studies validity.
“Most geniuses were men? What’s that? Oh, it’s the sound of Marie Curie, Virginia Wolf, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Emily Bronte, Anne Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Elizabeth Blackwell, Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Arden, Virginia Apgar, Maria Agnesi, Emily Pankhurst and Ada Lovelace walking out of the room and slamming the door behind them. ”
You clearly have not grasped the concept of ‘most’.
(Audible sigh and exhale of breath)
Thank you for the contribution Thomas… Though I suspect you clearly have not grasped the sense of irony that this post was laden down with and just about every entry in this blog is… And thank you for your lovely list of female names… I had no idea any of these people existed or graced our planet, I’ll go google them and get educated.