Re: Gender differences

27 May 1995 16:05:01 GMT

Gerold Firl ( wrote:
: In article <3ptugj$>
() writes:

: >As far as I know (and, as an educational psychologist, this is not
: >unfamiliar territory to me), differences have been established in the
: >DISTRIBUTION of cognitive functions between males and females. The
: >central tendency are different for some things; the range is not. Given
: >that there is no part of the distribution that is exclusively male or
: >female (as far as I know), it seems unlikely that there are fundamental
: >neurological differences. On the other hand, I am not a geneticist,
: >biologist, or neurologist, so maybe someone who is can explain how
: >distributions with the same range can show fundamental neurological
: >differences.

: You point out that the mean male/female cognitive differences are usually
: less than one standard deviation, which seems about right. You then go on
: to say that there can be, therefore, no "fundamental" differences between
: them. How fundamental is fundamental?

You seem to have mixed up Warren Sarle's post (or someone's) with mine; I
made no reference to the magnitude of differences in central tendency.
My major point is one you also made later in your post:

: As has so often been noted, there
: is enormous overlap between the abilities and desires of male and female.

For all practical purposes, the overlap is total; for anything the 99.9th
percentile male human can do, there is or was somewhere a female who can
also do the same thing (basic reproductive functions excepted). To take
an example, one consistent cognitive difference between average males and
average females that has been found is a higher level of spatial
perception in the male (possibly linked to the hunter's role in a
hunter-gatherer culture). Yet Susan Nattrass was once world champion
trap shooter (not women's world champion - WORLD champion - that sport
makes no sex-based distinctions). Surely no one can say that as a female
she must have inferior spatial perceptions of the kind required by hunters.

So if essentially any level of any area of cognitive functioning occurs
occasionally in both males and females, how meaningful is it to say there
are fundamental differences in cognitive functioning between males and
females? The differences are merely probabilistic. People vary; varying
on sex doesn't necessarily determine cognitive variation, or even
constrain the range; it may, however, change the odds. Any
sex-linked differences in neurology must be subtle indeed if the range is
not constrained.

David Wasserman (
Curmudgeon-At-Large (
"The older I get, the more value I place on experience."