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There were a few reactions (Read: outbursts) to my previous post from some of my female friends which prompted me to write this one where I shall try to explain some of the statements I made previously.

When I said that men and women were gifted with different levels of proficiency in certain areas of mental ability, I wasn’t merely “pontificating”. A large amount of research has been carried out to find whether mental abilities, at some level, depend on sex. Well mostly boys and girls were found to have similar IQ levels in all the tests that were carried out. So while they perform equally in standardized mathematics tests, boys tended to show greater variance, as in they were represented more in the top as well as bottom rungs (A topic that I shall come back to later in the article.). There were however specific kinds of tests that boys and girls seemed to do better at. While boys were clearly better in Spatial Ability – basically the ability to track a moving object through space or mental rotation – girls seemed to be distinctly better at Verbal Skills. Now considering that these results have been corroborated by a number of researches, there must be an element of truth somewhere. Well, as far back as in 1861, Paul Broca had carried out a study of 432 human brains. It was found that the average male brain was 10 – 15 % larger and heavier than the average female brain. But because they still have similar IQ levels, it has been proposed that IQ levels depend on the ratio of brain size to body size, and not the brain alone. However, the parts of the brain used by the two sexes to achieve the same IQ score are different. Brain Mapping showed that while the average male brain had six times the amount of gray matter than an average female brain, the white matter present in an average female brain was ten times that in an average male brain. The gray matter is responsible for performing tasks that require hands on thinking, and is called the Fluid Intelligence. The white matter on the other hand, accounts for the memories and hence is responsible for performing tasks that require application of previously acquired knowledge, therefore also known as Crystallized Intelligence.

Thus it is quite clear that there are some differences in the way the two sexes think, and the reason is purely anatomical. I am sure that, just like me, by this time you must be wondering – Why? Why is it that there are these differences between the two sexes, even if only anatomical. Well I hunted around a little and found some sort of an explanation here. I quote from Sex Differences in the Distribution of Mental Ability by Kevin Langdon and David Seaborg –

Humans are diploid organisms, like all other high level organisms. Unlike haploid organisms, which have only one set of chromosomes, we have two parallel sets, with 23 chromosomes in each set. Each chromosome has one or another allele (alternate form) for every gene it carries; our 23 chromosome pairs are the vehicle for the approximately 100,000 genes in the human genome. As most of the genes on the X chromosome do not have a corresponding locus on the Y chromosome, males are effectively haploid for the sex chromosome pair; recessive alleles of these genes, including nature’s more advanced experiments and (far more numerous) lethal and debilitating mutations, are much more likely to be expressed in males, giving rise to the observed greater variability in males on various measurable traits, including g (General Cognitive Ability).

In some ways, this lays the foundation for evolution. You see, the ultimate goal of any species is survival. And as Uncle Darwin tells us, this can only take place for the fittest of the contenders. Thus any species needs to ensure that the fittest genes make it through to the next generation. This is where the disparity creeps in. Since it is the female that gives birth to the next generation, their safety is of prime importance for the survival of the species. That is why it is the male in almost all species, from insects to humans, which performs the tasks of hunting, gathering and fighting. Also in order to ensure that the most superior genes make it through to the next generation, males show greater variation in their traits, like intelligence (Remember the erratic distribution of marks in male students?). The process can basically be summed up by this excerpt below (And one that doesn’t make me feel any more special!) –

In every society, human and animal, males do the fighting. This is not only because of their greater physical strength, but it is due also to the most basic requirement of a species: survival of the next generation. In a population of ten males and ten females, if nine females died in battle, only two or three children could possibly be born to the group the next year. . . . So males are more expendable.”  — Robert E. Ornstein, Psychology: The Study of Human Experience. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1985.


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