Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Distance Between Mars and Venus

A new psychology paper says:
The idea that the sexes are quite similar in personality – as well as most other psychological attributes – has been expressed most forcefully in Hyde's “gender similarities hypothesis” [9]. The gender similarities hypothesis holds that “males and females are similar on most, but not all, psychological variables. That is, men and women, as well as boys and girls, are more alike than they are different.” Hyde's paper has been remarkably influential; between 2005 and 2010, it has accumulated 247 citations in the Web of Knowledge database and 498 citations in Google Scholar (retrieved May 19th, 2011).

While the gender similarities hypothesis does not make specific predictions about personality, sex differences in personality were found to be “small” in Hyde's meta-analytic review.
The paper goes on to argue that while the 16 Personality Factors do not individually show much difference between men and women, the factors can be combined so that the distributions of men and women only overlap by 10%.

As explained here, the situation is somewhat analogous to race and genes. People used to say that human races were all the same because they have essentially the same genes. They also said that we have 99% the same genes as chimps. It turns out that you have to look at many genes at once to see dramatic differences.

The paper says:
The idea that there are only minor differences between the personality profiles of males and females should be rejected as based on inadequate methodology. ...

In conclusion, we believe we made it clear that the true extent of sex differences in human personality has been consistently underestimated.
It is surprising that this paper is so controversial. I thought that it was obvious that men and women have different personalities, and I had assumed that psychometric testing had established this decades ago. The original Turing test involved fooling someone about a male or female personality.

In other psychology news, SciAm Mind reports:
Two Big Myths about Grief
People are not always devastated by a death and should be allowed to recover in their own ways
It says that grief counseling usually does no good at all.

Psychology research is in a sorry state. They have trouble with the obvious.

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