Saturday, February 09, 2013

Men and women are from Earth

Apparently it is politically incorrect to find psychological differences between men and women. Even when studies find large and dramatic differences, they are reported as the opposite. Here is a current example:
If men and women were psychologically distinct from one another, then their scores on psychological measures should form large clusters at either end of a spectrum with little overlap between the two groups.

This is the case for physical characteristics such as height, shoulder breadth, arm circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio. Men tend to be tall, have broad shoulders, large arm circumference, and a small waist-to-hip ratio, while the inverse is true for women. A man is extremely unlikely to be taller than a woman, yet have narrower shoulders, for instance.

Yet the same could not be said for the myriad of psychological characteristics examined by the two researchers, including fear of success, sexual attitudes, mate selection criteria, sexual behaviors, empathy, and personality. A man could be aggressive, but verbally skilled and poor at math, for example, combining stereotypical masculine and feminine traits.

“It’s not enough that men, on average, score higher than women on a scale of masculinity,” Carothers told Raw Story. “Nearly all of the men would have to score higher than nearly all of the women on nearly every item of the scale. We did not see that level of consistency with the psychological variables we had.”
Actually women have the smaller waist-to-hip ratio, with healthy women at 0.7 and men at 0.9.

So it is not true that men score higher on all the tests than all the women. There is some overlap in the test scores, of course.

Here is the abstract:
Men and women are from Earth: Examining the latent structure of gender.
Carothers, Bobbi J.; Reis, Harry T.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 104(2), Feb 2013, 385-407. doi: 10.1037/a0030437

Taxometric methods enable determination of whether the latent structure of a construct is dimensional or taxonic (nonarbitrary categories). Although sex as a biological category is taxonic, psychological gender differences have not been examined in this way. The taxometric methods of mean above minus below a cut, maximum eigenvalue, and latent mode were used to investigate whether gender is taxonic or dimensional. Behavioral measures of stereotyped hobbies and physiological characteristics (physical strength, anthropometric measurements) were examined for validation purposes, and were taxonic by sex. Psychological indicators included sexuality and mating (sexual attitudes and behaviors, mate selectivity, sociosexual orientation), interpersonal orientation (empathy, relational-interdependent self-construal), gender-related dispositions (masculinity, femininity, care orientation, unmitigated communion, fear of success, science inclination, Big Five personality), and intimacy (intimacy prototypes and stages, social provisions, intimacy with best friend). Constructs were with few exceptions dimensional, speaking to Spence's (1993) gender identity theory. Average differences between men and women are not under dispute, but the dimensionality of gender indicates that these differences are inappropriate for diagnosing gender-typical psychological variables on the basis of sex.
Full paper here (pdf).

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