Thursday, April 21, 2022

The sexes do not differ in general intelligence, but they do in some specifics: Female advantages in writing, male advantages at higher math ability levels

The sexes do not differ in general intelligence, but they do in some specifics. Matthew R.Reynolds, Daniel B. Hajovsky, Jacqueline M. Caemmerer. Intelligence, Volume 92, May–June 2022, 101651.


• Despite no differences in general intelligence, there are sex differences in specific abilities.

• Reliable and meaningful female advantages are found in processing speed and writing.

• Reliable and meaningful male advantages are found in visual processing.

• Sex differences research should consider construct breadth and moving beyond mean differences only.

Abstract: Reliable and meaningful sex differences exist in specific cognitive abilities despite no reliable or meaningful sex difference in general intelligence. Here we use Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) theory to highlight research findings related to sex differences in intelligence, with a focus on studies of test scores from comprehensive intelligence measures that were obtained from large and representative samples of children and adolescents. Female advantages in latent processing speed and male advantages in latent visual processing are the most meaningful and consistently reported sex differences regarding CHC broad cognitive abilities. Differences have been reported in narrow and specific ability constructs such as mental rotation and object memory location. In academic achievement, the largest and most consistent findings are female advantages in writing, whereas male advantages at higher math ability levels are also found. Empirical descriptions of sex differences should consider the breadth of the construct under study and incorporate analysis beyond simple mean differences. Score analysis methods that utilize multiple-group confirmatory factor models and multiple-indicator multiple cause models are useful to address the former, and analysis methods such as quantile regression and male-female ratio calculations along score distributions are useful to address the latter. An understanding of why specific ability differences exist in combination and in the presence of similarities will improve researchers' understanding of human cognition and educational achievements.

Keywords: Sex differencesCattell-Horn-Carroll theoryIntelligenceHuman cognitive abilities