Friday, October 07, 2005

No difference between men and women

I read in yesterday’s the Star that there are no behavioural differences between the sexes. The widespread behaviour of girls liking pink and boys like trucks are believed to be more from parental expectation – parents tend to provide pink frilly dresses to girls and buy loud toys for boys.

At least, according to Janet Shibley Hyde.

Her remarkable claim that 78% of all gender differences are small or close to zero, was what got my interest piqued.

In her research, she concluded that there are three areas where there is significant difference – motor behaviour (e.g. throwing distance), measures of sexuality (e.g. masturbation and attitude towards casual sex) and physical aggression (self explanatory).

The methodology used was meta-analyses, an accepted statistical method for aggregating research findings across many studies of the same question. The analyses would produce d, which is the magnitude of an effect or gender difference.

The gender difference value is categorized into
  • close-to-zero (d<0.1)
  • small (0.11<d<0.35)
  • moderate (0.36<d<0.65),
  • large (0.66<d<1.00)
  • very large (d>1.00)
Negative values of d mean females scored higher on a dimension and positive values indicate that males scored higher.

After reading her paper, titled The Gender Similarities Hypothesis and scanning her lists of variable, I found it interesting that some psychological behaviours are small or moderate, like:
  • vocabulary (-0.02)
  • talkativeness (-0.11)
  • self-disclosure to friend (-0.28)
  • smiling (-0.40).
For all of the above, negative values mean the ladies scored better. Personally, I would expect a larger d.

Don't women talk a lot more? -0.11 means only marginal and small difference. And even self-disclosure is considered small. Don't women share more openly, even the intimate details? ;P

For positive values of d, the behaviours include:
  • spatial perception (+0.44)
  • intrusive interruptions in conversation (+0.33)
  • physical aggression (+0.59)
  • aggression under provocation (+0.15)
  • masturbation (+0.96)
  • arousal to sexual stimuli (+0.31)
  • helping other people under surveillance (+0.74).
The masturbation one, I can understand. *snigger*

Men in general do have a higher need for sexual release.

Helping other people under surveillance means showing off; men are more egotists mar.

But arousal to sexual stimuli only +0.31 (small difference)?

Aggression under provocation +0.15 (small difference)? Their sample must have been mostly gay men.

Heh. Interesting findings actually.

The debate on differences or similarities between the sexes has been brought to the mainstream, thanks to John Gray’s Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus. There are actually many studies on both sides of the fences.

Based on her results, she goes on to argue that the widespread and popularly held beliefs like boys are better in mathematics than girls, women are more caring and nurturant and adolescent girls have lower self-esteem, have social and economic costs which we may not be aware of.

For example, parents have lower expectations for their daughters’ math success than for their sons’, despite the fact that girls earn better grades in math. Thus, a girl’s talent in maths may not be nurtured, or worse, not discovered at all.

The thing is that, research has shown repeatedly that parents’ expectations for their children’s mathematics success relate strongly to outcomes such as the child’s mathematics self-confidence and performance, with support for a model in which parents’ expectation influence children.

Basically, if you are terrible in maths, you can blame your parents. But only if they expected you to be bad in maths, when you were younger.

That last point there, about parents’ expectations on their children’s performance, is backed by a research by Frome & Eccles (1998).

Of course, I have some thoughts on it relating to sexuality, but that would be in another post. ;P


savante said...

But wasn't it an interesting study?


canardbidon said...

haha we r all the same la... ppl should just start taking themselves less seriously... and everyone will be happier!

thanx for updating me abt tonight's meeting - when's the next?

Derek said...

paul: Yes, it was. The conclusions arrived at are debatable though.

canardbidon: Deep down, we're all the same. But how we act and behave towards each other, that's a different matter altogether.

And I agree that people should take themselves less seriously.