the Disillusioned kid: Men Are From Earth, Women Are From Earth
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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Men Are From Earth, Women Are From Earth

There's been an awful lot of guff written over the years about the supposed psychological differences between men and women. You know the kind of thing I'm talking about. Frankly I never understood why anybody bought into it, it turns out that my cynicism has been vindicated by a new study which
looked at 120 traits including personality, communication skills, thinking power and leadership potential and found that while there were some differences, they were mostly so small as to be statistically irrelevant.

The American study found significant differences in only 22% of traits. These included sexual behaviour, where men were less willing to show commitment, and in aggression — men were more prone to anger. Men were also, the psychologists found, better at skills involving co-ordination such as throwing.

Janet Shibley Hyde, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, who led the study, said: "Popular media have portrayed men and women as psychologically different as two planets — Mars and Venus — but these differences are vastly overestimated. The two sexes are more similar in personality, communication cognitive ability and leadership than realised."

Hyde’s research, published today in the American Psychologist, collected the results of 46 so-called meta-analyses in which traits had been closely examined for sex differences. These studies themselves combine the results of many research projects. Such an approach has the advantage of bringing together huge amounts of data and can give a much better overall result, especially in areas such as psychology where traits are subtle and hard to measure.


Hyde analysed the studies by recalculating the data from them so they were comparable. In 30% of the traits analysed, she found almost no difference that was statistically significant between men and women, while there were only small differences in another 48%. "This means 78% of potential gender differences are small or close to zero," she said.
Hyde attributes many of the apparent differences to gender stereotyping which she suggested (quite correctly in my opinion) "permeated western culture and was damaging for society and individuals":
"According to these stereotypes boys, for example, are better at maths than girls," she said. "Research shows that because of this, mathematically talented girls may be overlooked by teachers and parents."
The journalists reporting on the story for the Sunday Times perhaps ironically felt the need to end the article with an idiotic comment from a male:
David Schmitt, professor of psychology at Bradley University, Illinois, who specialises in gender differences, said there were real psychological differences between the sexes but these were often exaggerated.

"Overinflated stereotypes are limiting, but there are still deep biological differences," said Schmitt. "Gender differences in childhood, such as boys playing with boys’ toys, demonstrate that gender differences do genuinely exist."
Got that? "Deep biological differences" can be ascertained by the toys children play with. The influence of gender stereotyping on the toys children are given has ansolutely nothing to do with it.

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