99 Cognitive Skills & Gender

Based on research by the Janet S. Hyde, & colleagues, 1988-2005, and American Psychological Association, adapted by Juanita N Baker, Ph.D..

Fewer women than men work as scientists and engineers.  Is this due to aptitude or culture?

University of Wisconsin professor, Janet Shibley Hyde, aggregated the findings from multiple relevant studies for years.  Her one simple conclusion: The sexes are more the same than they are different.

Although some previous research suggested there were math and verbal differences between genders, thorough reviews find male and female infants as young as 6 months performed equally well on tasks such as addition and subtraction (babies can do this, but not with pencil and paper!) Synthesizing data, researchers found no large, overall differences between boys and girls in math performance. Both seem to understand math concepts equally well, contradicting the notion of fixed or biological differences.

As for verbal ability, Hyde and colleagues reported 165 studies found a female superiority so slight as to be meaningless, despite previous assertions that “girls are better verbally.” Where the sexes have differed on tests, researchers believe cultural factors play a role, such as subtle but pervasive gender expectations that thus lead to different educational and career choices.

So be skeptical of gender superiority claims and make sure that your own biases are not steering boys and girls down different talent and career tracks.


Hyde, J. S., & Linn, M. C. (1988). Gender differences in verbal ability: A meta- analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 104, 53-69.

Hyde, J.S., Fennema, E., & Lamon, S. (1990). Gender differences in mathematics performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 107, 139-155.

Hyde, J.S. (2005) The gender similarities hypothesis. American Psychologist, 60(6), 581-592.

Spelke, Elizabeth S. (2005). Sex differences in intrinsic aptitude for mathematics and science?: A critical review. American Psychologist, 60(9), 950-958.

Spencer, S.J., Steele, C.M., & Quinn, D.M. (1999) Stereotype threat and women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 4-28.

For more details see:


American Psychological Association, January 18, 2006

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