2 Women’s Intelligence & Gender Equality

Based on Research by Luella Winifred Pressey. Psychology Science Minute written by Juanita Baker, Ph.D.

Psychology Science Minute brought to you by the School of Psychology at Florida Institute of Technology, I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.

Even Charles Darwin thought his theory of natural selection supported why women were inferior to men. In the late 1800s scholars measured women’s and men’s brains and determined women’s brains were smaller, thinking that proved their inferiority; and concluded, the reason for women’s being less intelligent.

Until there was a way to measure intelligence, there was no way to argue scientifically that women were not inferior, would not be able to have judgment or be smart enough to vote.  Thus prejudices and myths continued about women.  Therefore, it was revolutionary when Stanford Binet devised a measure of intelligence in France, 1905, originally to differentiate those children who would need special help in learning, yet he recognized intelligence was multidimensional.

Luella Winifred Pressey curious about gender differences replicated Binet’s results in the United States in 1918 by assessing 2,544 school children (aged eight to sixteen yrs) on a group scale of intelligence. Results revealed that the girls averaged slightly higher in general intelligence than the boys though this may be a result of girls’ earlier development. The comparative standing of the two sexes varied according to the nature of the test. The distribution of total scores showed a remarkably greater variability among boys than among girls.

Based on this psychological research, society could no longer deny that girls and women were equally intelligent to boys, enough to be educated to reach their full potentials.

That’s your Florida Tech Psychology Science Minute, I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.

General references

Binet, Alfred. (1905). L’Annee Psychologique, 12, 191-244.

Binet, Alfred; Simon, Th.; Kite, Elizabeth S. (Trans), (1916). The development of intelligence in children (The Binet-Simon Scale), (pp. 182-273). Baltimore, MD, US: Williams & Wilkins Co, 337 pp.

Darwin, C. (1871). The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex, 1896 edition, D. Appleton and Company, New York.

Terman, Lewis M The Measurement of Intelligence. Houghton Mifflin Co , 1916, pp 68-72

Specific references:

Pressey, Luella Winifred. (1918). Sex Differences Shown by 2,544 School Children on a Group Scale of Intelligence, With Special Reference To Variability.  Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 2(4), 323-340.

Fee, E., Nineteenth-Century Craniology: The Study of the Female Skull, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 53:415, 1979.

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