MadSci Network: Neuroscience

Re: what is a good survay to find out if boys are smarter than girls?

Date: Tue Feb 20 18:21:30 2001
Posted By: Lynn Nielsen-Bohlman, Faculty, Geriatric Psychiatry, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Area of science: Neuroscience
ID: 982000774.Ns


I guess you could use the IQ tests available on the web - if you search on "IQ test" you will get thousands of sites, many of which have online tests. I have taken different online IQ tests just for fun, and received scores ranging from 100 to 150. I tended to score higher on tests that were mostly questions about words and language and math questions, and lower on tests with a lot of spatial questions or questions about pictures of shapes. What do you think this might mean?

Let's think about this idea of whether boys or girls are smarter. What do you mean by 'smarter', and how would you interpret differences or similarities between boys and girls?

Are there particular abilities you are wondering about - like arithmetic test performance or writing performance? Are the results on those types of tests a measure of what you mean by 'smart'? If there is a difference between boys and girls, does that mean the difference is biological (genetic) rather that due to differences in social experiences and interests? Some people think sex differences in intelligence are biological and important (Richard Lynn,Gerry Mulhern, "A comparison of sex differences on the Scottish and American standardisation samples of the WISC-R." Personality and Individual Differences. 1991; Vol 12(11): 1179-1182; Karen Vibeke Mortensen, Form and content in children's human figure drawings: Development, sex differences, and body experience. New York, NY, US: New York University Press. (1991). 293 pp). I disagree. There may be differences in academic performance between boys and girls, but I am not sure that this reflects a difference in intelligence rather than learning, and am less sure that any difference would have a biological basis. Being smart is part of cognition, or thinking, and cognition is a really big and really interesting subject. Boys and girls may have some differences in cognition, but they have even more similarities. There are a whole bunch of studies that have been done about intelligence and sex - I found 7973 English-language papers on the topic of intelligence differences between boys and girls published in the past 5 years. I think you can find a more interesting angle on this question.

Maybe you could look at a particular topic. For instance, Pravati Pati and A. Srikanta Dash found that girls did significantly better than boys on the Stroop Color-Word test, and Stroop's interference was higher in girls. This was reported in "Effects of grade, sex and achievement levels on intelligence, incidental memory and Stroop scores", Psychological Studies, March 1990; Volume 35(1): pages 36-40. An online copy of the Stroop test can be found here, along with a discussion of what it might mean:

If you like this Stroop test, think about how a person's language ability would affect test results. The task in the test is to name the color OF THE LETTERS, not read the word. The test is hard because the words are also names of colors, so you might see the word "red" written with BLUE letters - and you need to say "BLUE", not 'red'. You can certainly look at this in boys vs. girls, but you could create your own copy of the test in Spanish or French (or any foreign language taught at your school). For instance, write the word 'rojo' (Spanish for 'red') in blue ink and take it to the Spanish class (you will need the teacher's permission). Tell the kids to name the color of ink (blue) in their native language - which is probably English. Which is harder for them to do, the Stroop test in English ("red" written in blue ink) or in Spanish ("rojo" written in blue ink). Is there a difference between the introductory Spanish class's performance and the advanced Spanish class's performance? The online test uses 25 'congruent' words (like 'blue' written in blue ink and 'green' written in green ink - they do not have to all be different colors) and 25 'incongruent' words (like 'blue' written in red ink and 'green' written in pink ink). You could make four cards - a card with 25 congruent English color words, a card with 25 incongurent English color words, a card with 25 congruent foreign-language color words, a card with 25 incongurent foreign-language color words. You show each person each card, and measure the time it takes that person to name the ink colors on each card. If you can find some people whose first language is the foreign language you tested, that would be great. Then see if the Stroop interference effect is stronger in the language in which people are fluent. Why would this be? Is it different between boys and girls?

If you want some other science fair ideas, look here, especially in the "Experiments and Activities" section:

Current Queue | Current Queue for Neuroscience | Neuroscience archives

Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Neuroscience.

MadSci Home | Information | Search | Random Knowledge Generator | MadSci Archives | Mad Library | MAD Labs | MAD FAQs | Ask a ? | Join Us! | Help Support MadSci

MadSci Network,
© 1995-2001. All rights reserved.