Re: Geary Response

From: Hale Pippa (
Date: Fri Feb 13 1998 - 09:44:47 GMT

> ABSTRACT: The male advantage in certain mathematical domains
> contributes to the difference in the numbers of males and females
> that enter math- intensive occupations, which, in turn, contributes
> to the sex difference in earnings.

Not all math- intensive occupations are well paid.

> R1. Natural and sexual selection

> While females compete more than males in terms of physical signals
> that indicate youth, males compete more directly for social status,
> i.e., resource control; females prefer males with resources, if they
> are willing to invest those resources in the family (Buss 1989;
> Feingold 1992).

There is a pressure in modern society for females to look good and for
males to provide for them. Now, however, more and more females need
their own status not that provided by a male. Many females would like
to be able to provide for themselves and their family. Males also
have the pressure of physical competition although I would agree that
it is not along the same lines as females. Females are not just after
money in the same way males are not just after looks.

> R2. Primary and secondary abilities
> it is assumed that children's play is a
> natural means for fleshing out implicit knowledge associated with
> primary cognitive domains and for ensuring the normal development of
> the underlying neurobiological systems (Geary 1995a). It also seems
> likely that some primary knowledge associated with reproduction
> emerges during adolescence (Diamond et al. 1983).

Children's play is an important aspect of their maturation and growth.
It can teach them to interact with other children and therefore teach
social skills. It can also introduce basic intellectual concepts at
an early age.

> I believe that much of human
> behavior, that of children and adults, is guided by implicit
> knowledge and agree with Davis: the position that conscious top-down
> thoughts are the primary influences on human behavior is greatly
> overstated. People in general prefer models that emphasize conscious
> decisions because it provides them with a sense of control. This
> sense of control is psychologically comforting but not necessarily
> scientifically correct (Heckhausen & Schulz 1995).

I would agree with Davis and Geary that models emphasize conscious
decisions lead people to believe they have control. People do not
like to believe that they do not know what is going on. It is far
easier for them to believe that the reason behind people's actions is
due to their conscious decision making than some implicit knowledge.

> R3. Testable hypotheses
> However, I do not agree with the suggestion that the processes
> associated with solving Mental Rotation Test (MRT) items and the
> tracking of moving trajectories is related to foraging or weaving
> and not related to navigation or the use of primitive weapons as
> suggested in the target article. Unlike hunting (either other humans
> or animals), foraging does not require the tracking of moving
> objects. Females do in fact outperform males in cognitive domains
> that likely facilitate such work and substantially outperform males
> on tests that assess memory for object location (Galea & Kimura
> 1993; Silverman & Eals 1992). The latter skill seems useful to
> remembering the location of incidentally discovered food sources.
> Thus, males and females differ in the strategies used to navigate
> (use of geometric knowledge vs. use of landmarks) and show different
> ability profiles even within the broader spatial domain. In my
> opinion, the principles of sexual selection, broadly defined to
> include the sexual division of labor, should provide the
> meta-theoretical perspective for examining these and related sex
> differences.

How do these differences help us now? Surely males and females roles
in society are becoming more and more equal so that the differences in
their skill should be reduced in years to come. Why should females
need to be good at memory for object location and differ in navigation
techniques? Will males and females skills become equal through
evolution so that the most efficient skills are developed?

> R4. Behavioral genetics and evolutionary psychology
> It is very likely that the
> differential expression of these genes is related to a combination
> of sex hormones and experience, although I would assume, as others
> have, that the hormonal and experiential effects are related--that
> is, hormones likely influence niche seeking differences comparing
> males and females (see section R6.5). On this view, the expression
> of the sex difference in spatial abilities (and some other
> abilities) might be sex linked, as suggested by Crow, but these
> would be modifier genes associated with sex hormones and not the
> spatial genes per se.

I would agree that spatial abilities are not only influenced by genes
but are affected by sex hormones but would this mean that are
intellectual level changes over time? If our hormones do affect our
spatial abilities testing females should be done at different stages
during their menstrual cycle.

> R6. Sex differences
> Newcombe and Baenninger and Tan suggest that the finding of a
> nonlinear relation >between testosterone levels and spatial
> abilities in males argues against the position that the sex
> difference in spatial abilities has been shaped by sexual selection.
> There is no a priori reason to suppose that circulating testosterone
> levels should be linearly related to characteristics that have been
> shaped by sexual selection. >Hormonal influences are complex,
> involving multiple systems and potentially multiple effects that can
> occur at multiple points in development (e.g. Fitch & Denenberg
> >1995) and, given this, it is not likely that there will be simple
> linear relations between specific hormonal levels and specific
> sexually selected characteristics.

I think it is important that hormonal levels are taken into
consideration when dealing with the spatial abilities of both males
and females. Hormones do affect a lot of our responses and the
levels are constantly changing. I would agree that the fact that
testosterone levels in males had no effect on spatial abilities would
go against sexual selection.

> Finally, Wynn, Tierson, and Palmer suggest that primitive weapons
> appeared roughly >500,000 years ago and that this is not enough time
> for evolutionary pressures to have acted on any spatial abilities
> associated with their use. I am not familiar with the
> >archaeological data and so cannot comment on the 500,000 year
> estimate, but even if such weapons had not appeared until 50,000 or
> 15,000 years ago, evolutionary >pressures would certainly have acted
> on any associated abilities, if individuals who were skilled at the
> use of these weapons had an advantage over less skilled >competitors
> (Symons 1979). Moreover, archaeological methods cannot readily
> provide information on the use of perishable (e.g., wooden spears)
> or nonobvious >(e.g., rocks) projectile weapons.

I am not sure how long it would take for evolutionary pressures to
develop but I am unsure as to the reason for male spatial ability
being different to women's due to the use of weapons for hunting. Our
skills now do not relate much to those used then.

> Frith and Happ suggest that the male advantage on word problems
> might, in addition to the >contribution of spatial abilities, be
> related to a sex difference, favoring females, in theory of mind. In
> particular, they suggest that females might be more sensitive >than
> males to the odd phrasing of some word problems and, as a result,
> more likely to misinterpret the statements. This is an excellent
> suggestion!

> From an evolutionary perspective, it is almost
> certainly the case that human beings have some form of social
> module, which would include theory of mind (Karmiloff-Smith et al.
> >1995), and that this module might be more highly elaborated in
> females than in males (see section R6.5).

I think this is a definite possibility and that research looking into
the social aspect of the problems may be helpful. Males and females
do tend to tackle problems from different angles and may see things in
different ways. This could account for some of the differences
between the results for the word problems.

>Second, more recent research has shown a complex pattern of sex
>differences in the >sensitivity to the emotions signaled by facial
>expressions (Erwin et al.
> 1992). For instance, females are more sensitive to the emotional
> signals of males, in >comparison to males' sensitivity to the
> emotional signals of females (see also Epstein).

I would say this is true. Females do look more into facial
expressions and their related emotions. This may be due to the fact
that they feel they need to know or even like to know how others are
feeling. Males may just think they know or may not be as aware of the
emotions that are linked to the expressions.

> Finally, the argument that the sex difference in object/person
> orientations found in >adolescents and adults is due to "cultural
> immersion" is in need of empirical support. This is because
> behavioral genetic studies suggest that biological >influences on
> social behavior and personality are actually more strongly expressed
> in adolescence and adulthood than they are in infancy and childhood,
> presumably through >active niche seeking (e.g., Rowe 1994).

I would have thought that culture would have an effect. You are
affected by the environment you live in and are raised in. This need
not be only your family but also your peers.

> Competitive classrooms, for instance, are more likely evoke
> competitive responses in males >than in females because the focus is
> on who is the first to answer a question, which is a >hierarchically
> based form of social competition (see section R1.1). The most
> important point of my discussion of differences in the ways in which
> boys and girls respond >to different classroom environments was not
> to suggest that this was the primary source of the sex difference in
> mathematical development but rather to suggest that >the
> evolutionary perspective on social sex differences has potentially
> important implications for how we treat boys and girls in classroom
> settings, a perspective >that I believe will be much more
> informative than any search for "unconscious" sex-biased treatment
> of boys and girls in the classroom (see Section R7 and >Hammer &
> Dusek).

There are definite differences in male and female behaviour in the
classroom. There appears to be more of a competition between the
males to show off to each other and also to see who can disturb the
class most. I believe females are less involved than the males. Some
may become quiet and shy, some may get involved in order to impress
the males but it is more usually the other way round.

> R7. Socialization and stereotypes
> Jussim & Eccles concluded that "with a few notable
> exceptions...teachers seemed to be >basing their perceptions of
> students on those students' actual performance and motivation" (p.
> 265). For the one notable exception that involved perceptions of
> boys >and girls: "teachers' (had a) more favorable impression of
> girls' effort ... The results regarding effort are consistent with a
> growing body of literature showing that >school is often a hostile
> place for boys" (p. 266).

I think that there is a negative attitude towards males in the
classroom. I believe that they like to put on one act in the
classroom but may be are prepared to work more out of the classroom.

> R8. Social implications
> Nevertheless, it is important to highlight the following findings,
> a) the male advantage in >mathematics is selective, and b) girls in
> most other countries outperform American boys on standardized
> mathematical ability tests (e.g., the SAT-M). The latter >finding is
> particularly important because it suggests many girls can develop
> the mathematical abilities needed to enter math-intensive fields. At
> the same time, it is also >unlikely, given the sex differences in
> complex spatial abilities and in object/person orientations, that
> there will be a 1:1 ratio of males:females entering and >excelling
> in math-intensive areas, particularly in societies where females and
> males choose their own occupations (e.g., Humphreys et al. 1993).

It appears that it may be possible for females to achieve high status
in math-intensive fields. Although in our society we do have a choice
into which field we would like to work in and there may not be the
opportunities for all who want to achieve in the math-intensive

> The perspective does imply, however, that if the goal is educational
> and economic equality >than we must educate boys and girls
> differently in some areas; equal outcome may require unequal
> treatment. Girls would >benefit, more than boys, from more
> spatial-related experience, and more direct teaching on diagramming
> and spatially representing mathematical relationships. In >contrast,
> boys would benefit, more than girls, from more direct instruction in
> reading and writing.

If this could be possible it may be the best solution to the
differences in the abilities of males and females. Although it would
probably mean single sex classes.

> It is time to redirect resources from the search for "unconscious
> bias" against girls in our >schools to research aimed at developing
> classroom environments and instructional techniques that will
> equalize the educational outcomes of boys and girls. In my >view,
> this will require a detailed understanding of biological influences
> on student learning and motivation and how cultural practices
> interact with these influences.

I agree with Geary and would hope that more research could go into
this area so that we can all gain the maximum possible benefits from
our schooling years.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 13 2001 - 16:23:19 GMT