James Flynn, an expert on IQ testing is soon to publish a new book that says women are now showing up as having higher IQs than men. Women it seems are more intelligent than previously thought. Excuse my yawning…
Research in this area is usually a tad spurious and media headlines can be misleading so I ignored this latest revelation for a while. But so many people have asked me about it that I decided to take a look. Wading through the ‘battle of sexes’ tags, ‘women have always been more clever’ and associated ephemera this is what I found:
James Flynn is indeed a recognised expert on IQ and he is an Emeritus Professor in Political Studies at University in New Zealand. In other words, he deserves to be heard but not necessarily to go unchallenged. In his most recent research on I.Q., Flynn looked at scores from across Western Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, Estonia and Argentina. He found that when modern IQ testing began in 1905, women trailed men by up to five points. But over time, that gap has more or less disappeared, and in some countries, women are now scoring better on these tests than men are. Flynn said that the increasingly complicated nature of our society accounts for the changes in these scores, but that more research is needed to make any definitive claims. (My italics)
That’s not quite how popular media have portrayed it, and also Prof Flynn does have a book to sell…
Does It Matter?
Frankly, not to me. I don’t think this kind of debate really advances the cause of gender equality and merely promulgates the old fashioned divides twixt men and women. I have always been suspicious of IQ tests and it’s no revelation to me (as a working class kid) that so called intelligence testing is linked to societal factors.
I have no wish to subject men to the type of sexist behaviour that women have been subjected to for years. My idea of gender equality is not pillorying all men, and trying to paint women as the superior gender. No one can win in this scenario.
I want a world where the attributes and differences between the sexes are seen as complementary, where the world at large recognises that both have a contribution to make, be it different. I am a champion of women’s rights because women are still discriminated against; more subtly in this country perhaps than in others but the discrimination persists. IQ tests have been one means of justifying discrimination in the past (women just can’t do it as well as men). One single report in over 100 years of IQ testing that seems to show that women are ‘improving’ in such tests is not going to convert me to their validity, or prove anything for me.
What do you think?
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Posted on July 23rd, 2012 by Jane