Karen J. Prager, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.

Professor of Psychology and  Program Head for Gender Studies

Diplomate in Family Psychology

The University of Texas at Dallas

More Information About Dr. Prager's work

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Research on Intimacy

Processes in Couple Relationships 

Teaching and Professional Practice

Selected Papers and Publications

 

For Students:

 

 

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LECTURE OUTLINE

COGNITIVE GENDER DIFFERENCES

Tested for gender-related patterns:

Intellectual aptitude

Memory

Analytic skills

Verbal abilities

Quantitative abilities

Visual-spatial abilities

 

Questions to consider:

Are there significant sex differences?

    Statistical significance vs. practical significance

How do limitations in measurement affect findings?

    Construct validity

Under what circumstances? & In which populations?

    Interactions & moderating variables

Meta-analyses & the file-drawer problem

 

THE FINDINGS & THE QUESTIONS

I. Overall intellectual aptitude

II. Memory

III. Analytic skills

IV. Verbal ability

Which verbal skills?

Sex differences, verbal skills & time?

Effects of using the SAT

V. Quantitative Ability

What are the interaction effects (i.e., which moderating variables augment or reduce the difference?)

Effects of using the SAT (Construct validity)

VI. Visual-spatial ability

On which tests?

    Spatial perception

    Mental rotation

In which populations?

Difference increases after puberty

Biological Explanations:

1. Prenatal androgens

       Girls with AGS (adreno-genital syndrome) sometimes perform better than other girls on visual-spatial tasks.

     Boys with higher testosterone levels?  The same or poor performance than other boys.

    Conclusion?  Not much evidence.  

2.  Lateralization of brain functions

    Spatial abilities dominated by right hemisphere.  So are boys more "right-brained?"

    Analytic & verbal skills dominated by left hemisphere.  Are girls more "left-brained?"

    Women:  larger corpus callosum & less lateralization? 

        Women:  less affected by single hemispheric damage suggesting less specialization of function. 

        Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) shows:  Men doing language tasks showed left hemisphere activation; women showed both hemispheres activated.

    Not all studies support & some contradict

    Gender accounts for 1-2% of individual variations in brain lateralization

    Conclusion?  Evidence is there.  Significance is small.

 Spatial abilities & social factors?

    Experience with spatial tasks?

    Stereotyping of tasks? Children’s interests?

    Restriction of movement?

        Varies across cultures and predictions relative spatial abilities of girls vs. boys (e.g., Eskimo societies).

    Conclusion?  Evidence is there but more studies are needed.