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
COGNITIVE GENDER DIFFERENCES
Tested for gender-related patterns:
Questions to consider:
Are there significant sex differences?
Statistical significance vs. practical significance
How do limitations in measurement affect findings?
Under what circumstances? & In which populations?
Interactions & moderating variables
Meta-analyses & the file-drawer problem
THE FINDINGS & THE QUESTIONS
I. Overall intellectual aptitude
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?
In which populations?
Difference increases after puberty
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? Childrens 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.