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The Gender Gap: A Brief Overview of the Theoretical Perspectives On Gender-Related Cognitive Differences

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  1. Introduction
  2. Arguments over innate intellectual discrepancy
  3. What the numbers show: Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Stanford Binet IQ Measurement
    1. The findings of M. Collaer and M. Hines
    2. The most striking difference found among college bound students
    3. Analyzing the available data from various tests
  4. Sociobiologists and evolutionary theorists
    1. Sociobiologists claim
    2. The theory of Darwin
    3. Differing evolutionary tracts and explaining the existing difference between male and female mathematical ability
  5. Physiology: Neurology and the Endocrine System
    1. Those that attribute differences in cognitive abilities to physiology
    2. Models attributing intellectual differences to endocrinology
  6. The brain
  7. Non scientific factors at work: The anthropological, sociological and social psychological approach
    1. The leading theory in this field
    2. Evidence of early childhood play experiences and it impact on developing an intellect
  8. Closing remarks
  9. References

In the fields of mathematics, engineering, and science a gender gap exists. Men still hold the vast majority of professional careers rooted in math and science in industrial countries. In the United States, for example, men account for more than three-quarters of all medical doctors, 90.3 percent of engineers, 75 percent of architects and 95 percent of computer technicians (U.S Department of Labor, 1999). In fact, 99 percent of all prestigious awards in mathematics during the 20th century went to men and 98 % of Nobel Prizes in science to men as well (Lips, 2000). How, as we move into the 21st century does one account for this striking disparity? Are there simply differences in intelligence (i.e. cognitive abilities) between men and women that can account for the fact that men by far outnumber women in professional careers rooted in math and science? Or, are other factors at work, such as psychological conditioning and cultural stereotyping that can explain the gender gap? The purpose of this paper is to briefly explore these questions.

[...] Social Psychology Quarterly, Vol No (June 1991), pp. 113-126. Feminism and Science, ed. Tuana, Nancy Indiana University Press. Bloomington and Indianapolis. Gallagher, Anne M. and De Lisi, Richard. Gender Differeces in Scholastic Aptitude Test? Mathematics Problem Solving Among High-Ability Students Journal of Educational Psychology. Vol No 204-211. Gouchie, C., and Kimura, D The Relationship Between Testosterone Levels and Cognitive Ability Patterns. Psychoneuroenodcrinology 323-334. Guo, Guang and Leahey, Erin. Gender Differences in Mathematical Trajectories. Social Forces, Vol No Dec pp. 713-732. [...]

[...] Gender Differences in Verbal Ability: A Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin Vol No pp. 53-69. Halpern, D.F Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities (2nd ed.) Hillsdale, New Jersey. Erlbaum. Keller, Evelyn Fox and Longina, Helen Feminism and Science. Oxford University Press. New York and London. Kimura, D Are Men's and Women's Brains Really Different? Canadian Psychology 133-147. Levy, J Lateral Specialization of the Human Brain: Behavioral Manifestations and Possible Evolutionary Basis. In J.A. Kiger The Biology of Behavior, 159-180. Corvallis. Oregon State University Press. [...]

[...] While no major discrepancy in overall IQ scores is to be found, a breakdown of the test into quantitative and verbal skills, does indicate that males out perform females in areas of mathematical and quantitative reasoning whereas females often perform better than males on reading comprehension and verbal tasks (M. Collaer and M. Hines, 1995). The most striking difference is found among college-bound students. Males have consistently scored above females on two different college entrance examinations: the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT). [...]

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