Men and Women Are More Alike Than Different

Psychologists are finding more and more evidence supporting the theory that men and women are not so different in how they think and how well they think.

Meta-analyses on sex differences

Janet Shibley Hyde of the University of Wisconsin rolled up over 10 years of meta-analytical studies on this subject. She found that men and women "are more alike than they are different." So much for battle of the sexes.

Hyde’s compilation focused on the sexes’ differences in cognitive skills as well as on their communication style, social or personality variables, motor behaviors and moral reasoning.

50 percent of the studies reviewed by Hyde showed that sex differences were fairly small. In one-third of them, the differences were nearly absent. This means that about 78 percent of sex differences are small or almost zero. On top of that, the studies focused on differences that were "presumed to be reliable": math or verbal ability.

Math skills

1990, Hyde and colleagues published a meta-analysis of 100 studies of math performance. They synthesized data gathered between 1967 and 1987 and which involved more than 3 million participants. Hyde and colleagues found no significant overall differences between boys and girls in their performance in math.

They did however, found the following results:

Girls were a little better at computation during elementary and middle school.

Boys on the other hand were a little better at problem solving – which may be because they had more science which focused on problem solving.

The researchers also found that both genders understand math concepts equally well and that sex differences thinned out over time.

Elizabeth Selke of Harvard University reviewed 111 studies which showed that men’s and women’s math and science prowess have "a genetic basis in cognitive systems that emerge in early childhood but give men and women on the whole equal aptitude for math and science." In fact, it has been found that baby boys and girls as young as six months perform equally well on tasks such as addition and subtraction.

Verbal skills

In 1988, Hyde and two other other colleagues reviewed 165 studies on the sexes’ differences in verbal ability. They reported that girls have an almost insignificant edge in verbal skills. They also found no evidence to support gender differences in any element of verbal processing – which also did not change with age.