Skepchick Quickies 1.20


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. This whole IQ and math ability thing always fascinates me. On the one hand I think IQ definitely measures /something/, which has /some/ innate component. On the other hand this handful of metrics is so oversimplifying and affected by so many factors that it seems ridiculously difficult to derive sociologically relevant chains of causation.

    I also think people have a really unusual set of attitudes toward math ability. I remember a few times in college I’d figure something out and have people act like I was a magical math wizard, when I’d only applied some simple procedure I happened to know and they didn’t.

    Studying math seems much easier if you’ve developed a good library of tools, which is in turn much easier if you feel that it’s socially valued for you to be reading/doing/talking about math a lot. I often wonder if a lot of “gaps” in math scores have to do with who is discouraged from really exploring the subject (instead of just studying the bare minimum to pass each class. I had a huge (if decidedly costly) advantage there, since I had a reputation as a child progidy growing up. When people tell you your social value consists in doing X, and you like X anyway, it’s easy to develop good technique.

  2. Dog Choir Spoiler…

    I was thinking the Darth Vader March and then the dog in the Imperial Walker costume comes out at the end… the orangutan’s smile when he hugs his dog is right out of Nick Park, and you know how Babe was a pig who wanted to be a sheep dog? I think the bouncy dog wants to be one of Santa’s reindeer.


  3. What does it mean to be better at girls when comparing boys and math? I’d expect we’d have different goals, what with me having a biological drive and math being a field of study without any form of will or desire.

    Oh, and in case someone fixes what I expect is a typo: “Undoing gender math stereotypes – What, it’s not as simple as boys are better than math at girls?”

  4. The fact that top-grade mathematical genius is nearly 100% male might owe to the fact that psychoticism is more pronounced in men than in women.

    As Hans Eysenck points out in Genius: The Natural History of Creativity:

    “A more likely reason [for greater male creativity, as opposed to family obligations] is psychopathology. Psychoticism (Eysenck, 1992a) is conceived as being a dispositional trait underlying schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness; males usually score twice as high on it as compared with females. As we shall see in a later chapter, psychoticism is also closely related to creativity, so that the lower creativity of women may be due to their lesser psychopathology. (Women do have higher scores on neuroticism, which is conceived as a dispositional trait underlying proclivity to neurotic disorders, but these are quite different from psychotic-type disorders, and probably not related to creativity.)”

    The link between psychoticism and creativity has been very well replicated. If I provide a whole bunch of links, my comment might be marked as spam but try Google Scholar searches with various combinations of terms like “schizotypy”, “lateral inhibition” (or “low lateral inhibition”), “psychoticism”, along with “creativity” of course.

    So the fact that men outperform women in math (which does in fact require a lot of creativity at the expert level) should come as no surprise.

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