Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Gender Similarities Hypothesis

The Gender Similarities Hypothesis Hyde, Janet Shibley American Psychologist, Vol 60(6), Sep 2005

The differences model, which argues that males and females are vastly different psychologically, dominates the popular media. Here, the author advances a very different view, the gender similarities hypothesis, which holds that males and females are similar on most, but not all, psychological variables. Results from a review of 46 meta-analyses support the gender similarities hypothesis. Gender differences can vary substantially in magnitude at different ages and depend on the context in which measurement occurs. Overinflated claims of gender differences carry substantial costs in areas such as the workplace and relationships.
It's a meta-meta analysis - a summary of summaries of experiments - and later work has shown rather more differences than the early metastudies would imply. About the only glaringly obvious ones visible here are those determined not by gender as such, but purely by testosterone levels.

Nonetheless, it supports two contentions that later work has shown to be well evidenced. First, that genuine innate (albeit statistical) differences exist. Second, that men and women are far more similar than different.

Historically, it's been the differences that have been overblown due to ideological belief, with no evidentiary basis. These days, it's the differences that have been minimised or even denied, again due to ideological belief, and against the evidence. Throughout, the statistical nature of the differences, that one can make no claims at all about individuals in any one area, have been completely ignored. Men and women differ from each other. Men differ from other men too, and women from other women. Both men and women as individuals can be more or less stereotypically masculine or feminine in different areas, gender is not a binary but a complex multivariant.


Barry Deutsch said...

" These days, it's the differences that have been minimised or even denied, again due to ideological belief, and against the evidence."

This seems unjustified.

First of all, it's not an either-or choice; at present there are huge numbers of people who have strong ideological beliefs about gender on both sides (on the side of exaggerating differences, and on the side of minimizing differences). For example, it would be impossible to look at the conservative arguments against same-sex marriage, and not notice that the people making the arguments are strongly biased towards thinking that innate gender differences are large and important.

Second of all, it's not clear which, if either, side of the argument currently predominates in society.

Nonetheless, an interesting post. Thanks.

Chris Phoenix said...

Barry - the anti-marriage people clearly think the difference is important - but that says nothing about whether they think it's large or small.

Anonymous said...

The differences are a bell curve that over laps both genders so there truly is not a real reason to force one into stereo roles.