The Thinking 

Flynn Affects the News

July 16, 2012


NEWS outlets around the world yesterday reported that women are now smarter on average than men. James Flynn, the well-known intelligence researcher for whom the famous “Flynn Effect” is named, was quoted as stating that recent IQ tests show women’s scores have risen in relation to men’s and even surpassed them.

What most news outlets failed to mention in this widely disseminated piece of junk journalism was that Flynn said women had marginally higher scores than men in three countries: New Zealand, Estonia and Argentina. This Daily Mail article is the only one of the many stories that goes into any details. Even so, it too is highly misleading and  incomplete. Flynn, who is awaiting the release of his new book, should take his publicist to lunch. Whoever she is, she deserves it.

The Flynn Effect refers to a rise in IQ scores over the last 100 years. The difference between the male and female mean scores has never been great, somewhere in the range of three to five points. According to Craig MacKenzie of The Daily Mail, Flynn said women’s scores have risen in relation to men’s because women had been previously disadvantaged. (Wouldn’t this mean that men are now disadvantaged?) There is so little detail on what Flynn found, the story is worthless.

Whatever his new findings, the substantial and well-documented differences in male and female cognition have not disappeared. Yesterday’s news article made about as much sense as an announcement, broadcast around the world, that artists are now smarter than engineers.

The minds of men and women are different. Women, whose brains mature faster, are more heavily represented in the middle range of intelligence and men are more common at the extremes of both low and high intelligence. There are twice as many men than women with an IQ of 125, and six times as many men with an IQ of 155. (These figures come from Steve Moxon’s The Woman Racket.) Men are similarly over-represented among those with mental slowness or retardation.

The language skills of women are stronger than those of men. Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen refers to women’s brains as “empathizing,” of which communication is a significant aspect, and the male brain as “systematizing,” which is why we will never see equal numbers of male and female computer programmers or CEO’s. Neuroimaging confirms these different modes of cognition, with female brains having more connectivity tissue and men more processing tissue, making them more capable of highly focused tasks.

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