Time to get back to basics: Men and women are different
Two recent studies set out to discover why huge gender disparities exist among students who play chess and choose to study philosophy.
Although they were separate studies by different researchers, both concluded that misconceptions about “brilliance” are what keep women from participating.
But there is another factor that neither set of researchers considered: human biology. Men and women are different and have different proclivities and preferences, but that simple fact rarely gets mentioned in higher education these days. Worse, some people have been fired for saying it.
One of the studies, highlighted this month in an article at The Society for Personality and Social Psychology, blamed stereotypes about male brilliance for the fact that “many more” men choose to study philosophy while “many more” women choose to study psychology.
Florida State University researcher Heather María Maranges said these beliefs explain “why women opted to study psychology, which was rated as requiring lower brilliance, over philosophy, which was rated as requiring higher brilliance.”
Maranges said beliefs about brilliance, not male and female capabilities, are the problem.
“Despite having higher GPAs on average, women believed themselves to be low in brilliance, compared to men, who believed themselves to be high in brilliance,” she wrote in the article.
She said women are capable of success in both fields because psychology “requires the systematic thinking employed in philosophy plus the application of statistics and the scientific method.”
Notably, Maranges did not delve into the reasons why fewer men choose to study psychology.
In a similar study published in October, researchers at New York University asserted that beliefs about “brilliance” are why so few girls play chess competitively. According to the U.S. Chess Federation, nearly 9 in ten competitors are male.
While the study found that parents, coaches, and chess organizations are making huge efforts to ensure girls have opportunities to play chess if they want to, it still blamed parents’ and coaches’ personal biases for there being so few female players.
“Would you be interested in participating in a sport where your potential is downgraded by your parents and by your coaches before you have even started?” the researchers wrote.
It’s true that stereotypes and other barriers that prevent women and girls from participating when they want to are a problem. Society has made great strides in recent decades to knock down these barriers and make sure women have such opportunities. Consider the many programs encouraging young women to enter STEM fields or learn coding.
But despite all the programs, money, and educational efforts, gender imbalances still exist, and one of the most reasonable explanations for it rarely gets mentioned. Men and women have different preferences and strengths because men and women are biologically different.
It is so simple, it’s basic fact, and yet somehow it’s become so lost in the plethora of academic research on the subject as academics struggle to publish new ideas and conform to progressive ideologies. It’s time to get back to the basics.