Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Technical aptitude: Do women score lower because they just aren't interested?

Date:
November 1, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Boys do better on tests of technical aptitude (for example, mechanical aptitude tests) than girls. The same is true for adults. A new study describes a theory explaining how the difference comes about: the root cause is that boys are just more interested in technical things, like taking apart a bike, than girls are.

Boys do better on tests of technical aptitude (for example, mechanical aptitude tests) than girls. The same is true for adults. A new study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, describes a theory explaining how the difference comes about: the root cause is that boys are just more interested in technical things, like taking apart a bike, than girls are.

Aptitude tests are used to predict how well people will do in school and on jobs. These tests focus on particular skills or kinds of specific aptitude, like verbal or technical aptitude. But the last few decades of research have found that what really matters is general intelligence, not specific aptitudes, says Frank Schmidt of the University of Iowa, author of the new paper. "The factors that are measured by the specific aptitude tests independent of the general intelligence component in these tests don't make any contribution to job performance." Smart people, researchers have found, are able to learn the requirements of any job if they are motivated to. And research shows that men and women do not differ, on average, in general intelligence.

Technical aptitude measures are often used as a component of general intelligence measures, so Schmidt wanted to know why women and men score differently on technical aptitude in particular. He analyzed data from the 10 subtest Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, to look at how men and women differed on the tests, including those on technical aptitude. He found that at all intelligence levels women score lower on technical aptitude than men at that intelligence level. Also, at all levels of technical aptitude women had higher levels of general intelligence. So if technical aptitude tests are used as part of a measure of general intelligence, women could receive intelligence scores that are too low. That is, technical aptitude tests may be biased indicators of general intelligence for girls and women.

Schmidt presented a theory that posits that this difference stems from sex differences in interest in technical pursuits, which leads people to acquire technical experience, which in turn increases technical aptitude scores. He presented evidence that among men technical experience does lead to better scores on technical aptitude tests. To find out for sure, someone would have to do a long-term study looking at whether early interests develop into later aptitudes, as opposed to the opposite theory that aptitudes cause interests. If his theory is right, it might be possible to narrow the gap in technical aptitude by getting girls more interested in technical areas. Interest should lead to aptitude. But that may not work, Schmidt says. "The research shows it's very hard to change people's interests," he says. "They're pretty stable and they form pretty early in life."

It's more important, he says, to make sure that the tests used to measure general intelligence aren't using biased indicators. "That is quite possible today. You can either not use technical aptitude tests or you can use them and counterbalance them," he says, with tests that women tend to do better on, like perceptual speed or some verbal tests.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. F. L. Schmidt. A Theory of Sex Differences in Technical Aptitude and Some Supporting Evidence. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2011; 6 (6): 560 DOI: 10.1177/1745691611419670

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Technical aptitude: Do women score lower because they just aren't interested?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031220604.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, November 1). Technical aptitude: Do women score lower because they just aren't interested?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031220604.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Technical aptitude: Do women score lower because they just aren't interested?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031220604.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) Yale researchers tested 135 men and women, and it was only obese women who were deemed to have "impaired associative learning." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?

Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) A new study suggests that mixing alcohol with energy drinks makes you want to keep the party going. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pot Cooking Class Teaches Responsible Eating

Pot Cooking Class Teaches Responsible Eating

AP (July 18, 2014) Following the nationwide trend of eased restrictions on marijuana use, pot edibles are growing in popularity. One Boston-area cooking class is teaching people how to eat pot responsibly. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Understanding D.C.'s New Pot Laws

Understanding D.C.'s New Pot Laws

Newsy (July 17, 2014) Washington D.C.'s new laws decriminalizing small amount of marijuana went into effect Thursday. Here's how they work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins