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

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 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 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 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.

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Nerdyguy
not rated yet Oct 31, 2011
"Technical aptitude: Do women score lower because they just aren't interested?"

I do not know, but I will forward this to my wife and see if she bothers to reply.
CHollman82
1 / 5 (1) Oct 31, 2011
I really wish physorg didn't link to MedicalXpress articles because most of them are really stupid... including this one.

Every time I click a physorg article and see that MX logo I know I'm probably either going back in time a few hundred years (stereotyping women for example) or to a realm of complete statistics-backed pseudoscience nonsense.

My wife is as interested in technology as I am, perhaps more-so.
CHollman82
1 / 5 (1) Oct 31, 2011
Oh, and psychology is to neuroscience as alchemy is to chemistry.
Nerdyguy
3 / 5 (2) Oct 31, 2011
As much as I'd like to agree with you on this, chollman82, unfortunately there is a big problem with young girls entering scientific fields in the U.S. Couldn't remember if you were American or not, but I think you might be. In any case, I'm curious if you are familiar with it and/or would agree? I would agree the title is "silly". But the underlying research may help uncover why we have a larger proportion of females getting into scientific fields of study, compared to other nations and suggest practical approaches to modify this.
kaasinees
not rated yet Oct 31, 2011
As much as I'd like to agree with you on this, chollman82, unfortunately there is a big problem with young girls entering scientific fields in the U.S. Couldn't remember if you were American or not, but I think you might be. In any case, I'm curious if you are familiar with it and/or would agree? I would agree the title is "silly". But the underlying research may help uncover why we have a larger proportion of females getting into scientific fields of study, compared to other nations and suggest practical approaches to modify this.

Funny.

http://en.wikiped...ientists

The majority are still not American, and most of them are actually migrated and not from America.
LVT
1 / 5 (2) Oct 31, 2011
Maybe women score lower because they have lower aptitude.
Callippo
not rated yet Oct 31, 2011
Do women score lower because they just aren't interested?
And they're not interested because they do score lower.

Arthur Schopenhauer: "A human can do what s/he wants, but not want what s/he wants".
gwrede
not rated yet Nov 05, 2011
If women are less interested in technology than men, then in whose interest is it to _make_ them as interested as men? What's the point?

To me this seems as smart as wanting people to use both hands equally, so that we no more have right handed and left handed people. IMHO, as in with virtually anything to do with nature, there might be a good reason why we use our hands differently, and why we might have different interests. -- If not, then men and women would be of the same size, and look the same.