IQ claim will fuel gender row

August 26, 2005

Men are more likely to win Nobel prizes and other academic distinctions because they are more intelligent than women, according to a study to be published in a leading research journal.

In a paper that will reignite the academic row over genetic differences between men and women, two prominent psychologists will argue in the British Journal of Psychology that men have larger brains and higher IQs than women, which makes them better suited to "tasks of high complexity".

The paper's lead researcher is Paul Irwing, senior lecturer in psychology at Manchester University. The co-author is Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at Ulster University, who has caused outrage in the past with claims that white people are more intelligent than black people.

Dr Irwing said: "My politics are rather different from Richard's and I would prefer it if we were wrong."

But he said that he had resolved to put "scientific truth" above his personal political conflicts and potentially even his reputation.

The researchers concluded that there was a very strong case that men not only have larger brains but have a higher IQ than women, by about five points.

The paper will argue that while many academics have denied any IQ difference, those who acknowledge a difference argue that it is too small to be significant, or "not worth speaking of".

Dr Irwing said: "We do not think that a five-IQ-point difference can be so easily dismissed."

He said that the difference meant that there were a much higher proportion of men with higher IQs. There are 3 men to each woman with an IQ above 130 and 5.5 men for each woman with an IQ above 145, according to Dr Irwing.

"These different proportions of men and women with high IQ scores may go some way to explaining the greater numbers of men achieving distinctions of various kinds, such as chess grandmasters, Fields medallists for mathematics, Nobel prizewinners and the like," he said.

The researchers acknowledge that women outnumber men at nearly every level of educational achievement, PhD level being the sole exception.

The paper will argue that there is evidence that at the same level of IQ, women are able to "achieve more" than men, "possibly because they are more conscientious and better adapted to sustained periods of hard work".

The paper also cites a previous study that concluded that IQs in the region of 125 are adequate to "ascend to all levels in the labour market".

"The small male advantage (in IQ) is therefore, likely to be of most significance for tasks of high complexity, such as complex problem solving in mathematics, engineering and physics," Dr Irwing said.

The research is bound to cause a furious backlash. Professor Lynn had already caused controversy after claiming in a letter to this month's The Psychologist that Cambridge University psychopathologist Simon Baron-Cohen had "reached the same conclusion" as he had on gender.

This week, Professor Baron-Cohen said: "I wish Professor Lynn had read the relevant section of my book, The Essential Difference, which concludes that overall intelligence is not better in one sex or the other."

phil.baty@thes.co.uk

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