Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Social Equality Brings Out More Sex Differences - It Does Not Eliminate Them

John Tierney has a fine article in the New York Times on an international study of sex differences in personality. Surprisingly, the researchers found that sex differences were smaller in poorer countries. Their hypothesis is that harsher environments take more of a toll on competitive and aggressive men.

The really interesting finding is that in rich, egalitarian societies, men's and women's personalities diverge more. This seems to me to support the sociobiological notion that sex differences are deep, and are more likely to be expressed the more conditions are optimal for individuals to realize their deep inclinations.

This finding is scary if you think the sexes are the same, and the genders are only different because sexist society makes them so. It is not scary if you think sex differences are complementary, and are a prime example of what is good about diversity.


Katie said...

Interesting! I would love to read the entire study some day.

Did you catch this bit?: “Humanity’s jaunt into monotheism, agriculturally based economies and the monopolization of power and resources by a few men was ‘unnatural’ in many ways.” I wonder if the study really draws conclusions about the effects of monotheism on gender differences, or if the author just threw that line in for good measure.

I'm would also love to see the rest of the running study. Who's to say that there aren't true biological differences that make it easier for men to become "relatively fast?" In that case, the "relatively fast" women might be more competitive than the men because it takes more effort for them to reach that level.

Anonymous said...

I am very, very late to this party, but I have to wonder: isn't it the conventional wisdom among biologists to consider sexual displays an expensive drag on survival? From that perspective, it would seem that attenuated gender differences are luxuries those in the harshest environments simply can't afford. The literary allusion that comes to mind is "The Good Earth", and of the hard-working O-Lan whom Wang Lung marries in his impoverished youth vs. the dainty Lotus he obtains as his concubine after coming into his prosperity.

Gruntled said...

Other biologists have developed a "handicap" theory to explain why sexual display is actually a sign of superior physical capacity.

This study was not really about sexual display, though, but about personality differences by sex.