David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

Gender Differences in Science and Math Abilities? Not In This Matrilineal Society

Happy International Day of You, women of the world. Unfortunately it remains internationally respectable to argue that science has shown that men are inherently better at math and scientific pursuits than you are. This belief is based on the gender difference in scores on standardized tests—differences that seem to extend throughout the world, in many different types of society. Of course, it also has to be said that many different types of society discriminate against women, despite the world bestowing this whole day on you. Wouldn't it be great to have a straight-up comparison between a society that curtails women's opportunities and a more egalitarian one? Turns out it has been done, in this study, which was published a few months ago in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers found a typical male advantage on a spatial test in the more male-dominated group. But in the society where women were closer to equality with men, the gender difference did not exist.

The beauty of the study, in which 1,279 people were paid to solve a four-piece puzzle, is that the two societies are substantially alike except for the way they treat women. They both occupy the same region near the city of Shillong in Meghalaya State in northeast India. They make their livings in the same way and have the same income levels. A genetic analysis finds them to be closely related. But the Khasi are a matrilineal tribe, where family inheritance runs from mother to youngest daughter, while the Karbi are patrilineal, passing property from father to oldest son. Property is owned mostly by men, and women average fewer years of education than their male peers. Among the Khasi, though, women and men get an equal number of years in school, and men own no property.

Moshe Hoffman and his co-authors offered a decent sum (20 rupees) to those among their volunteers who could solve a spatial puzzle in less than 30 seconds. Among the patrilineal Karbi, men were 36 percent faster than women at doing this spatial task. Among the matrilineal Khasi, though, men were no faster than women.

As the authors note, this study doesn't disprove that there are no innate differences in ability. But it does show that culture matters, which means, I think, that it shows it is way too soon to claim that science has established that innate male-female differences explain the gap on tests between men and women. It is consistent with evidence from education research which suggests that immediate circumstances have a big impact on test performance: Those studies have found that male advantage in science and math tests can be made to go away by some simple interventions (for example, putting pictures of women in the textbook, or reminding women that they're good students).

Hoffman, M., Gneezy, U., & List, J. (2011). Nurture affects gender differences in spatial abilities Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108 (36), 14786-14788 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1015182108

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

Masturbation boosts your immune system, helping you fight off infection and illness

Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?

Sexual arousal and orgasm increase the number of white blood cells in the body, making it easier to fight infection and illness.

Image by Yurchanka Siarhei on Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
  • The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
  • Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
Keep reading Show less

Education vs. learning: How semantics can trigger a mind shift

The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.

Education vs. learning: How semantics can trigger a mind shift | Gregg ...
Future of Learning
  • The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
  • Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
  • Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
Keep reading Show less

Why is everyone so selfish? Science explains

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.

Credit: Adobe Stock, Olivier Le Moal.
Personal Growth
  • Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
  • New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
  • Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Keep reading Show less
Culture & Religion

How Hemingway felt about fatherhood

Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.

Scroll down to load more…