Sunday 20 September 2015

Sex differences in chattering and counting


People come in two types: those that chatter and those that count.

Women are more likely to chatter, men to count. Women incline to non-STEM subjects, men to STEM; as a consequence they go on to have different jobs and careers.

For both sexes, chatterers turn to humanities, counters to STEM.

This may be evidence of a sex difference.

Tom and his team’s excellent work makes it plain that there are some natural inclinations and ability profiles (tilts), not only between sexes, but within sexes and between those with different cognitive abilities. I don’t see this as something which needs remediation and some special campaign (and doubt that Tom thinks so). By all means offer maths classes and writing classes to those that want them. Indeed, offer them to those that don’t want them, so that the Two Cultures don’t divide permanently.



Thomas R. Coyle, Miranda C. Richmond and Anissa C. Snyder, University of Texas at San Antonio,

Although g is the best predictor of life outcomes (academic achievement), non-g factors may also predict such outcomes. One non-g factor with predictive validity is ability tilt, the difference in math and verbal scores on tests (SAT). There are two types of tilt: math tilt (math>verbal) and verbal tilt (verbal>math). Whereas prior studies have examined tilt in the profoundly gifted (1 in 10,000 in ability), the current study examines sex differences in tilt in nongifted subjects. Nongifted subjects show fatter ability profiles (less tilt), which may lower the predictive validity of tilt.

Unlike prior studies of nongifted subjects, the current study is the first to examine sex differences in tilt for outcomes after college (occupations, but also college majors and specific abilities).

Subjects (866 males and 1084 females) were drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a representative sample in the U.S. Tilt was based on math minus verbal scores on the SAT, ACT, and PSAT (in high school). College majors were STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, math) and humanities majors (English, history, languages). Occupations (around age 30) were STEM jobs (chemist, biologist, engineer) and verbally-loaded jobs (media, law, counseling). Specifc abilities (math, verbal) were based on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).

Sex differences in levels (or frequency) of tilt were examined with ANOVAs (chi-squares), and tilt relations with specific abilities were examined with structural equation modelling. Significant effects are reported at p<.05. Tilt was unrelated to g (based on the ASVAB) for males and females (r < .10), confirming its non-g status.

Math tilt (math>verbal) on all tests (SAT, ACT, PSAT) was more common for males, whereas verbal tilt (verbal>math) was more common for females. In addition, STEM majors and jobs were more common for males, whereas humanities majors and verbally-loaded jobs were more common for females. For both sexes, STEM majors and jobs were associated with math tilt, and humanities majors and verbal jobs were associated with verbal tilt (r ~ .35). Also for both sexes, math tilt predicted math ability (on the ASVAB), and verbal tilt predicted verbal ability (betas ~ .30), confirming the construct validity of tilt.

The results were confirmed for all tests (SAT, ACT, PSAT). Tis study is the first to examine sex differences in tilt for nongifted subjects. Tilt was unrelated to g, confirming its non-g status, but still differentiated males and females. Males tended to show math tilt, which predicted STEM outcomes, whereas females tended to show verbal tilt, which predicted verbal outcomes. The absence of sex differences in tilt relations (with jobs and majors) suggests that males and females with math tilt prefer STEM whereas those with verbal tilt prefer humanities.

An important question for public policy is why fewer females show math tilt (which may reduce STEM participation). Future research will examine tilt at earlier ages (elementary school) and also examine other abilities (spatial ability) that may contribute to sex differences in tilt and STEM.


  1. The absence of sex differences in tilt relations (with jobs and majors) suggests that males and females with math tilt prefer STEM whereas those with verbal tilt prefer humanities.

    This looks interesting - is the paper saying that the relationship between IQ-tilt and outcomes (majors and jobs) is not statistically different for men and for women? That people choose majors and jobs based on their strengths, not their gender?

    If that finding is robust, I see an opportunity for further study - do jobs become more tilted over time? If a job draws a lot of women, does the job change to become more verbal?

  2. I'm sure it also depends on the female's digit ratio as well how women perceive specific STEM fields.

    There are still 30 to 40% of chemists and biologists who are female so that kinds of pokes a hole in your chatter theory. I am more willing to bet that men are simply systemizers and women are empathizers in that men like working with objects while women like working with people. Chemistry and biology incorporates understanding of the biological processes about people and creating certain chemicals that maybe beneficial for people's well being. This theory of women wanting to work with people fits with the idea of innate female nurturing tendencies and predisposition for social contribution. Especially in studying medications or diseases in Chemistry and Biology.

    It is also interesting to note, there are more women in STEM fields that focus more on people rather then objects. For example 40% of Bio-medical Engineers in the US are women. So I think women would more more interested in STEM fields that incorporate empathizing and relevance to people.