Improved living conditions and less gender-restricted educational opportunities reduce the cognitive disparities between men and women or improve the gap in favor of women, according to new research by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Karolinska Institutet.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, investigated the extent to which improvements in living conditions and educational opportunities over a person’s life affect cognitive abilities and their implications for men and women.
“Our results show that there is no reason to expect all cognitive gender differences will diminish,” says Daniela Weber, IIASA researcher and lead author of the study.
“However, the findings from this study suggest that if women and men had equal levels of education, then we should expect a female advantage in episodic memory, a male advantage in numeracy, and no gender differences in category fluency (such as naming as many different animals as possible within one minute).”
The authors examined data from the “Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe” in which more than 31,000 men and women over the age of 50 from 13 European countries answered questions that tested cognitive functions including memory, mathematical ability, and verbal fluency.
Analysis of the data showed gender differences in cognitive abilities to be associated with the age of the participant, country of origin, and the living conditions and educational opportunities participants were exposed to when entering adulthood and middle age.
The study demonstrates how the magnitude of cognitive gender differences varied systematically across regions and birth cohorts. In regions that had undergone improvements in living conditions and expansion of gender-equal educational opportunities, women displayed superior memory to men, men’s advantage in mathematical abilities decreased, and equivalent abilities in category fluency were observed.
“The results suggest that we should expect that women demonstrate relative strength in particular cognitive functions while men in others, even in societies with higher living conditions and more gender equal educational opportunities,” explains Weber.
Previous studies have shown that men have an advantage in tasks assessing visuospatial and mathematical abilities, whereas women are found to outperform men in tasks assessing episodic memory and reading literacy, with no differences normally observed in category fluency and vocabulary.
In addition some research proposes biologically based explanations for these differences in cognitive abilities between the genders, whereas others indicate that societal factors influence the gender differences.
The Changing Face of Cognitive Gender Differences in Europe, Daniela Weber, Vegard Skirbekk, Inga Freund, and Agneta Herlitz. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS Early edition www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1319538111)
Philippa Brooks | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Thickness of grey matter predicts ability to recognize faces and objects
10.11.2015 | Vanderbilt University
Intergenerational cohesion in Europe is strong
04.11.2015 | Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, München
Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.
Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...
Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.
In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...
In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.
Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...
Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...
25.11.2015 | Event News
17.11.2015 | Event News
21.10.2015 | Event News
27.11.2015 | Press release
27.11.2015 | Life Sciences
27.11.2015 | Materials Sciences