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Sex DIfferences Essay

This experiment performed by the males and females in the Tuesday 4pm psychology lab, was done as a replication of the Halari et al experiment in London in 2005. The hypothesis in the original experiment was that women will, on average, gain a higher verbal fluency score than men and men will, on average, perform more accurately than women on mental rotation. The results obtained from Halari et al’s (2005) clearly prove this hypothesis correct. The results also rejected the null hypothesis which says that men and women will not differ with respect to verbal and spatial performance. Our replication experiment also proved the hypothesis of Halari et al’s (2005) experiment correct and rejected the null experiment.

Our experiment followed a certain methodology. In the mental rotation task, each participant was to answer 50 questions which contained the stimuli; each of which showed 2 shapes rotated and the participants were to judge whether they are identical or not. As expected males had a higher accuracy level in this this task compared to females. In the verbal fluency task, the participants were given 3 categories; fruits, vegetables and animals. They had the instruction to write down as many items from the relevant categories as possible. As expected females had a higher accuracy level than the males in this task.

In the methodology used in our experiment did contain some weaknesses that may have influenced the results. Our experiment was as free from bias as possible in order to make the results accurate and reliable. For the mental rotation task, every participant received a different set of stimuli, so that the participants could not copy each other. This produced reliable results. However this methodlogy contains a debility. The stimuli ranged from sets of easily distinguishable shapes to much harder ones. Since the stimuli was randomly chosen for each participant it is possible that one participant may have received all the hard ones (females) and another may have received all the easily recognisable ones (males). Another debility in this methodology was that the set of stimuli varied in difficulty as discussed earlier.

Also their rotation patterns varied. So some sets were just rotated once while other sets were rotated to an extent where some of the faces were indistinguishable hence breaking the pattern we perceive causing our minds to get muddled in recognising the stimuli correctly. This is clear in the categories used in the verbal fluency task which have no form of gender bias whatsoever. The categories chosen are generic and known well to both males and females. An example of a gender bias category would be something like computers which is more biased towards males than females. While a catergory more

bias towards females would be make up. However despite having no gender difference there was a weakness present in this method; english as a second language. Our group of participants contained people of different ethnicities and nationalities. Which meant that not all have english as their first language. This in turn proves to be

a weakness to our expeirment as those people who possess english as a second language, wont be able to think of english words as fast as in their own language, (all words written had to be in english). This would have posed a problem for such participants as they would have had to think of a word in their own language and then translate it into english. This could have decreased some of the participants performance as time span was limited to one minute.

Overall, the results obtained from this experiment clearly suggest that men and women specialise in different cognitive abilities in relation to spatial capacity and verbal competency. These results solidify that boys and girls-and men and women-are programmed by evolution to behave differently from one another is now widely accepted, (The Economist, 2006). These results indicate the theory posed by Harvard president, Larry Summers to be true. He pointed out the detail that the number of women in professions which require a spatial understanding such as mathematics, engineering are few, (The Economist, 2006). This however does not state that women have no spatial capability, it only suggests that in comparison to men women are weaker in spatial understanding. Nevertheless this does not say that these abilities are completely innate. These cognitive abilties can be trained, so a woman with a PHD in engineering will definietly have a higher spatial capability than a man working at Countddown.

According to our results men and women vary in terms of cognitive abilities. Men appear to be better at spatial tasks while females at verbal fluency. This variation is deemed as occuring due to the common battle; nature vs nurture. It is said that the social upbringing plays a big part in understanding the reasons for this variation. When a child is born depending on the gender, parents tend to choose either blue or pink for that child. This stereotype created by society may unwillingly fit young boys and girls into their stereotypical roles. According to, The Economist (2006) it was believed that boys and girls prefer different toys.

Where boys prefer cars, trucks and guns, girls prefer dolls and tea sets. However this was disapproved and it was found that girls and boys are already different when they are born due to the hormone, testosterone. When a child is born, it experiences two surges of testosterone- one during gestation and one shortly after birth, (The Economist, 2006). The production of testosterone is higher in males than in females hence creating the ‘boy-like’ behaviour we all talk about. This testosterone is said to be the reason for why boys tend to look at mobile phones longer than people’s faces, the way females do. But the basic theory is that the high levels of testosterone in males produces the rough play.

While the low levels in females generate the nurturing tendency in them hence causing them to prefer dolls and tea sets, (The Economist, 2006). Unlike the Halari et al, (2005), the experiments conducted to prove this theory did not contain hormone tests. Hence we cannot conclude hormone levels being the main factor responsible for the variance in cognitive abilities. It is more commonly believed though that the interlacing of both social upbringing and hormone levels is what causes these differences. Although women have that low level of testosterone, by nature they are constructed to be the

nurturers. Therefore females tend to prefer the dolls to play with as it is an indication towards their future role as a mother where it is needed that they speak and interact more often with their children. Women on average speak 20000 words a day, 13000 more than men, (Mail Online, 2013). This confirms the findings in our experiment where females were found to have a
higher verbal competency. At the same time by

nature males are constructed to be the strong protectors. Therefore males tend to prefer the cars or guns to play with indicating towards warrior-like behaviour. This point is also argued by The Economist, (2006). They believe these differences are genetically there via hormone levels and the social stereotyping solidifies the roles that they are genetically made for.

This experiment was carried out to distinguish the differences between males and females on a cognitive level. The mental rotation task which tested for spatial ability exhibitied an inclination towards the males as their accuracy levels were higher than the females. However, the verbal fluency task exhibited an inclination towards the females as their accuracy levels were higher than the males. The results obatined from these two independent tests were straight forward, though both can be bettered.

The spatial task deduced that males possessed a higher spatial ability than females however the task was not closely related to real life. A true test would have been one that would have provided us with examples of real life where these abilities would have needed to be used. For example, giving the participants a set location to reach and allowing them to guide themselves there. This task would have displayed spatial ability in real life conditions. The verbal fluency task concluded that females possessed a higher vocabulary level however this task lacks in fairness in terms of language. Not every participant had english as their first language causing them difficulty within the one minute time limit. To better this limitation, perhaps next time all participants could be of same background with english as their first language.

Also since we replicated the Halari et al (2005) experiment perhaps a better imitation would have been to also carry out the hormone tests. With the tasks we performed the results suggested that men were better at spatial tasks and females at verbal fluency however we cannot generalise this statement. Thus the hormone tests may help us solidify this conclusion. This theory is proved by our experiment as well. Although our experiment did not contain hormone testing like the Halari et al, (2005) our results concluded that males have a higher spatial capacity. This ability is an indication at the warrior-like protector behaviour. Females were
concluded to have a higher verbal competency. The results we obtained from our replication of the Halari et al, (2005) helped us conclude the difference between the cognitive abilities in males and females hence proving our hypothesis correct.


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