The first systematic tests to explore sex differences were conducted in 1882 by Francis Gatton at the South Kensington Museum in London. He purported to have identified significant sex differences favouring men in strength of grip, sensitivity to shrill whistle sounds, and ability to work under pressure. Women were observed to be more sensitive to pain.
Ten years later in the United States, studies discovered that women could hear better than men, had a more conventional vocabulary, and preferred blue to red. Men preferred red to blue, used a more adventurous vocabulary, and had a preference for abstract and general thought, while women preferred practical problems, and individual tasks.
Havelock Ellis’s Man and Woman, published in 1894, aroused immediate interest and ran into eight editions. Among the differences he chronicled were women’s superiority over men in memory, cunning, dissimulation, compassion, patience, and tidiness. The work of female scientists was found to be more precise than that of men, but “perhaps a little lacking in breadth and initiative, though admirable within a limited range”.
Ellis found that women disliked the essentially intellectual process of analysis – “They have the instinctive feeling that analysis may possibly destroy the emotional complexes by which they are largely moved and which appeal to them”.
These observation would have remained mere curiosities of scholarship, were it not for the development, beginning in the 1960, of new scientific research into the brain. Paradoxically interest in these differences grew out of an original scientific motive to suppress them. The problem arose from IQ tests. Researchers noticed consistent differences favouring one sex over the other in some of the abilities tested.
Sex differences stubbornly emerged, like recalcitrant dandelions in a chemically treated lawn. Wechsler even came to the conclusion from a series of sub-test that it might be possible to demonstrate a measurable superiority of women over men in generally intelligence.
On the other hand, out of 105 tests assessing skills in solving maze-puzzles, involving the most heterogeneous population throughout the world, ranging from the most primitive t the most highly civilised, 99 showed an incontrovertible male superiority .
Perhaps the safest and least controversial male synthesis of these findings would have been that girls are too intelligent to bother with anything as silly as a maze-puzzle test.
Preoccupied with finding sex-neutral IQ techniques, Wechsler regarded the evidence that the sexes were different as a mere nuisance. Rather as Columbus might have regarded his discovery of America as something of an irrelevance, since, after all, he was looking for the East Indies.
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