A 150-Year-Old Explanation for Male Success Does not Hold Up

The widely held idea that men are naturally more diversified than females has been debunked by a meta-analysis of animal psychology research. It effectively debunks the final biological reason for men’s domination at the top echelons of science, industry, and politics in the process. Since Darwin’s time, biologists have assumed that male animals have a greater variety than females, which they attribute to sexual selection. 

Extrapolating from this it said that men are more likely to be at the extremes of the IQ range. Without recognizing a glass ceiling, this gives an easy explanation for male dominance in many industries.

If the higher male variation is a result of biology rather than societal sexism, it should be present in a wide range of species. Professor Michael Jennions of the Australian National University oversaw a study that looked at how animal personality evaluations varied. 

Jennions and co-authors conclude in Biological Reviews that the data simply does not support the theory. “Darwin is nearly never incorrect,” Jennions told IFLScience. Several of Darwin’s findings, which had been disputed for a century, have recently proven correct. 

However, it appears that he was mistaken in asserting in 1871 that variation in males of a species is generally greater than in females, which he ascribed to sexual selection. Since then, it has been assumed to be correct. Pre-Darwin, female animals were assumed to be more variable than male creatures.

In a statement, primary author Lauren Harrison stated, “The assumption that nature drives more variation of behavior among male than female animals is often used to explain why more males than women are deemed geniuses or go on to become CEOs.” “Most of the traits Darwin was talking about were ones that are basically exclusively displayed in males, like the peacock’s tail,” Jennions told IFLScience, “which makes it extremely hard to compare the variability.” 

Jennions and Harrison compared qualities that exist in both men and females, such as boldness, aggressiveness, and sociability, for a more accurate comparison. Hundreds of research were conducted on animal personality variation using metrics such as hiding time (boldness) or the frequency of encounters (sociability). The researchers discovered 204 studies that looked at similar features in 220 species.

Even for measures like aggressiveness, where sexual selection generally elevates the male baseline, the scientists found no indication that male animals are more variable in their personalities, contrary to their predictions. Whether they looked at mammals, fish, or invertebrates, the results were consistent.

Jennions told that humans may be the exception, but that if that is the case, “this is likely produced by distinctively human traits,” which would be cultural than biological. Havelock Ellis was the first to apply Darwin’s assertion of intelligence variety to intelligence, claiming those men’s brain sizes and hence thinking capability were more varied. 

This was a step forward from Ellis’s previous belief that males are generally more intellectual than women are. As women’s educational opportunities have expanded, this has been more difficult to sustain because most people have met enough males who are plainly not superior to anybody.

The void has been filled by Ellis’ theory. According to legend, men may win the majority of Nobel Prizes since they control both the smartest and the dumbest 1% of the population. It has nothing to do with discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Some men, who are convinced that they are not at the lower end of the scale, believe that they must be among the people, who are superior to practically all women, find the concept particularly intriguing. Jennions advises against the Naturalistic Fallacy, which equates excellent with natural, but men seeking supremacy must go beyond.