TOP OF THE TREE

It is often true that men believe they are smarter than women. They tend to think they are the cleverest amongst their peers – whether that is true or not. In the first study of its kind, researchers found that men were far more likely than women to rate themselves above others in intelligence. Even when a male and female are just as bright as each other, the man is likely to say he is cleverer than two-thirds of the class, while the average woman believes she is better than just half of her classmates.

The study surveyed 250 students in a university biology class. The findings suggest women underestimate their abilities. Researchers at Arizona State University asked the students to estimate their own intelligence compared to everyone in the class, and to the student they worked with most. When comparing females male students, both with the same grades, thought they are cleverer than 66% of the class, while females thought them smarter than only 54%. Additionally, men were 3.2 times more likely to say they were cleverer than the student they usually worked with.

This matters, the researchers say, because people who think they are less bright participate less in class, which may damage their own learning. Senior author Dr Sara Brownel said: ‘When students are working together they are going to be comparing themselves more to each other. This study shows that women are disproportionately thinking that they are not as good as other students.’

Lead author Caitlyn Cooper, a doctoral student, was inspired to ask the sexes how they perceived their own intelligence after working as an academic advisor. She said: ‘Over and over again, women would tell me they were afraid other students thought they were “stupid”. I never heard this from the men in those same biology classes.’

The study, published in the journal Advances in Physiology Education, found almost one in ten students rated people who took a leadership role as being intelligent. Previous evidence has showed men are likely to do this.

The research findings do not surprise me in the least. Men tend to be more bombastic than women. I believe this is in their nature, and possibly as a result of grooming by their parents.

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