Intelligence-based differences in gender has always been a much debated and speculated topic in psychology. A particularly popular theory that has emerged based on modern research is the idea that different genders have different intellectual differences in specific area. Our textbook specifically sites two important studies on this subject: Benbow & Stanley 1980 and 1983.
Both these studies used the MSAT mathematics ability test to collect data about the intellectual ability of both genders in this area. However, while both publications seem to settle on the theory that males are inherent stronger in mathematical reasoning ability, there seems to be a large room for error and alternative hypotheses in the studies.
First, one of the most significant factors that could affect results is the amount of interest that individuals have in mathematics. Neither study makes an attempt to control for how much involvement subjects had with mathematics. While the researcher argues that the age range they took samples from generally had the same mathematical coursework, most higher-level math thinking comes voluntary participation in math competitions or outside-of-class interest in math. This implies that the disparity in test-taking ability in math could have instead come from environmental differences that come inherently with a different gender that causes a disparity in interest in mathematics.
Second, another problem with the study is that it took samples only from the subjects of a talent search, taking subjects who fit into the criteria. However, even if the data was reflective of mathematical ability of this specific population, it still doesn't reflect the general population of all males and females. In fact, referencing previous studies on the IQ level of men and women, men have been showing to have a wider distribution than women. This leads to higher IQ ratings on average towards the higher range, and the same such disparity in the talent search could just be an extension of IQ statistics rather than insight on the physiological differences in math ability. In fact, specific data from the experiment supports this criticism, as the research sited a higher variance in boys' test scores compared to girls.
In addition, brochures were handed out prior to the study specifically stated that boys had performed better in the past, possibly causing a skew in the data. This was also a volunteer-based study, creating potential participation bias. In fact, recent data on this same subject has showed great improvement in female statistics.
In order to make definitive claims on this subject, more research needs to be done to account for the multiple extraneous factors that exist in this area.