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Do Male Social Scientists Have "Female Brains"?

Beginning in May 2019, I ran the first iteration of a survey of university professors across the United States about their research interests, their methods, and their individual temperaments. My goal is to measure whether certain personality types tend to cluster into some disciplines more often than other fields; for example, do highly extraverted people tend to go into the social sciences at a higher rate than into the natural sciences? This survey was the pilot test of one an updated version I will run again this year.

The second half of the survey asked 59 questions that measured traits of neuroticism, moral intuitions, and systemizing quotients (SQ) and empathizing quotients (EQ). This article compares the SQ and EQ between 17 social scientists and 17 natural scientists in that survey. The SQ and EQ scales were developed by Sacha Baron-Cohen’s brother, Simon. Dr. Baron-Cohen uses these scales as part of his research on the “extreme male brain” theory of autism. The theory comes from the observations of data that male brains are much more “front-to-back” connected and female brains are more bilaterally connected, accounting for a whole myriad of facts including why female children learn language sooner than males and why males more easily grasp mechanical reasoning or “intuitive physics”.

Baron-Cohen’s research discovered that both male and female children with autism have brains with an exaggerated male profile, leading them to score lower in EQ and higher in SQ. I repurposed these scales in my study to find if there were similar discrepancies between professors in the social sciences and natural sciences. My original hunch was that both fields would have relatively equal SQ scores (because scientists in general are more systematic than the average of the population). I figured the key difference between the two would be that social scientists have above average EQs and that would explain why they are more interested in going into fields studying people. It turns out the reverse was true. Both groups had similar EQ scores and social scientists had significantly below average SQ scores. Natural scientists were relatively balanced with their SQ and EQ being roughly equal.

It's not merely that these results were unexpected, but after accounting for sex differences, my data shows that social scientists have a similar discrepancy between their EQ and SQ scores as people diagnosed with autism, but in the opposite direction. Here is a breakdown of the scores. . . .

[If you would like to support my independent research, click through the paywall to see my results and more about my plans for future research.]

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