Saturday, December 30, 2006

I am woman, hear me empathise

I was going to post this as a comment on The Philosophy Factory, but it ended up being so long I thought I'd put it here instead.

Thanks to Mosilager of The Warrier's Kraal, I discovered this really crappy, crappy quiz on the BBC website that 'tests' whether you are male or female by giving you a bunch of IQ test-type tasks and seeing whether you do better in the language-y ones or the math-y ones. (It also doesn't seem to distinguish between sex and gender, and don't even get me started on their "Some scientists believe that..." intros.)

It seems that in the scoring section where they tell you the results, they not only have little spiels about how "men do better on this sort of task" or "women do better", they also keep track of the average scores for males and females based on people who have taken the quiz so far.

So for one task it said:

This task tested your ability to judge people's emotions.
Average score for men: 6.6 out of 10
Average score for women: 6.6 out of 10

What does your result suggest?

If you scored 0 - 3: Do you think you're good at judging how another person is feeling? Your score suggests this doesn't come to you quite so naturally.

If you scored 4 - 6: Your result suggests you have a balanced female-male brain and find it neither easy nor difficult to judge people's emotions.

If you scored 7 - 10: Your result suggests you are a good empathiser, sensitive to other people's emotions. Women generally fall into this category.

Let's be quite clear on this: Men and women both average 6.6 out of 10 on this task. And women 'generally' fall into the high-scoring category.

How does that work?

(And don't even get me started on the other questions. In case you are interested, though, it appears I am AWESOME at estimating angles of lines, mentally rotating 3D shapes and remembering the position of objects in a picture, but I totally suck at caring about people and guessing their emotions from pictures of their eyes. Nevertheless the test scores my brain as very slightly female because I find the masculine faces in a series of pictures of men more attractive than I do the ones that they have photoshopped to look like weird sexless alien hybrids, and the ratio of my index to ring fingers is greater than 1.)


LaKisha said...

Hmm, sounds like your results are exactly the same as mine. I took this a few weeks ago and found it pretty ridiculous. I was going to give it to my students, but I don't think it has any educational value at all. I scored higher than the "average" man on everything. But because I am attracted to "masculine" faces (however they define that because those faces all looked the same to me) I am slightly feminine! I failed the eye test too.

Mosilager said...

Did you notice how they mentioned Baron-Cohen in almost every test? I was laughing about Borat or Ali G being cited as an authority. Turns out it's Sascha Baron Cohen's brother who's a scientist.

I and 2 others who did the test were also attracted to masculine faces.

The scary part is that according to the bbc article psychologists give these tests to people and learn something significant about them.

Bella Sultane said...

I took the quiz a few weeks ago, too. My scores were also higher than the average man... I thought that their interpretation and framing of the results were really silly. I can't believe that they have the nerve to frame it as a way to tell people whether they are 'male' or 'female.' Gag.

Lucy said...

Weird, I came out exactly on the male average, but it sounds like I have similar scores to you.
I've read a detailed debunking of the "women use more words and take longer to finish IM conversations" study that they used as evidence, too, including the fact that there were only 2 men in the sample.
Also, I typed "sad" as a synonym for happy, to see whether it actually had any bearing on my score, but apparently it just counts anything you type regardless of meaning.
I just went back and redid the test with women's faces and I definitely have a general preference for non-sexless alien faces, because my preference switched from masculine to feminine faces.

StyleyGeek said...

Lucy, I did the same things! I also typed non-synonyms on the synonym bit and redid the test with women's faces. We should get extra points for that, I think. But I don't know if they'd be male or female points :)

Helen said...

I took that "test", just to see what they put in it. As I suspected, it turned out to be entirely crappy pseudoscience.

But then, I've come to accept that the BBC is a vast weltering fountain of crappy pseudoscience. I can't believe some of the garbage they've "reported".

geekman said...

I find their website (, choose "international version") is pretty good, provided you avoid the column on the right entitled "Also in the news". Oh, and the "Most emailed stories" section. Those two places are where all the Elvis had my baby stories hang out.

Mind you, those are the sections that Styleygeek reads religiously...