women underestimate smarts while men overestimate

There’s been some psychological studies on men and women looking at estimated as opposed to measured intelligence.  While there was a really controversial study out of Canada last year saying men had higher average intelligence, more far-reaching studies actually estimate that on the average men and women are equal over the population as a whole, though men have more outliers (people on the top and bottom of the intelligence scale).

Men definitely have more confidence, which is not the same as higher intelligence. “The intellectual difference between the sexes is all in the mind, according to a leading psychologist who claims that men overstate how clever they are whereas woman underplay their intelligence,” (Highfield, Telegraph)  Professor Adrian Furnham in London calls this male hubris and female humility.

I think of this when i look at many of my friends and their struggles at work to be taken seriously.  If women are always so humble, or at least excel in downplaying their own intelligence, then it is going to be difficult to promote skills that rely on intelligence.

In Furnham’s research there’s also some data from another study on people’s views of former generations, and in Japan, the US, and the UK, finding grandfathers and fathers generally more intelligent than grandmothers and mothers, though when broken down this is numerical intelligence, rather than verbal intelligence (from journal Intelligence).

This is a widespread assumption, extending over both generations and cultures… so is this just a trait of world culture that we share?  Is there some deeper significance to underestimating the intelligence of women on the whole?  I suppose it’s helpful in maintaining current societal structures to assume men are more intelligent, but that doesn’t mean the current social structure is ideal or good. I know we work on women’s equality issues, and women have made their way into more positions of power… but to play the other side for a moment… is there some kind of hidden benefit from this system?  On a purely selfish level, i get to be more lazy if others underestimate me, or i get to take them by surprise. If I continually underestimate myself, then am I less likely to suffer disappointment?

Should the estimation of one’s intelligence be spot on?  It may be that by overestimating my abilities that I may actually be driven to push myself more.  I underestimate myself quite a bit of the time, but often i feel it makes me less arrogant and easier to be around than if i did otherwise.

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