07 Dec 2018

Scientists have discovered that men are smarter than women? Spoiler: no

Ukrainian website Korrespondent.net claims that a new study proves women are more stupid than men. 

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Olena Churanova NewsMavens, Europe
Scientists have discovered that men are smarter than women? Spoiler: no - NewsMavens
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“‘Women are dumber than men -- say scientists”

This was the headline of a story on the website Korrespondent.net and the story followed it up with claims such as:

“Experts have proved that men are more inclined to solve complex tasks, while the emotionality of women helps them make the right decisions. (...) Women are prone to emotional evaluation, which is why they make wrong decisions in 75% of cases. The study has shown that daily stress and emotional “instability” interfere with the efficient functioning of women’s brains.”

They also added in the article that “male brains are much better at coping with complex tasks than female brains”, and that “men are mostly “stingy” about their emotions, which allows them to succeed in the financial and IT sphere, as well as in the management of large systems. Women at the same time succeed in humanitarian and creative areas.


The journalists from korrespondent.net were writing about a real study that was conducted by scientists at the University of Cambridge with the title “Testing the Empathizing-Systemizing theory of sex differences and the Extreme Male Brain theory of autism in half a million people”.

The study is real, but the way it was presented was not.

Scientists tested and confirmed two long-standing psychological theories: the Empathizing-Systemizing theory of sex differences and the Extreme Male Brain theory of autism. The Empathizing-Systemizing theory predicts that women, on average, will score higher than men on tests of empathy (the ability to recognize what another person is thinking or feeling, and respond with an appropriate emotional reaction). At the same time, the theory also predicts that men, on average, will score higher on tests of systemizing (the drive to analyze or build rule-based systems).

The Extreme Male Brain theory also predicts that autistic people, on average, will score lower than the typical population on tests of empathy and will score the same as, if not higher than, the typical population on tests of systemizing. In conclusion, scientists identified that in the typical population, women, on average, scored higher than men on empathy, and men, on average, scored higher than women on systemizing and autistic traits. Also autistic people’s scores, on average, were “masculinized”, namely they had higher scores on systemizing and autistic traits and lower scores on empathy, compared to the typical population.

The authors themselves found it important to stress that differences observed in this study apply only to group averages, not to individuals. “They underline that these data say nothing about an individual based on their gender, autism diagnosis, or occupation. To do that would constitute stereotyping and discrimination, which the authors strongly oppose”, said the media release from the University of Cambridge.  

Dr David Greenberg, one of the authors of the study, confirmed to NewsMavens that the article distorted the study beyond recognition:

“As you can see from the materials I've shared, the interpretations by the Ukrainian article that you sent me (including the title and headlines) are categorically false,” said Dr Greenberg.

To avoid misinterpretations scientists wrote clear explanations when the study was published:

  • Autistic people do not lack empathy. The evidence suggests that it is only the first aspect of empathy – also known as “theory of mind” – that autistic people on average struggle with. As a result, autistic people are not uncaring or cruel but are simply confused by other people. They don’t tend to hurt others, rather they avoid others.
  • Autistic people are not hyper-male in general. While this study shows that autistic people, on average, have a shift towards a masculinised profile of scores on empathy and systemising tests, they are not extreme males in terms of other typical sex differences.
  • The results of study doesn't mean that all males show one profile or all females show another, as individuals may be typical or atypical for their sex. These findings are only valid at a group level, and interpreting it at an individual level is incorrect.

We also tried to reach the editorial office of Korrespondent.net, asking for their comment. Instead of any response, a few days later they removed this article from the website. The archived version of the original is still available here.


Because of inaccurate interpretation of scientific research, including some entirely made up claims, we rate this article as disinformation, fake news and pseudoscience. But also as an example of bias against women coming from biological determinism, as displayed in the conclusion that “women are stupider than men”, which the research itself has not called for in any way.


Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

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