UCL News


Women tend towards modesty in self-estimates of intelligence

20 April 2009


The British Psychological Society wiley.com/doi/10.1348/000712608X357876/full" target="_self">Article in the British Journal of PsychologyProfessor Adrian Furnham

A recent UCL study by Professor Adrian Furnham (UCL Psychology) demonstrates that men show off a boastful nature while women maintain their modesty, when estimating their intelligence.

The worldwide study, published in the current issue of the British Journal of Psychology, investigates the self-rated levels of intelligence of 2,006 people across 12 countries.

The largest difference in self-rate intelligence was found in France, where men rated their intelligence on average 15 IQ points higher than the women did: such augmentations were found across eight out of the ten estimates of intelligence. The second largest difference was in the British sample with males rating their intelligence on average 10 IQ points higher than the women did.

Professor Furnham, working with two researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London, asked people to place themselves on a scale of general intelligence ranging from 55 to 145 IQ points. The 687 men and 1,319 women from Australia, Austria, Brazil, France, Iran, Israel, Malaysia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the US, were also asked to rate themselves on seven specific intelligences including verbal, logical, interpersonal, musical, spatial, and their emotional intelligence.

The researchers asked the participants to estimate their own IQ, rather than measure the participants' actual intelligence. The team found a consistent difference in how intelligent men and women believe themselves to be; with men giving themselves significantly higher levels of intelligence in all 12 countries. Male participants awarded themselves higher scores in spatial and logical reasoning, as well as verbal ability.

These results to do not reflect any actually differences between men and women's levels of intelligence nor can they be accounted for by national cultures. Rather, the study shows that men are prone to overestimate their levels of intelligence while women are more modest, and even underestimate their own intelligence.


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'Gender differences in self-assessed abilities: Are men brighter or simply more confident?', a Lunch hour Lecture by Professor Furnham, can be viewed online.