Can Boys Beat Girls in Reading?

Saturday, May 7th, 2016

Boys outscored girls on reading tests — when they were told the tests were a game:

The latest study, in France, involved 80 children, 48 boys and 30 girls age 9 years old on average, from four third-grade classes at three schools. All classes received a silent reading test that required students to underline as many animal names as possible in three minutes from a list of 486 words (animal names comprised half the list). Two classes were told the test was an evaluation of their reading abilities, and two were told it was a new animal fishing game designed for a fun magazine.

In classes given reading evaluations, boys made an average of 33.3 correct answers compared with 43.3 by the girls. But when the tests were framed as animal games, boys’ average scores were significantly higher: 44.7 compared with 38.3 for the girls.

It looks like the boys’ performance improved and the girls’ performance declined when they said it was a game?


  1. Baduin says:

    See Competitiveness is profoundly sex-differential, consistent with its being biologically based and within-, not between-sex, Moxon SP (2015) New Male Studies 4(2) 39-51:

    To list and more precisely state and slightly expand major factors and their impact that should be expected in inter-sexual ostensibly competition scenarios:

    * Competition that is psychologically salient as such (both implicitly and explicitly) is not inter-, but only intra-sexual, in line with dominance behaviour across the animal kingdom. Boys/men readily compete with other boys/men; girls/women (though less so, and more restrictedly) other girls/women. If the sexes are placed obligatorily against each other in a competitive scenario, then, in this de facto competition, any element of competitiveness per se would be expected to be weak, owing to the absence of a salient opponent per se. Any apparent competition would be comprised of other phenomena.

    * For males, competition per se is highly sex-appropriate, in that males compete with each other to establish dominance rank (status) as a principal mechanism to reveal the extent to which each individual male possesses ‘good genes’, which is the criterion of mate-value by which males are sexually selected by females. There is nothing corresponding for females, whose mate-value is in terms of their fertility (indicated by youthfulness and ‘beauty’), over which there is far less scope for competition. Indeed, competitiveness per se is inimical to female sexual display, unless of a certain narrow form. Consequently, in an intra-sexual competition scenario, males are likely to perform well and/or to choose a ‘competition’ option, whereas females are likely to back off from performing well and/or from choosing a ‘competition’ option.

    * When the sex of an obligatory-competition opponent is salient, and the opponent is opposite-sex, then instead of competition there is more likely to be sexual display, and this is likely to be mutual. In other words, there is ostensible continuation of competitiveness when actually it is male sexual display with female reciprocation to facilitate it.

    * By way of sexual display, males are likely to utilise the male-appropriateness of competitive behaviour (just as across the animal kingdom dominance signalling has been co-opted for a courtship function), and therefore may well increase their performance and/or more frequently choose a ‘competition’ option (in comparison to an intra-sexual scenario) – at least if the competition scenario is male sex-typical – even though the behaviour is not competitiveness with the female per se.

    * Females in a cross-sex competition scenario correspondingly are likely to reduce performance and/or avoid a ‘competition’ option in favour of adopting body poses and demeanour that effectively display their femininity better than does the physical activity or pugnaciousness involved in competition.

    * Rendering salient not just the sex (‘gender’) but competition per se – to a large degree, perhaps so that it becomes explicit rather than just implicit cognition – is likely to undermine male utilisation of competition performance as sexual display (an intuitive ‘chivalry’ stemming from evolved deference – signalled non-engagement in dominance behaviour); and in consequence males are then likely to reduce performance and/or avoid choosing a competition option. No such phenomenon is likely to be evident in female behaviour. On the contrary, females in same-sex grouping – especially if membership is freely chosen (as in the formation naturally of female ‘personal network’) – are likely to respond to being primed with a male out-group to up their performance through within-group co-operation. These effects are likely to be misconstrued as female inter-sexual competitiveness, despite being merely ostensible and not real.

    * The sex-appropriateness or typicality of a competition task and/or context may be crucial; possibly even to the extent of males backing away from competition and reducing their performance in an extreme female-appropriate/typical task/context; whilst being more eager to engage in competition and increasing their performance in a male-appropriate/typical task/context. Backing-away is the standard female behaviour here and even in female sex-appropriate/ sex-typical tasks/contexts females usually do not improve in performance; merely not performing worse.

    * In some forms of competition settings, female conscientiousness – a trait that research reveals to be more typically female than male – is not unlikely to be mistaken for competitiveness. This would make the sex difference in competitiveness considerably wider than what may be apparent.

    * The identification of these biologically-based factors foundational to social structure and dynamics should prompt the jettison of the usual orientation in behavioural economics of ‘gender’-sociology and competition only in respect of goods. Yet there seems not to be even an elementary awareness amongst behavioural economists (and work psychologists) not only of biological factors but also any philosophical or scientific understanding of the general relationship whereby biology subsumes culture.

Leave a Reply