Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sex and personality

I scanned pages 128 and 129 from Sex Differences in Antisocial Behavior by Terrie Moffitt et al. Over 900 males and females aged 18 completed the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ), and the researchers correlated various dimensions of personality with a measure of antisocial behavior. As you can see for both sexes, a willingness to take advantage of others and cause them discomfort (Aggression) was most predictive of the list of measures. The sex differences in these predictors explain over 90% of the sex difference in antisociality. Keep in mind that research shows sizable heritabilities for many of these traits.

But I was most interested in two other items. First, see how traditional/conservative folks are less likely to be criminal. Second, look at the sex differences in personality. Let's list the differences from largest to smallest in terms of standard deviations:

Female advantage

Harm avoidance .72
Social closeness .43
Prone to over-react .41
Self-control .34
Traditionalism .21

Male advantage

Aggression .87
Suspicious/persecuted .32
Achievment .22

Women are more cautious, controlled social, sensitive, and in need of a predictable environment. Men are more willing to take advantage of others; they are more likely to feel mistreated; and they are more achievement-oriented.

These findings square with my perception of the sexes: Women are the good sex; men are the interesting sex. Women seem like social anchors, but most of the interesting people I know or read about are men. Some of them are good people, and some are bad.

We can see a similar pattern with the major races, but IQ is important as well as personality. Asians are a smart and good race, but since they have a feminine personality, they are less interesting. Blacks are the "male" race and are thus interesting, but whites are smart and less feminine than Asians, and so arguably have produced the greatest number of interesting people.


  1. I don't know how questionairres cannot fall victim to the placebo effect. If I want to look like a sociopath on the test, then I can easily do so.

    But I can't take an IQ test and do well just because I want to.

    So unless the questionairres involves scenarios that are complex or difficult to decipher, then these results simply tell us that women and men see themselves the way that you see them, nothing more.

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  3. Wow. I think your blog is great, but sometimes I come across things on it that really bother me. Like the last paragraph of this post.

    Sex-based behavioral differences I can understand. Gender is the biggest phenotype difference.

    But to say Asians have feminine personalities, are "smart and good"...blacks are the most male...come on. I know the data you're using to come to these conclusions—neotonic traits, levels of hormones, etc, but the generalizations here are just too overarching and downright offensive. Where's the data for these claims? It sounds like doctrine to me...


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