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Education Bookcast

Aug 29, 2016

Over the past century, women have been gaining rights and prejudice against women has declined. Although many would argue that there's still a way to go, the progress is undeniable. Why, then, do men still outperform women in a number of intellectual domains?

In this episode, we look at several articles that try to answer this question for one cognitive domain in particular: chess. Chess is a good domain to test for a number of reasons:

  • There is little subjectivity or ambiguity in deciding who is a better chess player. In chess, you either win or you lose (or draw), and there's no arguing about it. This isn't the same in most other domains, such as art, literature, music, or scientific research.
  • In chess, it's what you know, not who you know. You don't need to have a professional network or be well-liked to win chess tournaments. You just have to play the game. This is different to other domains, where your career can depend on the judgements of others, and women or other groups may suffer from the effects of a "glass ceiling".
  • There is a lot of data on chess. For the top few hundred male and female chess players, we know who played who; when; at what event; what the exact moves were; and what the result was. This helps our analysis greatly.

So, why do women tend to worse in chess? Are women less interested in chess? Is there some hidden psychological bias or prejudice that is holding women back? Is it just some sort of statistical artefact? Or are men simply cleverer than women? All these theories and more are discussed in detail.

Enjoy the episode.