Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Differences Between Men and Women

Is there a difference between men and women in chess playing ability? Why is it that there are fewer women grandmasters today than men? Writing in the Journal of Psychological Science, researchers Christopher F. Chabris and Mark E. Glickman examined USCF match and player data spanning 13 years - from 1992 to 2004 - to address exactly these questions. The researchers came to some interesting observation including this one:

Finally, we addressed the participation-rate hypothesis. If in the general population the number of boys who play chess is substantially larger than the number of girls, the best ones ultimately becoming USCF members and playing competitively, then it follows statistically that the average boys' ratings will be higher than the average girls' ratings (among competitive players) even if the distribution of abilities in the general population is the same (Charness & Gerchak, 1996; Glickman & Chabris, 1996). In fact, far fewer girls than boys enter competitive chess, which suggests that the general population of chess-playing girls is much smaller than that of boys. External factors like the relative lack of female role models among the world's top players and the prospect of playing a game dominated by boys may be discouraging to girls (or their parents), either directly reducing their likelihood of learning how to play in the first place or indirectly reducing their initial performance in competitive play via test anxiety or stereotype threat (Steele, 1997). Thus, it is possible that, on average, girls have the chess-relevant cognitive abilities, but the larger number of boys playing chess leads to significantly higher male ratings in the USCF population.

Jake Young of the Pure Pedantry blog has a nice and succinct summary of the report.

11 comments:

Matthew Sweeney said...

The next question: Why is there a lower participation rate for women???

Just quietly, I used to think women would/could *perform* equaly with men. It is nice to see my gut feeling confirmed - "gut feelings" are so often wrong because we confuse them with hoping.

However, while women and men can *perform* equaly, I have previously proposed that the *way* that they produce that equal perform may be different. I concider chess to be a battle against two opponents, being against them and yourself. As such, perhaps women and men battle each of these opponents better/worse than the other?

Anonymous said...

well duh - did we need a report to tell us that if you have 2% participation rates then the no of women left to scale the heights is going to be insignificant.

I started a girls only chess club in canberra in 1996 and that and other girls only programs have made the ACT a hotbed of female participation, relative to the rest of Australia. Even so we can't get our particpation rates up to anything approaching decent rates.

Most girls just don't like the chess environment and once they get to high school they like it even less.

Chess girls are normally talented musicians as well and the music environment gives them much more recognition and is a more social environment to be in.

Where chess retains girls, it is usually because those girls have made friends and want to see them again.

e..g I had 5 girls staying with me for the Girls Masters and most of them again for Ergas. Those girls now have a bond and actively want to play in comps and meet up again.

For most women the chess environment is unfriendly and alien, so why would you want to be there?

Jenni

Anonymous said...

Now Jenni, what do you expect the chess environment to be, all softy softy touchy touchy - can I borrow your lipstick, aw gee you are showing a nice midriff.

Over the board we are trained to trick, gut, dismember and kill, with looks that can kill. As well to know every trick in the book to gain advantage, distract the opposition and even play on after our flag has fallen hoping to kill before that see our time is us.

And women have even known to wear low cut dresses to distract the male - typical devious female behaviour. That is aimed at also putting off lesbian opposition.

Bye, and I still love youse all and just stirring as usual. The Anti-Christ (PS - has Bonbon admitted to waving his knickers to get Shaun's attention?)

Tom Chivers said...

Matthew - JH Donner nailed why women don't play chess back in the 1970s, after asking:

"what is so deeply objectionable in the game of chess that women, the crown of creation, are incapable of playing it well?"

Simply that, Donner writes, "games are the opposite of human contact."

Carrying on:

"During their game, chess players are 'incommunicado'; they are imprisoned. What is going on in their heads is narcissistic self-gratification with a minimum of objective reality, a worldess sniffing and grabbing in a bottomless pit. Women do not like that, and who is to blame them?"

Matthew Sweeney said...

Tom, I tend to agree with the idea that the OTB experiance is combative and non-social. However, women can (must!) be combative - they compete socially. Consequetially, I appreciate how women generally give chess a miss in favor of other subtle pecking order machinations.

My question is: Do men and women win/lose by using a different psychological balance between self control and techical control.

Tom Chivers said...

Indeed that is an interesting question, the answer to which I have no clue - nor your related 3rd paragraph speculation above - I'm afraid.

Edukator said...

The chess club at my school (I teach at a middle school) was only able to garner one girl out of the 15 members...but she is there religiously.

I wonder love ideas to get more girls to play. In my classroom many will play when they finish work early but that is about the extent of it.

I do notice however, that a few girls pretend to know nothing about the sport and I'm quite sure they are attemptiong to look "cool" (for lack of a better word) by dumbing themselves down. My guess is that next year the sponsor (hopefully me) will take more of a leadership role in attracting girls...knowing that once I have a few there will be many more.

The key is not to do it and risk alienating boys in some way (so you won't find a pink squared board or something...LOL...clearly I'm joking).

Anonymous said...

For most women the chess environment is unfriendly and alien, so why would you want to be there?

I agree with this.. why is that so?

Anonymous said...

And women have even known to wear low cut dresses to distract the male - typical devious female behaviour. That is aimed at also putting off lesbian opposition.


What lesbians are there in chess? Do you know any?

Jim Flood said...

You may be interested to read the article in today's (2 February 2007) Australian Financial Review's liftout " What goes to make the brain of an expert." (pages 4,5 and 12).

Article is too long to quote in its entirety but is heavily focused on chess and indirectly references females ability to play this sport.

To give you a flavour of the subject, the first few paragraphs are:

"A man walks along the inside of a circle of chess tables, glancing at each for two or three seconds before making his move. On the outer rim, dozens of amateurs sit pondering their replies until he completesthe4 circuit. The year is 1909, the man is Jose Raul Capablanca of Cuba, and the result is a whitewash: 28 wins in as many games. The exhibition was part of a tour in which Capablanca won 168 games in a row.

How did he play so well, so quickly? And how far ahead could he calculate under such constraints? "I see only one move ahead," Capablanca is said to have answered, "but it is always the correct one."

He thus put in a nutshell what a century of psychological research has subsequentially established: Much of the chess master's advantage over the novice derives from the first few seconds of thought."

The article later infers that both males and females have equal capabilities in this regard.

Cheers

The Closet Grandmaster said...

Thanks "Jim". But the article has already appeared in various blogs as well as on Chessbase.

You can, in fact, read the whole freebie article here.