The new science of cognitive sex differences

Trends Cogn Sci. 2014 Jan;18(1):37-45. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2013.10.011. Epub 2013 Nov 16.


Surprising new findings indicate that many conclusions about sex differences and similarities in cognitive abilities need to be reexamined. Cognitive sex differences are changing, decreasing for some tasks whereas remaining stable or increasing for other tasks. Some sex differences are detected in infancy, but the data are complex and depend on task characteristics. Diverse disciplines have revolutionized our understanding of why these differences exist. For instance, fraternal-twin studies align with earlier literature to help establish the role of prenatal androgens and large international datasets help explain how cultural factors such as economic prosperity and gender equity affect females and males differently. Understanding how biological and environmental factors interact could help maximize cognitive potential and address pressing societal issues.

Keywords: cognitive abilities; culture; education; hormones; sex differences; stereotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Culture*
  • Female
  • Hormones / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics*


  • Hormones