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January 28, 2005

Could Ms. Kiesling Please Provide an Answer?

Following on (again) from the Larry Summers thing Stumbling and Mumbling asks an interesting question. Having found that researchers can show that women really are (on average....always remember that variations in such talents within groups are greater than between group averages) worse at reading maps he asks:

The thing is, maps are a lot like economic models – whether they come in graphs, maths or just words. They are highly abstract things that often bear little resemblance to real-world conditions but they can (sometimes) help us find our way around.

Could it be therefore that difficulties in understanding economic models and in reading maps are related?

A simple test would illuminate this. Is it the case that women economists are better at map-reading than women generally?

So, could Ms. Kiesling at Knowledge Problem drop us a line and let us know?

Update, Ms. Kiesling does indeed provide an answer. And one in which this one datum is supporting S&M’s hypothesis:

Here's my answer: I have above-average map-reading skills, and above-averge spatial skills in general; in fact, if I recall from the last time I did anything formal about it I am at least a standard deviation above the mean. So that correlation between economist skills and map-reading skills is consistent with S&M's hypothesis.

Rather to my chagrin the Professor also manages to clear up why I am a lousy economist (yes, I know I write about it a lot but it is always what other people have found out, me just parroting along) :

So here's my alternate hypothesis: map-reading skills are correlated with spatial and visual skills. Economists are more likely to posses these skills because of our use of both visual and mathematical tools. But it's the visual/spatial, not the mathematical, part of the skill set that is the source of the correlation.

I am absoutely terrible at any form of spatial or visual anything, have to find the same ideas or points laid out in words before I get them. The visual arts leave me entirely cold, those IQ tests where you recognise the pattern or choose the next diagram imply that my IQ is somewhere between that of a gnat and a socialist (cue inevitable jokes here), I have more than once (when sober) bumped into things I though I was yards away from and, perhaps as an example of the fact that I am fully in touch with my feminine side, have terrible difficulty with parallel parking. Not really sure what to do about this, perhaps I am supposed to be writing unrhymed  poetry about love, teddy bears and fluffy clouds instead??

January 28, 2005 in Weblogs | Permalink


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Lynne Kiesling I woke up this morning to an email from Tim Worstall, who asked me the following question: how's your map reading? Stumbling and Mumbling inspires his question by linking to research showing that women have poorer map-reading skills... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 28, 2005 2:57:25 PM

» Is Economics a Naturally Male Thing? from Vivre La Difference
Brian Caplan at Econlog looks at the different attitudes towards one of the basic ideas in economics (free trade good) between men and women. He’s done some previous academic research into the subject and there’s a new paper that slightly modifies his ... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 10, 2006 12:17:16 PM

» Where Are The Women? from Vivre La Différence
No, thats not the line from Blazing Saddles. Rather, thats Christine Bowers asking, over at the PSD World Bank blog, where are all the women blogging on economics? That women might have more interesting things to do than blog on economics... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 11, 2006 5:14:36 PM


So women (generally) can't read maps, so they also can't read economic models? Kind of explains Silly Toynbat, n'est-ce pas?

Tim adds: Hadn’t thought about it that way....Zoe Williams, Madeleine Bunting...yes, it works. You always got the impression that Maggie would hold a map the right way up didn’t you?

Posted by: Weasel Bearder | Jan 28, 2005 3:05:42 PM

Inevitable jokes:-
1) You can't be between a gnat and a socialist;
there is no space.
2) Scot gnats are socialists.
3) All gnats are socialists but not all socialists are gnats: some are drongos.
4) The gnatsocialists ruled Germany from 1933-1945.
5)Peter Mandelson is a Gnatty Socialist.
6)I am gnat a Socialist said John Kerry in a Boston accent.
7) Socialists can't solve gnatty problems.

Posted by: dearieme | Jan 28, 2005 3:50:30 PM

Maps are not always so abstract and ethereal. When travelling across Nevada on Hwy 50 you can look down at your map and see a bend in the road up ahead, and when you look way-way-way up the road and see that exact same bend it's not so inexact or abstract as their rhetoric insists.

Posted by: -keith in mtn. view | Jan 28, 2005 7:35:20 PM

Transporting passengers under 20 years of age at any time

Posted by: driverseducation | Apr 20, 2009 4:03:20 PM