Mid­dle-aged women are smarter if…

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

MID­DLE-AGED women are smarter if they live in gen­derequal so­ci­eties, a new study has found.

Af­ter notic­ing that scores on cog­ni­tive tests var­ied widely, with, for ex­am­ple, women in north­ern Europe out­per­form­ing men in mem­ory tests and the op­po­site be­ing true in the con­ti­nent’s south­ern coun­tries, re­searchers set out to dis­cover why.

So the team, which in­cluded mem­bers from the Nor­we­gian In­sti­tute of Pub­lic Health and Amer­ica’s pres­ti­gious Columbia Univer­sity, an­a­lysed the re­sults of cog­ni­tive tests of fe­male par­tic­i­pants between the ages of 50 and 93 from sur­veys pro­vided by a to­tal of 27 coun­tries. To gauge at­ti­tudes to­wards gen­der roles, they also fo­cused on par­tic­i­pants’ agree­ment with the state­ment: “When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women.”

Pub­lish­ing their find­ings in Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence, the au­thors sug­gested that women liv­ing in so­ci­eties with tra­di­tional at­ti­tudes about gen­der roles have less op­por­tu­ni­ties for ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment, which there­fore af­fected their cog­ni­tive per­for­mance in later life. Swe­den, which has less tra­di­tional at­ti­tudes to­wards gen­der, was the coun­try where most women out­per­formed men, whereas men’s ad­van­tage in cog­ni­tive per­for­mance was high­est in Ghana, a so­ci­ety which is less gen­der-equal, the team said.

As coun­tries be­came more gen­der-equal over time, women’s cog­ni­tive per­for­mance im­proved rel­a­tive to men’s, they added. “Th­ese find­ings re­in­force the need for poli­cies aim­ing at re­duc­ing gen­der in­equal­i­ties as we show that con­se­quences go beyond the labour mar­ket and in­come in­equal­i­ties,” they said. “It also shows how im­por­tant it is to con­sider seem­ingly in­tan­gi­ble in­flu­ences, such as cul­tural at­ti­tudes and val­ues, when try­ing to un­der­stand cog­ni­tive age­ing.”

They con­cluded that the age­ing of the global pop­u­la­tion raised the im­por­tance of un­der­stand­ing how gen­der af­fects old-age cog­ni­tion and pro­duc­tiv­ity. They found that gen­der-role at­ti­tudes were an im­por­tant fac­tor for women’s out­comes in later life and called for a re­duc­tion in gen­der in­equal­i­ties across the world. – The In­de­pen­dent

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