A role for the X chromosome in sex differences in variability in general intelligence?

W. Johnson, A. Carothers, I. J. Deary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

There is substantial evidence that males are more variable than females in general intelligence. In recent years, researchers have presented this as a reason that, although there is little, if any, mean sex difference in general intelligence, males tend to be overrepresented at both ends of its overall distribution. Part of the explanation could be the presence of genes on the X chromosome related both to syndromal disorders involving mental retardation and to population variation in general intelligence occurring normally. Genes on the X chromosome appear overrepresented among genes with known involvement in mental retardation, which is consistent with a model we developed of the population distribution of general intelligence as a mixture of two normal distributions. Using this model, we explored the expected ratios of males to females at various points in the distribution and estimated the proportion of variance in general intelligence potentially due to genes on the X chromosome. These estimates provide clues to the extent to which biologically based sex differences could be manifested in the environment as sex differences in displayed intellectual abilities. We discuss these observations in the context of sex differences in specific cognitive abilities and evolutionary theories of sexual selection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)598-611
Number of pages14
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


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