In Race to Get Smarter, Women Are Speedier

Study points to benefits of improved living conditions

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 29, 2014 7:06 PM CDT

(Newser) – Over the years, humankind has been getting smarter, and lately, it looks like women's brains are in the faster lane. Researchers studied data on 31,000 people from 13 European countries, with the participants born between 1923 and 1957. They found that women are ahead of men when it comes to episodic memory, or the ability to recall various material. Meanwhile, though women on average remained behind on mathematical ability, the difference was shown to be shrinking, LiveScience reports.

Both genders improved over time—researchers compared results from different age groups—but women made bigger gains, the study found. Women living in better conditions, according to GDP, mortality rate, and other factors, tended to see a boost in performance. "As living conditions increase, so do men and women’s cognitive abilities—but women’s more than men’s," says a researcher quoted at the Verge. It's possible, however, that once women have "caught up" to men, that effect will fade, she adds. Can such differences be attributed to nature or nurture? "The development of cognitive abilities is always both," an outside expert notes. (Want people to think you're smarter? Here's one easy way.)

Women are beating men in the race to get smarter, experts say.
Women are beating men in the race to get smarter, experts say.   (Shutterstock)
This undated image provided by the Fried Lab/UCLA shows a brain MRI with an arrow showing where researchers applied deep-brain stimulation during tests on learning.
This undated image provided by the Fried Lab/UCLA shows a brain MRI with an arrow showing where researchers applied deep-brain stimulation during tests on learning.   (AP Photo/UCLA, Fried Lab)
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