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Saturday, September 07, 2013

Parallel Parking - It's Not Her Fault She Can't Do It

Men like to rub it in that a large number of women have difficulty parallel parking. Actually, it's not their fault. In IQ testing, women tend to do more poorly at spacial-perception and mental rotation tasks in 3 dimensions (Linn and Peterson, 1985) .  It's a biological thing. Men naturally do better at mentally perceiving paths through three dimensional space. God apparently meant for us to be adapt to different roles we would have to assume by giving us different skill sets or at least the ability to develop those skill sets.

Visual-spacial perception is just one type of intelligence at which some people do better than others. Mentally calculating the path your car will take to arrive in a spot between two other cars is something that draws on that brand of intelligence. It's useful in sports, engineering, driving, hunting or any human activity that requires planning how you or something you are manipulating will move through 3 dimensional space.

The increasingly slim male dominance in this area might be a result of some element of natural selection dating back to when men were the hunters of the tribes. If you didn't have very good visual-spacial intelligence, you would have trouble aiming a spear or arrow and hitting your target. You'd be a lousy hunter and no woman would want to marry you because you couldn't put enough meat on the table to feed the kids. So over time, guys with good aim did better at winning mates, feeding their children and passing on their genes to the next generation.

Women on the other hand blow men out of the water at social-perception - reading social situations, interpreting nonverbal cues, etc.. And why not?  For all those millenia they had to run things back in the village while the menfolk were out stalking wild game. Their ability to read body language and intonation helped in managing social interaction between families within the villages and with raising children who are pretty much only able to communicate through nonverbal means for most of their first two years. It's why my wife could hear a baby cry and know exactly what it wanted, while I had to wait till they were 2 or 3 years old and could tell me in plain English. It's why I have to count on her to stick an elbow in my ribs when I'm being awkward in social situations.  It requires acute social perception to manage interactions between groups of women and children.  I know.  I managed a day care center with over a hundred kids and 26 female employees. I finally hired a couple of males to work the after school program so I'd have someone who worked for me who would tell me what they wanted and not expect me to guess. Like spacial perception, social perception developed more strongly in women because that ability made them more successful mothers, wives and family management specialists.

Women also have developed generally better verbal skills which could explain why they talk so much and why many men talk so little. If we were talkative, we'd have spooked the game!

So how about let's ease of on the parallel parking jokes? Remember, you can't read a 3 month old's mind and she probably can.

Now that's a real trick.

© by Tom King

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