The Interpretation of Sex Differences in Social Behavior
Before exploring the theoretical implications of the sex differences reported in quantitative reviews, let us consider the magnitude or size of sex differences. To what extent can sex-difference findings be considered small or large? In this book, labels such as small and large have only occasionally been used to describe magnitude. Such terms were avoided because arriving at such interpretations of sex differences -- whether these differences are expressed in terms of effect sizes or some other metric -- is a matter that demands careful analysis. Judgments about size should not be delivered upon the mere inspection of a sex difference expressed in a particular metric, because meaningful judgments should take into account other known research findings, aspects of research methods, and, if possible, the evaluation of the behavior in the society.
Interpretations of the magnitude of the aggregated sex differences (mean effect sizes) produced by meta-analytic reviews have often been proposed. However, before interpreting aggregated differences, investigators should recall that, as explained in Chapter 1, whether overall sex differences warrant emphasis at all depends on their consistency across studies: Extremely inconsistent findings should be described primarily in terms of interacting conditions that account for the inconsistencies. In addition, interpretations of magnitude are sometimes given to the sex differences reported in individual studies. Yet deciding how large individual findings are involves largely the same issues as deciding how large aggregated findings are. Therefore, this discussion pertains to judging the magnitude of both individual and aggregated findings.