The Meanings of Difference

Mary Crawford and Roger Chaffin

in Gender Differences in Human Cognition

Published in print January 1997 | ISBN: 9780195112917
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199846900 | DOI:

Series: Counterpoints: Cognition, Memory, and Language

The Meanings of Difference

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This chapter describes the consequences of a sex-difference approach, then focuses to a new perspective that conceives of gender as a social system that organizes relations of status and power. The gender system works to produce and maintain itself at three levels: sociocultural, interactional, and individual. The sex-difference approach exclusively stresses the individual level and, by obscuring the other levels of the system, contributes to the maintenance of the system itself. Instead, the gender-system framework is used to explain how situation and context give rise to “sex differences in ability.” In general, the most interesting questions in the area of gender and cognition are not about “sex differences in ability,” but about how difference is produced and justified as part of a gendered social order. The research on mathematical and spatial abilities is shown in order to illustrate how gender-related effects upon cognitive performance are systemically produced.

Keywords: sex differences in ability; gendered social order; mathematical ability; spatial ability

Chapter.  21764 words. 

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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