Women and ‘the philosophical personality’: evaluating whether gender differences in the Cognitive Reflection Test have significance for explaining the gender gap in Philosophy

Synthese 198 (1):139-167 (2018)
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The Cognitive Reflection Test is purported to test our inclination to overcome impulsive, intuitive thought with effortful, rational reflection. Research suggests that philosophers tend to perform better on this test than non-philosophers, and that men tend to perform better than women. Taken together, these findings could be interpreted as partially explaining the gender gap that exists in Philosophy: there are fewer women in Philosophy because women are less likely to possess the ideal ‘philosophical personality’. If this explanation for the gender gap in Philosophy is accepted, it might be seen to exonerate Philosophy departments of the need to put in place much-needed strategies for promoting gender diversity. This paper discusses a number of reasons for thinking that this would be the wrong conclusion to draw from the research. Firstly, the CRT may not track what it is claimed it tracks. Secondly, the trait tracked by the CRT may not be something that we should value in philosophers. Thirdly, even if we accept that the CRT tracks a trait that has value, this trait might be of limited importance to good philosophising. Lastly, the causal story linking the gender gap in CRT score and the gender gap in Philosophy is likely to be far more complex than this explanation implies.



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Christina Elizabeth Easton
University of Warwick

References found in this work

What do philosophers believe?David Bourget & David J. Chalmers - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 170 (3):465-500.
Thinking, Fast and Slow.Daniel Kahneman - 2011 - New York: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The Philosophy of Philosophy.Timothy Williamson - 2007 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

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