Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Cross-sex comparisons: A word of caution

  • 28 Accesses

  • 1 Citations


A cross-sex difference on one variable is often hypothesized to be related to a gender difference on a second variable. However, caution should be exercised in making such comparative hypotheses. We gathered the expected and actual examination grades for 168 female and 163 male college students. As in prior research, males had higher expectancies than females (p<.05). But analysis of the intrasex regression equations indicated that the relationship of expectancies to performance was different for women than it was for men. Thus, a cross-sex difference in expectancies did not correspond to a parallel difference in grades. This finding highlights the potential hazards of making certain cross-sex comparisons, and we argue for more caution in their application.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Battle, E. Motivational determinants of academic task persistence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1965, 2, 209–218.

  2. Battle, E. Motivational determinants of academic competence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1966, 4, 634–642.

  3. Crandall, V. C. Sex differences in expectancy of intellectual and academic reinforcement. In C. P. Smith (Ed.), Achievement-related motives in children. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1969.

  4. Crandall, V. J., Katkovsky, W., & Preston, A. Motivational and ability determinants of young children's intellectual achievement behaviors. Child Development, 1962, 33, 643–661.

  5. Deaux, K., & Emswiller, T. Explanations of successful performance on sex-linked tasks: What's skill for the male is luck for the female. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1974, 29, 80–85.

  6. Eccles, J. S. Gender roles and women's achievement-related decisions. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 1987, 11, 135–172.

  7. Erkut, S. Exploring sex differences in expectancy, attribution, and academic achievement. Sex Roles, 1983, 9, 217–231.

  8. Feather, N. T. Persistence at a difficult task with alternative task of intermediate difficulty. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1963, 66, 604–609. (a)

  9. Feather, N. T. The effect of differential failure on expectations of success, reported anxiety, and response uncertainty. Journal of Personality, 1963, 31, 289–312. (b)

  10. Feather, N. T. Effects of prior success and failure on expectations of success and subsequent performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1966, 3, 287–298.

  11. Feather, N. T. Attribution of responsibility and valence of success and failure in relation to initial confidence and task performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1969, 13, 129–144.

  12. Frieze, I. H. Women's expectations for and causal attributions of success and failure. In M. T. S. Mednick, S. S. Tangri, & L. W. Hoffman (Eds.), Women and achievement: Social and motivational analyses. Washington DC: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation, 1975.

  13. Gamache, L. M., & Novick, M. R. Choice of variables and gender differentiated prediction within selected academic programs. Journal of Educational measurement, 1985, 22, 53–70.

  14. Hoffman, L. W. Early childhood experiences and women's achievement motives. Journal of Social Issues, 1972, 28(2), 129–156.

  15. Houston, W. M., & Novick, M. R. Race-based differential prediction in Air Force technical training programs. Journal of Educational Measurement, 1987, 24, 309–320.

  16. Jackaway, R. F. Sex differences in achievement motivation, behavior, and attributions about success and failure. [Doctoral dissertation, State University of New York at Albany, 1974.] Dissertation Abstracts International, 1975, 35, 5158B-5159B.

  17. Linn, R. Ability testing: Individual differences, prediction, and differential prediction. In A. K. Wigdor & W. R. Garner (Eds.), Ability testing: Uses, consequences, and controversies (Report of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Ability Testing). Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1982.

  18. Maccoby, E. E., & Jacklin, C. N. The psychology of sex differences. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1974.

  19. Meehan, A. M., & Overton, W. F. Gender differences in expectancies for success and performance on Piagetian spatial tasks. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 1986, 32, 427–441.

  20. Montanelli, D. S., & Hill, K. T. Children's achievement expectations and performance as a function of two consecutive reinforcements. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1969, 13, 115–128.

  21. Parsons, J. E., & Ruble, D. N. The development of achievement-related expectancies. Child Development, 1977, 48, 1075–1079.

  22. Parsons, J. E., Ruble, D. N., Hodges, K. L., & Small, A. W. Cognitive-developmental factors in emerging sex differences in achievement-related experiences. Journal of Social Issues, 1976, 32(3), 47–61.

  23. Pfeifer, M. C., & Sedlacek, W. E. The validity of academic predictors for black and white students at a predominantly white university. Journal of Educational Measurement, 1971, 8, 253–261.

  24. Simon, J. G., & Feather, N. T. Causal attributions for success and failure at university examinations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1973, 64, 46–56.

  25. Snedecor, G. W., & Cochran, W. G. Statistical methods, 6th ed. Ames, IA: The Iowa State University Press, 1967.

  26. Temp, G. Validity of the SAT for blacks and whites in thirteen integrated institutions. Journal of Educational Measurement, 1971, 8, 245–251.

  27. Tyler, B. B. Expectancy for eventual success as a factor in problem solving behavior. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1958, 9, 166–172.

  28. Vollmer, F. Why do men have higher expectancy than women? Sex Roles, 1986, 14, 351–362.

  29. Wagner, D. G., Ford, R. S., & Ford, T. W. Can gender inequalities be reduced? American Sociological Review, 1986, 51, 47–61.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Donald H. Ryujin.

Additional information

Many thanks to Julia Pratt, Chris Toskin, Laurie Rooker, and Beth Mehne for collecting the data for this study.

Alison J. Herrold is now a graduate student in social psychology at Stanford University.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Ryujin, D.H., Herrold, A.J. Cross-sex comparisons: A word of caution. Sex Roles 20, 713–719 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00288082

Download citation


  • Gender Difference
  • College Student
  • Social Psychology
  • Potential Hazard
  • Male College