Research shows young girls are less likely to think of women as ‘really, really smart’
By Nick Anderson
Jan 26 2017
Girls as young as 6 years old are less likely than boys to label people of their own gender as “really, really smart,” according to new research that raises questions about how stereotypical notions of male and female mental abilities shape the paths students take in life.
The findings, published Thursday by Science magazine, also show that 6-year-old girls tend more than boys to avoid games said to be for children who are “really, really smart.”
Researchers said their experiments suggest that gender stereotypes about brainpower take root at a pivotal point in childhood — around first grade — and can profoundly influence academic and career choices long afterward.
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Small differences in daily choices about games and activities, starting at age 6 or 7, could accumulate over years, leading to life-changing gender gaps in experience and knowledge.
“That might put girls at a disadvantage when pursuing fields that are perceived to rely on brilliance,” said Andrei Cimpian, an associate professor of psychology at New York University who was one of the authors of the study. “That’s worrisome. These beliefs that seem to be present even in young children are the beginning of what might exclude girls from some of the most prestigious jobs in our society.”
Cimpian teamed on the study with Lin Bian, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois, and Sarah-Jane Leslie, a philosophy professor at Princeton University.
The findings were based on a series of experiments conducted with hundreds of randomly chosen children in Illinois aged 5 to 7.