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Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests



Common stereotypes associate high-level intellectual ability (brilliance, genius, etc.) with men more than women. These stereotypes discourage women’s pursuit of many prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance (such as physics and philosophy). Here we show that these stereotypes are endorsed by, and influence the interests of, children as young as 6. Specifically, 6-year-old girls are less likely than boys to believe that members of their gender are “really, really smart.” Also at age 6, girls begin to avoid activities said to be for children who are “really, really smart.” These findings suggest that gendered notions of brilliance are acquired early and have an immediate effect on children’s interests.
Gender stereotypes about intellectual
ability emerge early and influence
childrens interests
Lin Bian,
*Sarah-Jane Leslie,
Andrei Cimpian
Common stereotypes associate high-level intellectual ability (brilliance, genius, etc.) with
men more than women. These stereotypes discourage womens pursuit of many
prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish
brilliance (such as physics and philosophy). Here we show that these stereotypes are
endorsed by, and influence the interests of, children as young as 6. Specifically, 6-year-old
girls are less likely than boys to believe that members of their gender are really, really
smart.Also at age 6, girls begin to avoid activities said to be for children who are really,
really smart.These findings suggest that gendered notions of brilliance are acquired early
and have an immediate effect on childrens interests.
The career aspirations of young men and
women are shaped by societal stereotypes
about gender (1,2). For example, the stereo-
type that men are better than women at
mathematics (3) impairs womensperform-
ance in this domain (4,5) and undermines their
interest in mathematics-intensive fields (6,7).
However, popular beliefs about ability associ-
ate not only specific cognitive processes (e.g.,
mathematical reasoning) with a particular gen-
der but also the overall amount of cognitive
ability. It is commonly assumed that high-level
cognitive ability (brilliance, genius, giftedness,
etc.) is present more often in men than in wom-
en (811). This brilliance = malesstereotype
has been invoked to explain the gender gaps
in many prestigious occupations (1215). How-
ever, little is known about the acquisition of this
stereotype. The earlier children acquire the no-
tion that brilliance is a male quality, the stronger
its influence may be on their aspirations. The
four studies reported here (N= 400 children)
show that, by the age of 6, girls are less likely
than boys to believe that members of their gen-
der are really, really smart”—a child-friendly
way of referring to brilliance. Also at age 6, the
girls in these studies begin to shy away from
novel activities said to be for children who are
really, really smart.These studies speak to the
early acquisition of cultural ideas about brilliance
and gender, as well as to the immediate effect
that these stereotyped notions have on childrens
The stereotypes associating men but not
women with brilliance and genius (811) may
take a toll on womens careers; fields whose
members place a great deal of value on sheer
brilliance (e.g., mathematics, physics, philosophy)
have lower proportions of women earning ba-
chelors and doctoral degrees (1217). However,
investigations of the brilliance = malesstereo-
type that focus exclusively on participants of col-
lege age or older overlook a critical fact: Cultural
messages about the presumed cognitive abilities
of males and females are likely to be influential
throughout development (18,19). If children ab-
sorb and act on these ideas (3,20,21), then
many capable girls are likely to have already
veered away from certain fields by the time they
reach college. Thus, it is important to investi-
gate the acquisition of the brilliance = males
stereotype in early childhood, as children enter
school and begin to make choices that shape their
future career paths.
Study one examined the developmental tra-
jectory of this stereotype in 96 children aged 5,
6, and 7 (32 children per age group; half boys,
half girls). Children came mostly from middle-
class backgrounds, and 75% were white. (The
supplementary materials contain additional de-
mographic information. However, across studies,
childrens race/ethnicity and socioeconomic sta-
tus did not significantly moderate the results
of interest.) We assessed childrens endorsement
of the brilliance = malesstereotype with three
tasks, presented in counterbalanced order (see
the supplementary materials). In task (i), chil-
dren were told a brief story about a person who
was really, really smart.No hints as to the
protagonists gender were provided. Children
were then asked to guess which of four unfamiliar
adults (two men, two women) was the protag-
onist of the story. In task (ii), children saw several
pairs of same- or different-gender adults and
guessed which adult in each pair was really,
really smart.In task (iii), children completed
three novel puzzles in which they had to guess
which objects (e.g., a hammer) or attributes (e.g.,
smart) best corresponded to pictures of unfamiliar
men and women.
Across tasks and studies, the pictures depicted
males and females matched for attractiveness
and professional dress (potential cues to intelli-
gence). In each task, we recorded the proportion
of relevant trials on which children linked in-
tellectual ability with people of their own gender;
these proportions were then averaged into an
own-gender brilliance score. As a comparison,
we also elicited childrens ideas about whether
men versus women are really, really nice.These
two traits are differentially linked to gender in
common stereotypes (2). As the relevant cultural
notions are being assimilated, childrensresponses
should likewise differentiate between these traits.
The results suggest that childrensideasabout
brilliance exhibit rapid changes over the period
from ages 5 to 7. At 5, boys and girls associated
brilliance with their own gender to a similar ex-
tent (Wald c
S2). The high scores are consistent with the over-
whelming in-group positivity previously observed
in boys and (especially) girls across early and
middle childhood (22,23). Despite this strong
tendency to view ones gender in a positive light,
girls aged 6 and 7 were significantly less likely
than boys to associate brilliance with their own
gender (Wald c
=8.10,P= 0.004) (Fig. 1A). Thus,
the brilliance = malesstereotype may be fa-
miliar to, and endorsed by, children as young
as 6. The stereotype associating females with
being nice seems to follow a similar develop-
mental trajectory (Fig. 1B).
In study two, we replicated our initial findings
with a larger sample (144 children; 48 per age
and child targets. (Study one included only adult
targets.) As before, there was no statistically sig-
nificant difference in own-gender brilliance scores
for 5-year-old boys and girls (Wald c
0.94), but a significant difference emerged start-
ing at age 6 (Wald c
=9.63,P= 0.002) (Fig. 1C
and table S2). This pattern did not differ signif-
icantly by whether children rated adult versus
child targets (Wald c
=1.42,P= 0.23).
What might explain the drop in girlsevalu-
ation of their genders intellectual abilities? Al-
though many factors are likely involved, in study
two we tested whether this drop is associated
with differences between younger (5-year-old)
and older (6- and 7-year-old) girls in their per-
ceptions of their school achievementinformation
that is, in principle, relevant to judging intelli-
gence. These perceptions were measured with
four questions similar to those we used to mea-
sure stereotypes (e.g., children had to guess which
of four children, two boys and two girls, gets
the best grades in school). In contrast with the
drop in brilliance scores, there was no signifi-
cant difference between younger and older girls
in the likelihood of selectingothergirlsashaving
top grades (t=0.22,P=0.83)(fig.S1).Oldergirls
were actually more likely to select girls as having
top grades than older boys were to select boys
Bian et al., Science 355,389391 (2017) 27 January 2017 1of3
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Champaign,
IL 61820, USA.
Department of Psychology, New York
University, New York, NY 10003, USA.
Department of
Philosophy, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
*Corresponding author. Email: (L.B.); (A.C.)
on January 26, 2017 from
(t= 4.41, P< 0.001), consistent with the reality
that girls get better grades in school than boys at
this age (24). Nevertheless, there was no signifi-
cant correlation between girlsperceptions of school
achievement and their perceptions of brilliance
(r=0.11,P=0.34;forboys:r=0.38,P= 0.001).
Thus, girlsideas about who is brilliant are not
rooted in their perceptions of who performs well
in school. [However, other aspects of childrens
experiences in school, such as teachersattitudes
and biases (25,26), may still be implicated in the
development of this stereotype.]
In study three, we investigated whether chil-
drens gendered beliefs about brilliance shape
their interests. Sixty-four children aged 6 and 7
(half boys, half girls) were introduced to two
novel games, one said to be for children who
are really, really smartand the other for children
who try really, really hard(counterbalanced;
see the supplementary materials). Children were
then asked four questions to measure their in-
terest in these games (e.g., Do you like this
game, or do you not like it?). Girls were less
interested than boys in the game for smart
children (Wald c
0.53, P=0.47)(Fig.2AandtableS3).
To test whether the gender differences in
interest are related to childrens beliefs about
brilliance, we measured these beliefs with two
items adapted from study one. Indeed, as with
the 6- and 7-year-olds from the first two studies,
girlsown-gender brilliance perceptions were
lower than boys(t=2.40,P= 0.020). Moreover,
these stereotyped beliefs mediated the rela-
tionship between childrens gender and their in-
terest in the game for brilliant (versus persistent)
children: indirect effect = 0.11, 95% confidence
interval = [0.33, 0.004] (fig. S2). Thus, young
childrens emerging notions about who is likely
to be brilliant are one of the factors that guide
their decisions about which activities to pursue.
In study four, we compared 5- and 6-year-old
boysand girlsinterest in novel games said to
be for children who are really, really smart
(96 children; 48 per age group; half boys, half
girls). We predicted that 5-year-old boysand
girlsinterest in these games would not differ
because their ideas about brilliance are not
yet differentiated (Fig. 1, A and C). In contrast,
6-year-old girlsinterest was predicted to be lower
than boys, in line with the results of study three.
We found no significant gender differences in
interest among 5-year-olds (Wald c
among 6-year-olds (Wald c
= 3.66, P=0.056)
(Fig. 2B and table S3). Combining the samples
of 6- and 7-year-olds from studies three and four
with a random-effects meta-analysis (27), we esti-
mated the magnitude of the difference in boys
versus girlsinterest toward the game for brilliant
children to be d= 0.51, 95% confidence interval =
[0.13, 0.88], P= 0.008.
We considered two possible alternative expla-
nations for the results of studies one to four.
First, because boys are sometimes held back from
entering the formal schooling system (28), their
understanding of intellectual ability may be
delayed relative to girls(29), which may inflate
boysconfidence about their brilliance (30). How-
ever, the boys and girls in our sample did not
enter school at different ages (e.g., the average
chronological age for first-grade boys and girls
was 6.87 and 6.72 years, respectively; t=1.28,P=
0.20). Moreover, own-gender brilliance scores
did not differ for boys who had already entered
first grade versus those who had not (M
0.70 versus M
=0.67;t= 0.33, P=0.74),but
these scores differed for girls (M
= 0.71 versus
women are subject to stronger modesty norms
than men (31), perhaps 6- and 7-year-old girls
lower interest in the games for brilliant children
(studies three and four) was due to an increase in
concerns about modesty. Contrary to this alter-
native, children in the age range we tested are
notoriously boastful about their abilities (30).
Moreover, the difference in boysversus girls
interest in the brilliance games was specifically
mediated by their perceptions about brilliance,
pinpointing these stereotyped perceptions (rather
than modesty) as the underlying mechanism.
Notably, our measure of the brilliance = males
stereotype is not susceptible to the modesty ex-
planation: Modesty norms dictate that a woman
should not boast about her own smarts (32,33),
whereas we asked children to judge whether other
people were smart.
It will be important to test whether these find-
ings extend beyond a middle-class, majority-white
U.S. cultural context and to comprehensively
investigate the sources of the brilliance = males
stereotype in childrens environments. Nevertheless,
the present results suggest a sobering conclu-
sion: Many children assimilate the idea that
Bian et al., Science 355,389391 (2017) 27 January 2017 2of3
Fig. 1. Results of
studies one and
two. Boys(blue)
and girls(red)
stereotype scores
in study one (Aand
B) and study two
(Cand D), by age
group (5- versus 6-
versus 7-year-olds).
Error bars repre-
sent ± 1 SE.
56 7
Age (yrs)
Age (yrs)
Fig. 2. Results of
studies three and
four. Boys(blue)
and girls(red)
interest (average of
responses to four
questions) in novel
games in study
three (A) and
study four (B). The
main independent
variable for each
study (task in
study three, age in
study four) is
shown in bold.
Error bars repre-
sent ± 1 SE.
6- and 7-
6- and 7-
5-year-olds 6-year-olds
on January 26, 2017 from
brilliance is a male quality at a young age. This
stereotype begins to shape childrens interests
as soon as it is acquired and is thus likely to
narrow the range of careers they will one day
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We are grateful to the families who participated and to the
members of the Cognitive Development Lab at the University of
Illinois for research assistance and helpful discussion. We also
thank J. R. Cimpian for insightful feedback on previous drafts. This
research was supported by a Graduate College Dissertation
Completion Fellowship from the University of Illinois (L.B.) and NSF
grant BCS-1530669 (A.C. and S.-J.L.). The supplementary
materials contain additional data. The data for these studies are
also available on Open Science Framework:
Materials and Methods
Supplementary Text
Figs. S1 and S2
Tables S1 to S5
References (34,35)
30 July 2016; accepted 9 December 2016
Bian et al., Science 355,389391 (2017) 27 January 2017 3of3
on January 26, 2017 from
(6323), 389-391. [doi: 10.1126/science.aah6524]355Science
Lin Bian, Sarah-Jane Leslie and Andrei Cimpian (January 26, 2017)
influence children's interests
Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and
Editor's Summary
, this issue p. 389Science
games intended for the ''really, really smart.''
prepared to lump more boys into the ''really, really smart'' category and to steer themselves away from
childhood's version of adult brilliance. But by age 6, girls were−−expectations of ''really, really smart''
differential perceptions emerge. At age 5, children seemed not to differentiate between boys and girls in
studied young children to assess when those et al.perceptions of intellectual brilliance. Bian
The distribution of women and men across academic disciplines seems to be affected by
Emergent attitudes toward brilliance
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Supplementary resource (1)

... Por exemplo, o estereótipo de brilhantismo, ou genialidade, é mais frequentemente associado a homens do que a mulheres Upson & Friedman, 2012). A conexão entre esse estereótipo e o gênero masculino surge na infância e a partir deste período meninas podem passar a evitar atividades em que este estereótipo é mais forte (Bian et al., 2017). Deve-se considerar também que há uma lacuna social no que diz respeito ao reconhecimento das conquistas de mulheres (Proudfoot et al., 2015). ...
... Se crianças continuam a agir com base no estereótipo de brilhantismo, ao chegarem à idade universitária muitas mulheres terão se afastado de campos onde a associação entre genialidade e masculinidade é mais forte (Ambady et al., 2001;Bian et al., 2017;Cvencek et al., 2011;Liben et al., 2001). Como o caso da física ou da filosofia, cursos de graduação que tendem a ter um número mais baixo de mulheres do que de homens (Ginther & Kahn, 2015;Leslie et al., 2015). ...
Full-text available
Resumo A autopercepção das habilidades criativas pode influenciar o desempenho na vida em diferentes tipos de atividade. Este estudo investigou diferenças de gênero entre autopercepção e desempenho em habilidades intelectuais e criativas. A amostra foi composta por 126 participantes, 64 homens e 62 mulheres de 15 a 29 anos (M=17,25, DP=2,12). Utilizou-se a Bateria de Avaliação Intelectual e Criativa-Adulta (BAICA), composta pelos testes de habilidade verbal, pensamento lógico, viso espacial, memória e criatividade, e um questionário de autopercepção que avaliava as mesmas habilidades. Os resultados pela Análise da Variância indicaram diferenças significativas entre gêneros na habilidade viso espacial e em sua autopercepção, com resultados superiores para o gênero masculino. Observou-se também diferenças na interação entre gênero e faixa etária na autopercepção de memória e de criatividade. Conclui-se sobre a importância do gênero e faixa etária na autopercepção das habilidades podendo influenciar o seu desempenho na vida real. Palavras-chave: Autopercepção; criatividade; inteligência; avaliação psicológica. Abstract The self-perception of creative abilities can influence life performance in different types of activity. This study investigated gender differences between self-perception and performance in intellectual and creative abilities. The sample consisted of 126 participants, 64 men and 62 women aged 15 to 29 years (M=17.25; DP=212). The Intellectual and Creative Assessment Battery-Adult (BAICA) was used, consisting of tests of verbal ability, logical thinking, spatial vision, memory and creativity, and a self-perception questionnaire that evaluated the same skills. The results by the Analysis of Variance indicated significant differences between genders in the visual-spatial ability and in their self-perception, with superior results for the male gender. Differences were also observed in the interaction between gender and age group in the self-perception of memory and creativity. It is concluded about the importance of gender and age group in the self-perception of skills, which can influence their performance in real life. Resumen Este estudio investigó las diferencias de género entre la autopercepción y el desempeño en habilidades intelectuales y creativas. La muestra estuvo compuesta por 126 participantes, 64 hombres y 62 mujeres de 15 a 29 años (M=17,25; DP=2,12). Se utilizó la Batería de Evaluación Intelectual y Creativa-Adulto (BAICA), compuesta por pruebas de habilidad verbal, pensamiento lógico, visión espacial, memoria y creatividad, y un cuestionario de autopercepción que evaluó las mismas habilidades. Los resultados del Análisis de Varianza indicaron diferencias significativas entre géneros en la habilidad visoespacial y en la autopercepción, con resultados superiores para el género masculino. También se observaron diferencias en la interacción entre sexo y grupo de edad en la autopercepción de memoria y creatividad. Se concluye sobre la importancia del género y el grupo de edad en la autopercepción de las habilidades, lo que puede influir en su desempeño en la vida real.
... For example, the brand LEGO® designed toys which encouraged domestic activities, professions related to beauty or shopping and hobbies for girls (i.e., Lego Friends®) while emphasising construction and role-play of various skilled professions for boys (e.g., Reich et al., 2018). Very importantly, these gender stereotypes are internalised from a young age and have been shown to have an impact on children's and adolescents' academic life and career aspirations (e.g., Aina & Cameron, 2011;Bian et al., 2017). For example, in Bian et al.'s (2017) study, girls aged 6 thought that women were not especially smart, therefore did not wish to participate in activities they judged being only for smart children. ...
... Very importantly, these gender stereotypes are internalised from a young age and have been shown to have an impact on children's and adolescents' academic life and career aspirations (e.g., Aina & Cameron, 2011;Bian et al., 2017). For example, in Bian et al.'s (2017) study, girls aged 6 thought that women were not especially smart, therefore did not wish to participate in activities they judged being only for smart children. In terms of the previously discussed developmental theory of Gottfredson (2005), this illustrates the importance of gender in children's perceptions of professions. ...
In this chapter, we argue that although gendered vocational interests may arise from various sources, language plays an important role, even if it has received little attention so far. Previous studies (Stout & Dasgupta, 2011; Vervecken et al., 2013; Vervecken et al., 2015), although scarce, have demonstrated that language (meaning and structure) can influence how children and adolescents perceive professions. We also argue that gender stereotypes interact with language in intricate ways, and that in all, both may well interfere in shaping personal interests, as well as academic and professional choices.
... As early as pre-school, cultural expectations for men and women based on gender begin to take shape. Bian et al. (2017) found in their experimental study of 96 children aged five to seven, that by age six the stereotype of brilliance being associated with men and kindness being associated with women was reinforced. In an exploration of gender-segregated leadership camps for children in primary and secondary schools, Trumpy and Elliott (2019) found that despite intentions to break down socialized gender norms and expectations, camp counselors and leaders reinforced gender stereotypes and gender-typical behavior. ...
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... Furthermore, women's lower performance in negotiations about salary and benefits is predicted by their male counterparts' stereotypes (Pardal et al., 2020). Gender stereotypes negatively affect women's (and men's) development since childhood (e.g., Brown and Stone, 2016;Bian et al., 2017), indirectly preventing social justice, as stereotyping women creates barriers for them in areas traditionally assigned to men. Gender stereotypes Frontiers in Psychology | ...
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Even though formal processes (i.e., gender quotes) are necessary to achieve gender justice, attitudinal changes (i.e., support of egalitarian social norms) are also essential. The endorsement of sexism and gender stereotypes perpetuate inequality on a daily basis, and can be seen as barriers that prevent societies from reaching social justice. Therefore, changing sexist social norms can be understood as a fundamental step in accomplishing gender justice. With the aim of studying Chileans’ sexist norms, we conducted a survey with a representative sample ( N = 490) exploring levels of sexism and gender stereotypes, as well as support for the feminist movement. Using Latent Profile Analysis, we identified four groups of citizens: (1) a first group that shows high levels of sexism and low support for the feminist movement (9%); (2) a second group, with low levels of sexism and high support for the feminist movement (20%); (3) a third group with high levels of sexism and high support for the feminist movement (65%); and (4) a fourth group with mid-levels of sexism and support of the feminist movement (6%). We called these groups the Sexist, Feminist, Inconsistent, and Moderate Group, respectively. The four groups showed similar high endorsement of gender stereotypes. These results are twofold. First, they hint that although nowadays gender equality seems to be generally accepted, this coexists with a high prevalence of sexist social norms, represented by the inconsistent group being the most prevalent. Second, gender stereotypes are still deeply rooted in Chilean culture, surprisingly even among feminist citizens.
This research examined the effects of overhearing an adult praise an unseen child for not needing to work hard on an academic task. Five‐year‐old Han Chinese children (total N = 270 across three studies; 135 boys, collected 2020–2021) who heard this low effort praise tended to devalue effort relative to a baseline condition in which the overheard conversation lacked evaluative content. In Study 3, low effort praise increased children's endorsement of essentialist beliefs about ability and their interest in becoming the kind of person who does not need to work hard to succeed. The findings show that overhearing evaluative comments about other people, a pervasive feature of daily life, can have a systematic effect on young children's beliefs about achievement.
Although there has been considerable research about attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people, there has been little research into how people first come to be aware of minoritized sexual and gender minority (SGM) identities. This study sought to address this gap. A sample of sexual minority (n = 150) and heterosexual (n = 802) young adults (N = 952; Mage = 18.88 years, SD = 1.75; 949 were cisgender, three were transgender), primarily recruited from a large southern university, were asked retrospectively to recount their first exposure to or awareness of SGM identities. Responses between SGM and heterosexual participants were compared through a variety of analytical approaches, including analyzing themes about the source from which participants first recalled encountering these identities, and whether understanding about these identities came through a personal connection to someone with these identities. SGM participants reported encountering minoritized sexual identities a year earlier than did heterosexual participants, with both groups encountering these concepts in middle childhood, on average. SGM participants were more likely than heterosexual participants to report learning about minoritized gender identities from someone with a minoritized gender identity, while heterosexual participants more often reported learning about these identities from media or celebrities. Heterosexual (vs. SGM) participants were also more likely to imply that minoritized gender identities were adopted to be popular, rather than being authentic identities in themselves. Framed by developmental intergroup theory (DIT), we discuss implications of these findings, especially potential interrelationships with the development of prejudiced attitudes about SGM identities.
Die digitale Transformation unserer Gesellschaft findet gleichzeitig in allen gesellschaftlichen Teilbereichen statt und nimmt mit jeder neuen Vernetzungsstufe an Komplexität weiter zu. Umso mehr ist es wichtig, dass digitale Technologien nicht mehr ausschließlich von den Konzeptionen und Vorstellungen von vorwiegend weißen Männern in der westlichen Welt geprägt und gestaltet werden. Der Anteil von Frauen in Informatik und Computerwissenschaft ist extrem gering und demnach auch der Anteil von Software-Ingenieurinnen, Netzwerkanalystinnen oder ganz generell Entscheidungsträgerinnen in der IT-Branche. Aus Sicht einer feministischen Technologieforschung sind es vor allem die unbewussten, aber auch bewussten Einschreibungen von männlich konnotierten Vorstellungen in die Grundfunktionen von Technologie, die einerseits Frauen in deren Nutzung beeinflussen, sie aber auch vom Gestaltungsprozess fernhalten. Theoretische Ansätze wie jener der Gender Scripts oder der Posthumanistischen Performativität ermöglichen es, die vorherrschenden Prozesse der VergeschlechtlichungVergeschlechtlichung von DigitalisierungDigitalisierung zu verstehen und entsprechende Maßnahmen zu deren Beseitigung zu entwickeln. Dazu gehören neben einer generellen Neuorientierung vorhandener öffentlichen und privaten frauenfördernden Maßnahmen (MINTMINT-Initiativen), weg von rein individueller Defizitbeseitigung hin zu gesamtgesellschaftlichen strukturellen Maßnahmen, auch eine politische und ideologische Diskussion über eine wünschenswerte Technologieentwicklung. Im Beitrag wird nach einem kurzen geschichtlichen Rückblick die aktuelle Situation von Frauen in der InformatikFrauen in der Informatik und Computerwissenschaft diskutiert. Theoretische Konzepte und davon abgeleitete konkrete Maßnahmen gegen eine fortschreitende VergeschlechtlichungVergeschlechtlichung informatischer Artefakte sollen deutlich machen, in welche Richtung eine integrative Technologiepolitik im Sinne einer gesellschaftlich wünschenswerten digitalen Transformation gehen muss.
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In certain domains, people represent some of an individual’s properties (e.g., a tiger’s ferocity), but not others (e.g., a tiger’s being in the zoo), as stemming from the assumed “essence” of the individual’s category. How do children identify which properties of an individual are essentialized and which are not? Here, we examine whether formal explanations—that is, explanations that appeal to category membership (e.g., “That’s ferocious because it’s a tiger”)—help children to identify which properties are essentialized. We investigated this question in two domains: animal kinds (Study 1) and social categories (specifically, gender; Studies 2 and 3). Across studies, we introduced children to novel behaviors and preferences of individuals using either a formal explanation or closely matched wording that did not express a formal explanation. To measure the extent to which children essentialized the novel properties, we assessed their inferences about the stability, innateness, and generalizability of these properties. In Study 1 (N = 104; 61 girls, 43 boys; predominantly white and multiracial children from high-income backgrounds), we found that formal explanations led 5- and 6-year-old children to view novel properties of individual animals as more stable across time. In Studies 2 and 3 (total N = 163; 84 girls, 79 boys; predominantly white, Asian, and multiracial children from high-income backgrounds), we found that formal explanations led 6-year-olds, but not 5-year-olds, to view novel properties of individual girls and boys as more stable across contexts. These studies highlight an important mechanism by which formal explanations guide conceptual development.
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Women and African Americans—groups targeted by negative stereotypes about their intellectual abilities—may be underrepresented in careers that prize brilliance and genius. A recent nationwide survey of academics provided initial support for this possibility. Fields whose practitioners believed that natural talent is crucial for success had fewer female and African American PhDs. The present study seeks to replicate this initial finding with a different, and arguably more naturalistic, measure of the extent to which brilliance and genius are prized within a field. Specifically, we measured field-by-field variability in the emphasis on these intellectual qualities by tallying—with the use of a recently released online tool—the frequency of the words “brilliant” and “genius” in over 14 million reviews on, a popular website where students can write anonymous evaluations of their instructors. This simple word count predicted both women’s and African Americans’ representation across the academic spectrum. That is, we found that fields in which the words “brilliant” and “genius” were used more frequently on also had fewer female and African American PhDs. Looking at an earlier stage in students’ educational careers, we found that brilliance-focused fields also had fewer women and African Americans obtaining bachelor’s degrees. These relationships held even when accounting for field-specific averages on standardized mathematics assessments, as well as several competing hypotheses concerning group differences in representation. The fact that this naturalistic measure of a field’s focus on brilliance predicted the magnitude of its gender and race gaps speaks to the tight link between ability beliefs and diversity.
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Recent studies have begun to uncover the genetic architecture of educational attainment. We build on this work using genome-wide data from siblings in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). We measure the genetic predisposition of siblings to educational attainment using polygenic scores. We then test how polygenic scores are related to social environments and educational outcomes. In Add Health, genetic predisposition to educational attainment is patterned across the social environment. Participants with higher polygenic scores were more likely to grow up in socially advantaged families. Even so, the previously published genetic associations appear to be causal. Among pairs of siblings, the sibling with the higher polygenic score typically went on to complete more years of schooling as compared to their lower-scored co-sibling. We found subtle differences between sibling fixed-effect estimates of the genetic effect versus those based on unrelated individuals.
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Ginther and Kahn claim that academics’ beliefs about the importance of brilliance do not predict gender gaps in Ph.D. attainment beyond mathematics and verbal test scores. However, Ginther and Kahn’s analyses are problematic, exhibiting more than 100 times the recommended collinearity thresholds. Multiple analyses that avoid this problem suggest that academics’ beliefs are in fact uniquely predictive of gender gaps across academia.
Stereotype research emphasizes systematic processes over seemingly arbitrary contents, but content also may prove systematic. On the basis of stereotypes' intergroup functions, the stereotype content model hypothesizes that (a) 2 primary dimensions are competence and warmth, (b) frequent mixed clusters combine high warmth with low competence (paternalistic) or high competence with low warmth (envious), and (c) distinct emotions (pity, envy, admiration, contempt) differentiate the 4 competence-warmth combinations. Stereotypically, (d) status predicts high competence, and competition predicts low warmth. Nine varied samples rated gender, ethnicity, race, class, age, and disability out-groups. Contrary to antipathy models, 2 dimensions mattered, and many stereotypes were mixed, either pitying (low competence, high warmth subordinates) or envying (high competence, low warmth competitors). Stereotypically, status predicted competence, and competition predicted low warmth.
Throughout the twentieth century, pop songs, magazine articles, plays, posters, and novels in the United States represented intelligence alternately as empowering or threatening. In Inventing the Egghead, cultural historian Aaron Lecklider offers a sharp, entertaining narrative of these sources to reveal how Americans who were not part of the traditional intellectual class negotiated the complicated politics of intelligence within an accelerating mass culture. Central to the book is the concept of brainpower-a term used by Lecklider to capture the ways in which journalists, writers, artists, and others invoked intelligence to embolden the majority of Americans who did not have access to institutions of higher learning. Expressions of brainpower, Lecklider argues, challenged the deeply embedded assumptions in society that intellectual capacity was the province of an educated elite, and that the working class was unreservedly anti-intellectual. Amid changes in work, leisure, and domestic life, brainpower became a means for social transformation in the modern United States. The concept thus provides an exciting vantage point from which to make fresh assessments of ongoing debates over intelligence and access to quality education. Expressions of brainpower in the twentieth century engendered an uncomfortable paradox: they diminished the value of intellectuals (the hapless egghead, for example) while establishing claims to intellectual authority among ordinary women and men, including labor activists, women workers, and African Americans. Reading across historical, literary, and visual media, Lecklider mines popular culture as an arena where the brainpower of ordinary people was commonly invoked and frequently contested.
Self-esteem is one of social psychology's central constructs. Despite the wide endorsement of the importance of self-esteem, there remains substantial variation in theoretical conceptions of how self-esteem functions. To help address this point, 234 5-year-old children were tested across 3 studies using a new implicit measure. A new Preschool Implicit Association Test (PSIAT) was used to assess the association of (a) me with good (self-esteem), (b) me with boy or girl (gender identity), and (c) boy or girl with good (gender attitude). The results documented self-esteem in 5-year-olds, as well as own-gender identity and gender in-group preferences. Interestingly, children who had high self-esteem and strong own-gender identity displayed gender in-group preferences, supporting balanced identity theory's theoretical expectations that implicit self-esteem serves an identity-maintenance function, even for young children. By preschool age, children display fundamental properties of adult implicit social cognition that relate to maintenance and functioning of group identities.
The development course of implicit and explicit gender attitudes between the ages of 5 and adulthood is investigated. Findings demonstrate that implicit and explicit own-gender preferences emerge early in both boys and girls, but implicit own-gender preferences are stronger in young girls than boys. In addition, female participants' attitudes remain largely stable over development, whereas male participants' implicit and explicit attitudes show an age-related shift towards increasing female positivity. Gender attitudes are an anomaly in that social evaluations dissociate from social status, with both male and female participants tending to evaluate female more positively than male. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.