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Evaluative Feedback Expresses and Reinforces Cultural Stereotypes



Evaluative feedback (praise and criticism) has a powerful influence on behavior, in part because it communicates what society values in and expects of an individual. Importantly, feedback often reflects values and expectations that are informed by the social group of the individual receiving feedback, and the stereotypes attached to it, rather than being based just on information specific to the individual. In this chapter, we first detail how group stereotypes affect the evaluative feedback given to stereotyped individuals. We then review the effects of stereotyped feedback, highlighting the role that such feedback plays in maintaining group disparities.
Evaluative Feedback Expresses and Reinforces Cultural Stereotypes
Andrea C. Vial
Andrei Cimpian
New York University
The writing of this chapter was supported in part by the Dream Gap Postdoctoral Fellowship
awarded to Andrea Vial and by National Science Foundation grant BCS-1733897 awarded to
Andrei Cimpian. We are grateful to Eddie Brummelman and the members of the Cognitive
Development Lab at New York University for helpful comments on previous drafts of this
Please address correspondence to:
Andrea C. Vial
Department of Psychology
New York University
6 Washington Place
New York, NY 10003
Vial, A. C., & Cimpian, A. (in press). Evaluative feedback expresses and reinforces
cultural stereotypes. In E. Brummelman (Ed.), Psychological Perspectives on Praise.
don, U
: Routled
Evaluative feedback (praise and criticism) has a powerful influence on behavior, in part because
it communicates what society values in and expects of an individual. Importantly, feedback often
reflects values and expectations that are informed by the social group of the individual receiving
feedback, and the stereotypes attached to it, rather than being based just on information specific
to the individual. In this chapter, we first detail how group stereotypes affect the evaluative
feedback given to stereotyped individuals. We then review the effects of stereotyped feedback,
highlighting the role that such feedback plays in maintaining group disparities.
Evaluative Feedback Expresses and Reinforces Cultural Stereotypes
When used appropriately, evaluative feedback (that is, praise and criticism) is a powerful
motivator (Yeager et al., 2014). Often, however, feedback fails to shape behavior as intended
(Brophy, 1981) or even causes harm (Brummelman et al., 2014). Here, we describe the harm that
emerges when feedback intersects with stereotypes: By giving voice to what society expects of
the members of various groups, feedback ultimately reinforces group stereotypes and contributes
to the maintenance of group disparities. We first describe how stereotypes influence the feedback
provided to stereotyped individuals. Our review focuses on stereotypes about gender and race
because most of the research does as well. We then describe how stereotyped feedback shapes
stereotyped individuals’ self-perceptions and ability to succeed in counter-stereotypical fields.
The Effects of Stereotypes on Evaluative Feedback
To clarify, we use the terms feedback, praise, and criticism to refer to an overt evaluation
of a behavior; in our terminology, an evaluation is a private judgment or attitude (e.g., X
approves of Y’s behavior) that is made public by the act of providing feedback (e.g., X says to Y,
“That was great!”). At a first pass, we might use two dimensions to predict the type of feedback
that an individual will receive for a behavior. The first dimension is the valence of the attribute
that is illustrated by the behavior (the x axis in Figure 1A). For instance, donating to charity
illustrates a positively-valenced attribute (namely, generosity), whereas punching someone
illustrates a negatively-valenced attribute (namely, aggression). The second dimension is the
level or degree to which the behavior illustrates the relevant attribute (the y axis). For instance,
donating $100 illustrates higher levels of generosity than donating $1. The midpoint on this
dimension represents the average perceived level of an attribute in the population.
Figure 1. Evaluative feedback for a behavior as a function of the valence of the attribute
illustrated by the behavior (x axis) and the level or degree to which the behavior demonstrates
that attribute (y axis). Praise is depicted by the solid areas, criticism by the hatched areas.
Feedback intensity is depicted via shading (darker shades = more intense feedback). Panel A
illustrates feedback in the absence of stereotypes. Panel B provides a specific example of the
effects of a negative stereotype on feedback (see “negative stereotype” column); the brackets and
labels on the right side of Figure 1B map onto this specific example.
On this simple analysis, behaviors that demonstrate high levels of a positively-valenced
attribute (e.g., generosity) will result in praise, whereas behaviors that demonstrate low levels of
the same attribute will result in criticism. This relation is reversed for negatively-valenced
attributes (e.g., aggression). The intensity of the feedback for a behavior (e.g., whether a person
receives lukewarm vs. effusive praise) depends both on the level and the valence of the attribute
displayed: The more extreme a behavior is on either dimension, the more intense the feedback
(as illustrated by darker shading in Figure 1A). For instance, a person will receive more effusive
praise for displaying a level of math skill far above the perceived average than just above
Effects of Stereotypes on Whether a Behavior Is Evaluated Positively vs. Negatively
A stereotype is a generic belief about a social group (Bian & Cimpian, 2017; Hammond
& Cimpian, 2017). Most stereotypes assign a certain level (high or low) of an attribute (positive
or negative) to a certain group. For example, common stereotypes are that women are bad at
math (i.e., this group has low average levels of a positive attribute) or that Black people are
athletic (i.e., this group has high average levels of a positive attribute). By informing people’s
perceptions of the average level of an attribute for a group (see the “perceived group average”
line in Figure 1B), stereotypes set the standard relative to which evaluative feedback is provided
for individuals in that group (Biernat & Kobrynowicz, 1997). In turn, reliance on these
stereotype-based standards affects both the intensity and the type of feedback provided to
stereotyped individuals.
#1. Stereotype Effects on the Intensity of Feedback. Stereotypes affect the intensity of
the feedback provided to members of stereotyped groups. To illustrate, as a member of a group
that is negatively stereotyped in the domain of math, a woman who displays strong mathematical
skill—above both the perceived population average and the stereotype of her group—is likely to
receive more effusive praise than other individuals at the same skill level (see Figure 1B). This is
because her skill is more extreme relative to the (low) standard by which she is judged than
would be the case for a man. Similarly, this low stereotyped standard means that she might also
receive milder criticism for poor performance in math.
Several studies provide evidence for the effect of stereotypes on feedback intensity. For
example, negative stereotypes that men are unlikely to be altruistic lead individual men to
receive more effusive praise than women for behaving altruistically in the workplace (Heilman
& Chen, 2005; Kobrynowicz & Biernat, 1997). Other studies have found similar intensification
effects in contexts where women are negatively stereotyped, such as sports (Biernat & Vescio,
2002). Stereotypes about racial groups intensify evaluative feedback as well (Biernat &
Kobrynowicz, 1997; Biernat & Manis, 1994). For example, lower stereotype-based standards
lead participants to judge the standardized test performance of a Black student to be “better” than
the same performance by a White student (Biernat, Collins, Katzarska-Miller, & Thompson,
2009). (To clarify, the fact that members of negatively stereotyped groups sometimes receive
inflated praise does not mean that observers’ evaluation of the underlying attribute is inflated as
well. Despite the effusive praise, negatively stereotyped individuals are often assumed to display
lower levels of the underlying attribute than non-stereotyped individuals [Biernat & Vescio,
2002].) Comparable findings emerge for positive group stereotypes: People who endorse positive
stereotypes of athleticism for Black people tend to evaluate Black individuals’ athleticism less
positively, especially when the standard of comparison is the stereotypic average for this group
(Biernat & Manis, 1994; see Heilman & Chen, 2005, for a gender-relevant example).
#2. Stereotype Effects on the Type of Feedback. Stereotypes can affect the type of
feedback (praise vs. criticism) received by an individual (see Figure 1B). For instance, as a
member of a group that is negatively stereotyped in the domain of math, a woman who performs
better than would be expected given the stereotypes of her gender may receive praise even if her
performance is below the perceived population average (which includes men). Thus, a behavior
that might have been criticized in others is now met with praise. Similarly, members of
negatively stereotyped groups are sometimes spared criticism for poor performance compared to
other groups—and may even receive praise: White students showed a positivity bias when giving
feedback on a poor-quality essay ostensibly written by a Black (vs. White) student (Harber,
1998), as did White teachers when giving feedback on Black and Latinx (vs. White) students’
essays (Harber et al., 2012).
Effects of Stereotypes on Evaluative Feedback: Beyond Positivity vs. Negativity
The two effects described above address only how stereotypes influence the degree to
which a behavior is evaluated positively or negatively. But stereotypes also affect (#3) causal
attributions for behavior and, in some cases, (#4) global evaluations of the feedback recipient, as
well as (#5) the frequency of feedback in a stereotyped domain. We describe each of these
effects below.
#3. Stereotype Effects on Causal Attributions. Feedback can convey information about
how observers explained the behavior under evaluation (Cimpian, Arce, Markman, & Dweck,
2007; Mueller & Dweck, 1998), and stereotypes have systematic effects on this aspect of
feedback: Whether a group is stereotyped positively or negatively, feedback for an individual’s
stereotype-consistent behavior (e.g., a Black person’s excellent athletic performance) is more
likely to reference the individual’s inherent traits or properties as an explanation, in part because
stereotypes are generally understood as describing the inherent attributes of group members
(Cimpian & Salomon, 2014; Hammond & Cimpian, 2017). In contrast, feedback for an
individual’s stereotype-inconsistent behavior (e.g., a woman’s excellent math performance) is
more likely to explain that behavior in ways that reconcile it with the stereotype and portray the
individual or the circumstances as unusual (e.g., “she worked really hard,” “she got lucky”; see
Richards & Hewstone, 2001). Indeed, teachers praise boys for the intellectual quality of their
work more often than they praise girls (Dweck, Davidson, Nelson, & Enna, 1978), which is as
expected given that high-level intellectual ability is a male-stereotypic trait (Bian, Leslie, &
Cimpian, 2018; Gálvez, Tiffenberg, & Altszyler, 2019; Leslie, Cimpian, Meyer, & Freeland,
2015). Conversely, teachers systematically attribute girls’ good performance to hard work (J.
Cimpian, Lubienski, Timmer, Makowski, & Miller, 2016).
#4. Stereotype Effects on Global Impressions of the Person. Many stereotypes are
descriptive beliefs about the members of a group. When people believe that women are bad at
math or that Black people are athletic, they are endorsing descriptive stereotypes. They do not
typically think that women should be bad at math or that Black people should be athletic.
However, some stereotypes—particularly about gender—have a normative element as well,
dictating what people in a group should be like; these are known as prescriptive stereotypes
(Burgess & Borgida, 1999). When people believe that it is desirable for women in particular to
be modest or for men in particular to be ambitious, they are endorsing prescriptive stereotypes
(Smith & Huntoon, 2014). Beyond influencing feedback intensity/type for specific behaviors (as
described above), prescriptive stereotypes also affect an observer’s global evaluation of the
person. For example, several studies have shown negative global evaluations of successful
female targets, who are often perceived to violate gender prescriptions when they project
ambition and confidence (Heilman & Okimoto, 2007; Phelan, Moss-Racusin, & Rudman, 2008).
When a woman brags about her accomplishments or fails to act in altruistic ways, criticism of
her behavior is often tinged with dislike for her as a person (Heilman, 2001). Similarly, male
targets who violate gender prescriptions by being modest about their accomplishments often
elicit negative global feedback (Moss-Racusin, Phelan, & Rudman, 2010).
#5. Stereotype Effects on Frequency of Feedback. The value-laden layer of
prescriptive stereotypes has another important effect: It makes feedback more likely to be
provided in the first place. Individuals are more likely to be praised or criticized for behaviors
that conform or fail to conform, respectively, to a prescriptive stereotype than a merely
descriptive stereotypic standard. This is likely because observers care more about prescriptive
stereotypic standards, and may also assume that individuals being evaluated care more about
these standards as well and would thus benefit from the feedback. Illustrating this phenomenon,
women are more likely to be praised or complimented for their appearance than men (Eckert &
McConnell-Ginet, 2003), whereas men are more frequently praised for their skills and abilities
(Holmes, 1988; Parisi & Wogan, 2006; Rees-Miller, 2011).
The Effects of Stereotyped Evaluative Feedback
Evaluative feedback that is influenced by stereotypes contributes to the maintenance of
the societal status quo, (re)producing inequality in several ways, as we describe next. Due in part
to their effects on praise and criticism, stereotypes are ultimately self-reinforcing—they bring
about, and maintain, the version of reality they project.
Stereotyped Feedback Shapes Self-Concepts
Stereotyped feedback reinforces the status quo by shaping stereotyped individuals’ self-
concepts (i.e., what they value, what they think they are good at) from a young age (Block,
Gonzalez, Schmader, & Baron, 2018). A child who is often praised (or criticized) for displaying
(or failing to display) an attribute stereotypically associated with their group might over time
begin to value that attribute themselves—to incorporate it as part of their self-concept. This
effect follows from general principles of operant conditioning (Domjan, 2000): There are few
reinforcers as powerful as the perception that others approve of us, and few punishers as
effective as the prospect of social disapproval (Tomasello, 2014; though see Brummelman,
2018). Differentially reinforcing (with praise) and punishing (with criticism) the behavior of
certain groups (e.g., girls) with respect to certain attributes (e.g., being altruistic) is likely to
modulate the behaviors and attitudes associated with those attributes. Ultimately, these
developmental processes can be observed in the way that adults sort themselves into stereotype-
congruent careers (e.g., women choose more communally-oriented careers; Diekman, Brown,
Johnston, & Clark, 2010). The fact that self-selection among adults occurs seemingly free from
external influence—people choose the careers they want—is in part a function of prior shaping
of an individual’s desires by stereotype-driven evaluations from parents, teachers, and peers
(Sullivan, Moss-Racusin, Lopez, & Williams, 2018; Thomas & Blakemore, 2013).
Stereotyped praise and criticism shape not just what individuals want but also what they
believe they can achieve, another key facet of the self-concept. For example, praising the success
of negatively stereotyped groups (e.g., girls doing well in math) in terms of their effort, while
potentially beneficial in some respects (Mueller & Dweck, 1998), might also lead members of
these groups—as well as observers—to infer that their effort compensates for a lack of ability
(Amemiya & Wang, 2018; Meyer, 1992). In turn, this inference is likely to trigger concerns
about belonging and undermine persistence in members of stigmatized groups (Graham &
Taylor, 2014; Smith, Lewis, Hawthorne, & Hodges, 2013).
Stereotyped Feedback Creates Obstacles
Stereotyped feedback reinforces the status quo not just by changing how members of
stigmatized groups think about themselves but also by creating external barriers that keep
individuals out of domains that are not stereotypically associated with their group (Gaddis, 2015;
Heilman, 2001). Some of these effects are direct and obvious: Evaluating individuals through the
lens of their group membership carries the risk of failing to appropriately recognize and reward
their good performance. For example, women who excel in a male-typed career are often viewed
as highly competent but “cold,” which is a violation of gender prescriptions. As a result, women
who are successful in male-typed domains often receive fewer organizational rewards than
comparable men (Heilman et al., 2004). More generally, there is evidence that the stereotyped
expectations and evaluations of those in positions of authority deprive individuals from
stigmatized groups of opportunities to show their abilities and further their careers (Bian, Leslie,
& Cimpian, 2018; Biernat & Vescio, 2002; Moss-Racusin, Dovidio, Brescoll, Graham, &
Handelsman, 2012).
Beyond the direct effects that stereotyped feedback can have on the opportunities
afforded to stigmatized groups, stereotyped feedback can—more indirectly and subtly—
undermine their motivation and success. An individual who perceives that others are evaluating
them in light of a certain stereotype is likely to experience a sense of psychological threat even if
they reject that stereotype (Schmader, Johns, & Forbes, 2008; Steele, 2013). As a result of this
threat, the individual may experience uncertainty about whether they belong in that context,
decreased trust, and other psychological states that are not conducive to success (Bian, Leslie,
Murphy, & Cimpian, 2018; Emerson & Murphy, 2015; Walton & Cohen, 2007). Thus,
stereotyped feedback can set into motion a set of processes within the recipient that ultimately
limit their success in a counter-stereotypical domain, thereby reinforcing the status quo.
Whether we are aware of it or not, the feedback we give to others is not just a function of
their behavior (i.e., the objective stimulus). Critically, others’ perceived social identities
influence the standard we use to evaluate their behavior and, as a result, the feedback we give
them. The evidence reviewed here suggests stereotypes affect multiple aspects of feedback, from
its positivity and frequency to the factors that we think explain the person’s behavior, and these
effects are themselves consequential. Much like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the recipients of
stereotyped feedback often end up conforming to society’s perceptions of their groups, thereby
“validating” these biased perceptions and perpetuating social inequality.
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... Although past work indicates that teaching growth mindsets is beneficial for increasing women's interest in and motivation to pursue studies in fields associated with brilliance (e.g., Degol et al., 2018;Good et al., 2003), doing so without targeting the brilliance-as-man stereotype fails to address the problem at its core. In essence, teaching women that intelligence can be developed through hard work without demystifying the belief that brilliance is something only men have implies that women need to work harder to reach men's innate level of brilliance, which only reinforces the status quo (Vial & Cimpian, 2020). Instead, directly targeting both mindsets and brilliance beliefs among individuals of all genders may be more effective for narrowing the gender gaps across fields. ...
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Understanding academic gender gaps is difficult because gender-imbalanced fields differ across many features, limiting researchers’ ability to systematically study candidate causes. In the present preregistered research, we isolate two potential explanations—brilliance beliefs and fixed versus growth intelligence mindsets—by comparing two fields that have inverse gender gaps and historic and topical overlap: philosophy and psychology. Many more men than women study philosophy and vice versa in psychology, with disparities emerging during undergraduate studies. No prior work has examined the contributions of both self-perceptions of brilliance and fixed versus growth mindsets on choice of major among undergraduate students. We assessed field-specific brilliance beliefs, brilliance beliefs about self, and mindsets, cross-sectionally in 467 undergraduates enrolled in philosophy and psychology classes at universities in the United States and Canada via both in-person and online questionnaires. We found support for the brilliance beliefs about the self, but not mindset, explanation. Brilliance beliefs about oneself predicted women’s but not men’s choice of major. Women who believed they were less brilliant were more likely to study psychology (perceived to require low brilliance) over philosophy (perceived to require high brilliance). Findings further indicated that fixed versus growth mindsets did not differ by gender and were not associated with major. Together, these results suggest that internalized essentialist beliefs about the gendered nature of brilliance are uniquely important to understanding why men and women pursue training in different academic fields.
... The "shifting standards" model mentioned above draws our attention to the fact that, in practice, appraisals appear to track expectations, which in turn are informed by stereotypes (Vial and Cimpian, 2020). Part of that seems to involve excessive praise when unreasonably low expectations are surpassed. ...
Philosophers have had a lot to say about blame, much less about praise. In this paper, I follow some recent authors in arguing that this is a mistake. However, unlike these recent authors, the reasons I identify for scrutinising praise are to do with the ways in which praise is, systematically, unjustly apportioned. Specifically, drawing on testimony and findings from social psychology, I argue that praise is often apportioned in ways that reflect and entrench existing structures of oppression. Articulating what is going wrong here helps us to see what to do about it.
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Women use power in more prosocial ways than men and they also engage in more emotional labor (i.e., self-regulate their emotions to respond and attend to the needs and emotions of other people in a way that advances organizational goals). However, these two constructs have not been previously connected. We propose that gendered emotional labor practices and pressures result in gender differences in the prosocial use of power. We integrate the literature on emotional labor with research on the psychology of power to articulate three routes through which this happens. First, women may be more adept than men at the intrapersonal and interpersonal processes entailed in emotional labor practices—a skill that they can apply at all hierarchical levels. Second, given women’s stronger internal motivation to perform emotional labor, they construe power in a more interdependent manner than men, which promotes a more prosocial use of power. As a result, female powerholders tend to behave in more prosocial ways. Third, when they have power, women encounter stronger external motivation to engage in emotional labor, which effectively constrains powerful women’s behaviors in a way that fosters a more prosocial use of power. We discuss how, by promoting prosocial behavior among powerholders, emotional labor can be beneficial for subordinates and organizations (e.g., increase employee well-being and organizational trust), while simultaneously creating costs for individual powerholders, which may reduce women’s likelihood of actually attaining and retaining power by (a) making high-power roles less appealing, (b) guiding women toward less prestigious and (c) more precarious leadership roles, (d) draining powerful women’s time and resources without equitable rewards, and (e) making it difficult for women to legitimize their power in the eyes of subordinates (especially men). Thus, emotional labor practices can help explain the underrepresentation of women in top leadership positions.
Humans have a natural tendency to treat regularities (what people often do) as norms (what people ought to do). This tendency to move from is to ought introduces bias into our social reasoning because nonconformity to regularities is treated as wrong rather than uncommon. How then can children distinguish norms and regularities? This study investigated whether children use others’ distinct reactions to violations of norms and regularities to distinguish the two. Children (103 4- to 8-year-olds) observed a group of demonstrators consistently use one pathway of a novel apparatus, establishing it as the conforming pathway. Then, an additional demonstrator used an alternative (i.e., violating) pathway while bystanders reacted to the violation. In the Norm condition (n = 48) bystanders were visibly irritated and disapproving of the violation, whereas in the Regularity condition (n = 55) bystanders were surprised or confused but ultimately accepting of the violation. Children then completed three tasks in which they used the apparatus themselves, observed a puppet using the violating pathway, and evaluated the wrongness of using the violating pathway on a Likert scale. Children used the conforming pathway more often in the Norm condition than in the Regularity condition, disapproved of violations more in the Norm condition than in the Regularity condition, and rated violations as more impermissible in the Norm condition than in the Regularity condition. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that children use others’ reactions when distinguishing norms and regularities.
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A particularly longstanding, prevalent, and well-documented stereotype is the belief that men possess higher-level cognitive abilities than women do. This brilliance = male stereotype has been shown to be endorsed even by children as young as 6-years-old and is believed to be a factor driving the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. Motivated by the fact that cultural products serve as a source for acquiring individual values and behaviors, we study the presence of this stereotype in a large collection of movie transcripts covering half a century of Western-world film history (n = 11,550). Concretely, we use natural language processing techniques to quantify associations between gender pronouns and high-level cognitive ability-related words. Overall, our estimates suggest that, at an aggregate level, the brilliance = male stereotype is effectively present in films and that movies specifically targeted at children contain this stereotypical association. Moreover, this pattern seems to have been quite persistent for the last 50 years.
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Despite the numerous intellectual contributions made by women, we find evidence of bias against them in contexts that emphasize intellectual ability. In the first experiment, 347 participants were asked to refer individuals for a job. Approximately half of the participants were led to believe that the job required high-level intellectual ability; the other half were not. A Bayesian mixed-effects logistic regression revealed that the odds of referring a woman were 38.3% lower when the job description mentioned intellectual ability, consistent with the possibility of gender bias. We also found evidence of gender bias in Experiment 2, which was a preregistered direct replication of Experiment 1 with a larger and more diverse sample (811 participants; 44.6% people of color). Experiment 3 provided a developmental investigation of this bias by testing whether young children favor boys over girls in the context of intellectually challenging activities. Five- to 7-year-olds (N = 192) were taught how to play a team game. Half of the children were told that the game was for “really, really smart” children; the other half were not. Children then selected three teammates from among six unfamiliar children. Children’s initial selections were driven by ingroup bias (i.e., girls chose girls and boys chose boys), but children subsequently showed bias against girls, choosing girls as teammates for the “smart” game only 37.6% of the time (vs. 53.4% for the other game). Bias against women and girls in contexts where brilliance is prized emerges early and is a likely obstacle to their success.
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While there is substantial evidence that adults who violate gender stereotypes often face backlash (i.e. social and economic penalties), less is known about the nature of gender stereotypes for young children, and the penalties that children may face for violating them. We conducted three experiments, with over 2000 adults from the US, to better understand the content and consequences of adults’ gender stereotypes for young children. In Experiment 1, we tested which characteristics adults (N = 635) believed to be descriptive (i.e. typical), prescriptive (i.e. required), and proscriptive (i.e. forbidden) for preschool-aged boys and girls. Using the characteristics that were rated in Experiment 1, we then constructed vignettes that were either ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, and manipulated whether the vignettes were said to describe a boy or a girl. Experiment 2 (N = 697) revealed that adults rated stereotype-violating children as less likeable than their stereotype-conforming peers, and that this difference was more robust for boys than girls. Experiment 3 (N = 731) was a direct replication of Experiment 2, and revealed converging evidence of backlash against stereotype-violating children. In sum, our results suggest that even young children encounter backlash from adults for stereotype violations, and that these effects may be strongest for boys.
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Pervasive cultural stereotypes associate brilliance with men, not women. Given these stereotypes, messages suggesting that a career requires brilliance may undermine women’s interest. Consistent with this hypothesis, linking success to brilliance lowered women’s (but not men’s) interest in a range of educational and professional opportunities introduced via hypothetical scenarios (Experiments 1–4). It also led women more than men to expect that they would feel anxious and would not belong (Experiments 2–5). These gender differences were explained in part by women’s perception that they are different from the typical person in these contexts (Experiments 5 and 6). In sum, the present research reveals that certain messages—in particular, those suggesting that brilliance is essential to success—may contribute to the gender gaps that are present in many fields.
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How a misplaced emphasis on genius subtly discourages women and African-Americans from certain academic fields
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In his 2012 book, Jussim suggests that people's beliefs about various groups (i.e., their stereotypes) are largely accurate. We unpack this claim using the distinction between generic and statistical beliefs – a distinction supported by extensive evidence in cognitive psychology, linguistics, and philosophy. Regardless of whether one understands stereotypes as generic or statistical beliefs about groups, skepticism remains about the rationality of social judgments.
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Stereotypes are typically defined as beliefs about groups, but this definition is underspecified. Beliefs about groups can be generic or statistical. Generic beliefs attribute features to entire groups (e.g., men are strong), whereas statistical beliefs encode the perceived prevalence of features (e.g., how common it is for men to be strong). The present research sought to determine whether generic or statistical beliefs are more central to the cognitive structure of stereotypes. Specifically, we tested whether generic or statistical beliefs are more influential in people’s social judgments, on the assumption that greater functional importance indicates greater centrality in stereotype structure. Relative to statistical beliefs, generic beliefs about social groups were significantly stronger predictors of expectations (Studies 1–3) and explanations (Study 4) for unfamiliar individuals’ traits. Additionally, consistent with prior evidence that generic beliefs are cognitively simpler than statistical beliefs, generic beliefs were particularly predictive of social judgments for participants with more intuitive (vs. analytic) cognitive styles and for participants higher (vs. lower) in authoritarianism, who tend to view outgroups in simplistic, all-or-none terms. The present studies suggest that generic beliefs about groups are more central than statistical beliefs to the cognitive structure of stereotypes.
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Studies using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Kindergarten Class of 1998–1999 (ECLS-K:1999) revealed gender gaps in mathematics achievement and teacher perceptions. However, recent evidence suggests that gender gaps have closed on state tests, raising the question of whether such gaps are absent in the ECLS-K:2011 cohort. Extending earlier analyses, this study compares the two ECLS-K cohorts, exploring gaps throughout the achievement distribution and examining whether learning behaviors might differentially explain gaps more at the bottom than the top of the distribution. Overall, this study reveals remarkable consistency across both ECLS-K cohorts, with the gender gap developing early among high achievers and spreading quickly throughout the distribution. Teachers consistently rate girls’ mathematical proficiency lower than that of boys with similar achievement and learning behaviors. Gender differences in learning approaches appear to be fairly consistent across the achievement distribution, but girls’ more studious approaches appear to have more payoff at the bottom of the distribution than at the top. Questions remain regarding why boys outperform girls at the top of the distribution, and several hypotheses are discussed. Overall, the persistent ECLS-K patterns make clear that girls’ early mathematics learning experiences merit further attention.
Communion and agency are often described as core human values. In adults, these values predict gendered role preferences. Yet little work has examined the extent to which young boys and girls explicitly endorse communal and agentic values and whether early gender differences in values predict boys’ and girls’ different role expectations. In a sample of 411 children between the ages of 6 and 14 years, we found consistent gender differences in endorsement of communal and agentic values. Across this age range, boys endorsed communal values less and agentic values more than did girls. Moreover, gender differences in values partially accounted for boys’ relatively lower family versus career orientation, predicting their orientation over and above gender identification and parent reports of children’s gender expression. These findings suggest that gender differences in core values emerge surprisingly early in development and predict children’s expectations well before they make decisions about adopting adult roles in their own families.
Praise for process, which includes praising students’ level of effort and effective strategies, has shown promise in improving students’ motivation to learn. However, parents and teachers may interpret this to mean that solely praising students’ effort level is sufficient. Although praise for effort is effective in some respects in early childhood, it often stops working and even backfires by adolescence. In this article, we explain these findings developmentally. We suggest that effort praise can communicate that effort is a path to improving ability, but can also imply that the student needs to work hard because of low innate ability. We propose that adolescents are at greater risk for interpreting the praise in the second way because secondary schools often value innate ability more than effort and adolescents are conscious of ability stereotypes. We conclude with implications for theory and research.