Friday, February 17, 2017

6-Year-Old Girls Already Have Gendered Beliefs

Lin Bian, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, wanted to understand how and when gender stereotypes develop, and especially the old stereotype that boys are smarter than girls. The results of her study were stark. “Among the 5-year-olds, both boys and girls associated brilliance with their own gender. But among those aged 6 or 7, only the boys still held to that view. At an age when girls tend to outperform boys at school, and when children in general show large positive biases towards their own in-groups, the girls became less likely than boys to attribute brilliance to their own gender.” Already by age six, children begin to develop the idea that girls just aren’t quite as smart as boys.

This stereotype soon collides with a second—that the fields of math and science demand a special kind of innate brilliance. Because girls have absorbed the stereotype that they possess less of this talent, they tend to steer or be steered away from those fields. This “double whammy of stereotypes—that men are more likely to be brilliant, and that brilliance is required in some fields—creates an atmosphere that makes women feel unwelcome, and pushes them away.”

It is an interesting study and one parents—especially parents of young girls—would do well to consider. I want to use it as a springboard to discuss a related issue. Read More

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