Aiming to investigate how cultural stereotypes about brilliance affect young boys and girls, researchers studied 400 children between the ages of 5 and 7. In one study, 96 children, half boys and half girls, were told two stories, one about a “really, really smart” person, and the other about “a really really nice” person, with no gender specified for either. The children were then shown four pictures, two males and two females, and were asked to choose which they thought might be the person in the story. Boys and girls were “equally likely” to correlate brilliance with their own gender at age 5; however, by 6, girls were “significantly less likely” to do so, and many chose a male character as the “really, really smart” person in the story, just like the boys.
In another study, 64 children between 6 and 7, half boys and half girls, were shown two “unfamiliar board games,” and told the games were either for really smart children, or for children who try really hard. Then, they were asked four questions designed to measure their interest in each game. When the game was described as being for really smart kids, the girls were less interested and less motivated than boys. When the same game was described as being for kids who try hard, girls and boys expressed the same interest.
As researchers involved in the study wrote in NYT, the tendency for girls to perceive their gender as being less intelligent may have to do with culturally ingrained stereotypes. There are a few notable examples; specifically, in media depictions where “geniuses” are often boys: Mr. Spock or Sherlock Holmes, for instance (or any Benedict Cumberbatch role, for that matter). And while there are a few exceptions — think Hermione Granger — cultural stereotypes insinuate that being “intellectually gifted is a male quality.”
Read more about the study on NYT.
Originally published at journal.thriveglobal.com