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Brilliance Stereotypes

January 30, 2017

Gender stereotypes about extreme intelligence take hold in the early school years.

Transcript

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BOB HIRSHON (host):

Girls and bias. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Before their seventh birthday, girls already start believing the stereotype that boys are brainier, which could decrease their likelihood of pursuing fields like science and engineering. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researcher Lin Bian and her colleagues report in Science magazine that 5-year-old girls associate extreme smarts with females most of the time. But after they turn six, their views – along with their interests – have shifted.

LIN BIAN (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign):

We asked boys and girls if they would like to play a game for kids who are “really really smart”. And girls became less interested in it compared to boys at the age of 6 and 7.

HIRSHON:

This, despite doing better than boys in school. Bian says emphasizing hard work rather than raw genius could encourage more girls to stick with challenging subjects, and benefit boys as well. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.Story by Susanne Bard