Research Shows Young Girls Believe Boys Are Smarter

This is so sad.
PHOTO: Nick Onken

By now, we all know that gender stereotypes influence people's ambition and confidence when it comes to their careers—men are perceived as determined or motivated, and women are labeled as "pushy," "bossy," or "too aggressive" for the same actions. This said, professionally, women are more likely to be insecure or passive about their work.

But the sad thing is that this way of thinking starts at such a young age. As early as six years old, research shows that girls believe "brilliance" is a male trait.

The researchers read a story about a really smart person to a group of girls and boys who were around five to seven years old, and the kids were asked to guess the protagonist's gender. Soon after, the children were shown photos of adults and asked to identify the "smart" person. They also had to assign traits to the adult men and women.

Here are the results: "Five-year-old girls are just as likely as boys to assign brilliance to their own gender, but the six- and seven-year-old girls started believing that less and less. While older boys said other men were likely to be 'really, really smart' 65 percent of the time, their girl classmates only selected women as 'really, really smart' 48 percent of the time."

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The most disconcerting part of this study is that the girls, on average, performed better in school, but according to the authors of the study, "Girls' ideas about who is brilliant are not rooted in their perceptions of who performs well in school… Girls are already starting to think that doing well at school is a matter of following the rules and paying attention." Of course, there's some truth in that, but it's still alarming that girls aren't taking that into consideration when they think of overall brilliance. 

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