AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: stereotypes

Who’s Smarter: Girls vs. Boys?

According to the legendary myth, boys are smarter in science, technology, engineering and mathematic fields due to biological deficiencies in math aptitude. Recent studies show that this is not true. A study, by Jessica Cantlon at Carnegie Mellon University, evaluates 104 young children by scanning their brain activity while watching an educational video. When the scans were compared, it showed that both groups were equally engaged while watching the videos and there was no difference in how boys and girls processed math skills. To further this study, researchers compared brain maturity in connection to skill, by using brain scans of adults who watched the same educational video. Which concluded that the brains scans in adults and children -of both genders-  were statistically equivalent. This study confirmed the idea that math activities, in both genders, take place in the intraparietal suclus, which is the area of the brain involved in processing numbers, addition and subtraction, and estimating.

So, why are mathematic and computer science fields predominantly males? Well, it could be for the held stereotype that women and girls are biologically inferior at mathematics. This conventional image could also be linked to the fact that females were prevented from pursuing higher education until the 19th century. To show this unconscious bias, an Implicit Association Test was taken by employers. This test reveals an unconscious bias by forcing you to quickly group various words together. If the word man was immediately linked to math, then an implicit bias is shown. This study unveiled the prejudice that men were twice as likely to be hired for a simple math job since, men and women employers displayed a prejudice against women for a perceived lack of mathematical skill.

Why don’t women see themselves as brilliant?


Why is the population of women in physics, engineering, music composition, etc. so sparse? It might have to do with current stereotypes.

Up until relatively recently, women were not in the academic work place’ men dominated all of the academic, intelligent, and advanced jobs. However, today, over 50% of molecular biology and 60% of comparative literature degrees go to women. But where are all of the women in political science and philosophy?

Research shows that careers that focus on brilliance tend to have fewer women in it. In other words, jobs that emphasize knowledge you “can’t be taught” are typically filled with men. Sarah-Jane Leslie and Andrei Cimpian became interested in gender representation in fields that focused on talent versus fields that focused on hard work. They surveyed other potential explanations, gender differences at the upper end of the intelligence scale, and how men and women differ in how they think. They hypothesized that women might not be able to work a certain schedule and therefore not have enough time required for certain academic fields, fields which are extremely selective should have more men than women, and men are better at abstract thinking and women are better at emotional understanding. They tested these hypotheses with surveys that ranked reactions to a statement from strongly agree to strongly disagree (Likert scale), collected and compared GRE scores, and included statements that assessed how much participants though thinking abstractly or emotionally was important in their academic field.

Leslie and Cimpian concluded that stereotypes about women (and also African-Americans) undermine their representation in certain jobs because they subconsciously do not feel fit to be in that field. Other factors include schedule flexibility or harassment in the work environment, but above all, it’s all about attitude, not aptitude.

Why do you think women don’t see themselves as brilliant, even though they may be well aware of their intellectual abilities?

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