When it comes to intelligence, men are more likely to be bestowed with the lofty attribute than women, a new study finds.
These stereotyped views are a result of implicit bias that people don’t admit when asked directly, the researchers noted.
“Stereotypes that portray brilliance as a male trait are likely to hold women back across a wide range of prestigious careers,” said study lead author Daniel Storage, an assistant professor at the University of Denver’s Department of Psychology.
“Understanding the prevalence and magnitude of this gender-brilliance stereotype can inform future efforts to increase gender equity in career outcomes,” senior study author Andrei Cimpian said in a New York University news release. He’s an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology.
For the study, participants were given a speeded sorting task on a computer. They were shown a series of pictures and asked to press “E” if it was related to the category male or the trait brilliant. In other trials, participants had to press “E” if a picture related to female or brilliant. Researchers recorded and compared the timing of their responses.
Across five studies, which included U.S. women and men, U.S. girls and boys ages 9 and 10, and women and men from 78 other countries, the researchers found faster responses, and therefore an implicit stereotype linking brilliance to men more than women. The breadth of this stereotype was “striking,” the researchers added.
When participants were asked directly if men were smarter than women, however, they rejected the idea, the researchers noted.
Researcher Tessa Charlesworth, a doctoral student at Harvard University, said, “A particularly exciting finding from this work is that, if anything, people explicitly say that they associate women with brilliance. Yet, implicit measures revealed a different story about the more automatic gender stereotypes that come to mind when thinking about brilliance.”
The report was published July 2 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
For more on gender bias, see Plan International.