What This Study Revealed About Girls & Intelligence Will Make You Rage

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If you need some motivation to rage through your next workout session (but really, don't read while you're running), you've found it. New research found that many girls think that being smart and brilliant is something that's innately male — and that's not okay.

According to a study published in Science, young girls don't think that getting good grades is an innate ability, instead, female students as young as 6 years old see "brilliance" and "giftedness" as a decidedly male trait.

The study's author, Andrei Cimpian, looked at over 400 boys and girls of ages 5, 6, and 7. After being read a story that involved a "highly intelligent person," 96 students were asked about the character's gender. When asked to match the character of a man or a woman, some telling patterns emerged. The Guardian reports that at age 5, both boys and girls were more likely to choose their own gender for the character. At ages 6, "boys chose people of their own gender as 'really, really smart' 65% of the time while girls only selected their gender as brilliant 48% of the time."

"Because these ideas are present at such an early age, they have so much time to affect the educational trajectories of boys and girls," Cimpian said.

In the second part of the study, which involved a larger sample size, students were asked which "gender was expected [...] to do better academically at school." While the girls aged 5 to 7 associated their own gender with good grades, they did not associate females with "brilliance." The study also found that when exposed to fictional games that were described as for "really really smart" kids and for kids that try "really really hard," female students often showed less interest in the game labeled for "smart" kids.

School officials are already using these findings and hope to integrate a wider range of role models for female students. Christia Spears Brown, a professor of psychology at Kentucky University, said that this new research echoes previous work. For girls, parents and teachers will usually attribute good grades to hard work. For boys, natural ability is credited. Brown explains that this mindset, which is seen as early as 5 years old, could be why female students opt out of subjects like physics, despite consistently earning good grades.

"If we are to facilitate a gender-balanced workforce of engineers, mathematicians, and physicists in the future it is clear interventions at secondary school just aren’t going to be sufficient," Cimpian said in conclusion. "Parents, teachers, and the media need to work much harder eradicating gender stereotypes in the way they talk about adults to children of all ages."
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