While gendered expectations are often placed on children before they're even cognizant of the world around them, those expectations start to manifest outwardly around age 6. And unsurprisingly, the way children perceive their own gender's intelligence is affected. According to a new study on gender stereotypes and intellectual ability published today in Science, girls do not perceive themselves to be as smart as boys as young as age 6.
To reach this saddening conclusion, researchers told a group of lboys and girls under the age of 6 a story about a "smart person" without specifying the gender. All 5-year-olds, regardless of gender, were likely to guess that the story was about their own gender. But the results flipped at age 6, when girls were less likely to assume the intelligent character was a girl.
"In later life, these differences in children's perceptions are likely to be consequential," writes the New York Times of the new study. "In fact, in a paper we published in the journal Science in 2015, we found that women are underrepresented in fields thought to require brilliance—fields that include some of the most prestigious careers in our society, such as those in science and engineering. It may be that the roots of this underrepresentation stretch all the way back to childhood."
Of course, parents can play a role in reducing these harmful stereotypes in their little ones. New York magazine's The Science of Us column suggests "increasing the visibility of female role models" and equally distributing household chores between male and female family members. "[This] could help balance the career aspirations of boys and girls," they conclude.
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