Are Boys Better at Math Than Girls? The True Reason for Math and Science Gender Inequality.

Are boys better at math than girls? The true reason for math and science gender inequality.A review of:Huguet, P. & Regner, I. (2009, in-press). Counter-stereotypic beliefs in math do not protect school girls from stereotype threat. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.by Lori-Lyn Gulley Boynton. Stereotype Threat (ST) occurs when individuals perform at a lower level than their potential ability due to a perceived threat of confirming or disconfirming a negative stereotype about their group’s performance. ST has been found to effect female’s math performance, and spatial reasoning in the general population, thus contributing to a lack of female advancement in scientific careers (Ben-Zeev, Duncan, & Forbes, 2005; Cadinu, Maass, Rosabianca, & Kiesner, 2005; McGlone & Aronson, 2006).Studies using samples of elementary and middle school students in the general population have also found that ST may influence girl’s performance by preventing them from performing at their optimal level (Ambady, Shih, Kim, & Pittinsky, 2001; Hyde and Lynn, 2006). When this occurs, studies fail to show a gender gap on math tests which may be severely misleading. Therefore, in elementary and middle school populations, ST may still be operating even if it is not reflected in a gender gap. When ST goes unrecognized, it can have detrimental effects on female students without anyone realizing it. Yet, the knowledge of negative stereotypes does not ensure that ST will be prevented.Huguet & Regner (2009), designed a study with the assumption that girls who have counter-stereotypic beliefs may not be protected from ST. They included 199 middle-school students (92 girls and 107 boys) ranging from 11 to 13-years-old, from eight public schools in France. The students were all given a task that has been found to detect ST by integrating visual-perceptual and spatial skills, along with cognitive and meta-cognitive processes necessary for academic performance (Kirkwood, Weiler, Bernstein, Forbes, & Waber, 2001). All of the students were given the identical test, but some were informed that the test would measure their geometry ability, while others were told the test measured...

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