Girls as young as six are vulnerable to be influenced by societal stereotypes: Study
Washington D.C. [USA], Jan. 27 : Dear parents, you cannot force your opinion on your little daughter, as a new study finds that girls as young as six are influenced by the societal stereotypes about intellectual ability and start believing that they cannot be as 'brilliant' as boys.
"Not only do we see that girls just starting out in school are absorbing some of society's stereotyped notions of brilliance, but these young girls are also choosing activities based on these stereotypes. This is heartbreaking," said study's senior author Andrei Cimpian from New York University.
The researchers are investigating several possible factors that contribute to this disparity and used a series of experiments to evaluate the beliefs of five, six and seven-year-old boys and girls about gender and brilliance.
They used the phrase "really, really smart" as a child's way of understanding the concept of brilliance.
In one experiment, the children heard a story about a gender-neutral protagonist described as "really, really smart."
They then selected the most-likely protagonist from among pictures of two men and two women.
Separately, they asked the children to pair certain words like "smart" with either a man or a woman.
Using these and similar tests, researchers were able to assess children's stereotypes about gender and intellectual ability.
The scientists also asked girls and boys to evaluate their preferences for two games -- one for "really, really smart" children, the other for children who try "really, really hard."
The findings indicate that by age six, girls were already significantly less likely than boys to say that members of their own gender were "really, really smart".
Those same girls were more likely to avoid games described as for children who are "really, really smart."
At age five, these differences had not yet appeared and both boys and girls associated brilliance with their own gender similarly.
"It highlights the importance of attacking the problem of gender disparities in society, because it shows that we are influenced by the society we encounter starting when we are extremely young," the authors stated.