6-Year-Old Girls Link Intelligence to Men Over Women, Study Says

PHOTO: A girl doing her homework in this undated photo.PlayPhilippe Lissac/Getty Images
WATCH Girls Begin Associating Brilliance With Being Male at 6, New Research Finds

Girls as young as age 6 tend to attribute intelligence to men more so than women, according to a new study published this week.

Researchers found that girls age 6 or younger are more likely to believe men are "brilliant" compared to women.

The researchers were affiliated with the University of Illinois, New York University and Princeton University.

Jill Weber, a psychologist based in Washington, D.C., said she's not surprised by the study's findings.

"When you think of brilliance, it goes along with power and leadership and standing out and feeling confident," said Weber. "Unfortunately we do not socialize girls [to have] those traits."

The study published Thursday in the medical journal Science had 400 children go through a series of experiments to see if they associated the idea of "brilliance" with a specific gender.

In one study, 96 students, equally divided between boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 7, were told a story of a "really, really smart person" and then told to pick that person from a group of images of men and women. While the 5-year-old children tended to pick people from their own gender, the older children were more likely to pick photographs of men.

In another experiment, the children were asked to pick one of two games: one for "really, really smart" people and one for "children who worked really, really hard." Researchers found girls were overall less interested in the games for "smart" people but equally interested in the game for children who "worked really, really hard." The study authors theorize that girls may not pick the game for "smart" people because they are trying to be modest.

Weber explained that children in the 5 to 6 age range become less egocentric and start to pay more attention to those around them.

"Around 6 or 7 cognitively that is when the child's brain is better able to compare and look at diversity and understand differences," Weber explained.

However, Weber said that parents shouldn't feel demoralized by the study's findings. Instead, they should work to counteract social messages.

"I think the more conscious we are...it reminds us we have to wake up again," Weber explained. "We have to deliberately coach girls" to be more vocal, she said.

The researchers caution that more study is needed with a larger and more diverse group to confirm these early findings.

"The present results suggest a sobering conclusion: Many children assimilate the idea that brilliance is a male quality at a young age," the study authors wrote. "This stereotype begins to shape children’s interests as soon as it is acquired and is thus likely to narrow the range of careers they will one day contemplate."

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