Is “Brilliance” a Male Trait? Girls Think So, According to New Study

A recent NYU study has shown that while young girls believe they’re just as likely to achieve good grades as boys, they still are more likely to ascribe “brilliance,” or exceptional intelligence, to men. Nicola Davis writes in The Guardian,

In the first test, a group of 96 boys and girls of ages five, six and seven, were read a story about a highly intelligent person, and were asked to guess the person’s gender. They were then presented with a series of pictures showing pairs of adults, some same-sex, some opposite sex, and were asked to pick which they thought was highly intelligent. Finally, the children were asked to match certain objects and traits, such as “being smart”, to pictures of men and women.

Taken together, the results reveal that girls of five years old are just as likely as boys to associate brilliance with their own gender. However, for those aged six and seven, girls were less likely than boys to make the association: among six year olds, 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.

Experts posit that this may have to do with the way parents and teachers talk about academic success in girls vs. boys: we’re more likely to attribute good grades in girls to “hard work,” while boys are more often praised for innate intelligence. While this study focused on young children aged five to seven, it’s a good reminder to be mindful of the language we use with students, even at the university level.

Check out the full article on this fascinating study.

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