gwen (gwenix) wrote,

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Interesting study found in the Washington Post.

Women Aren't Good in Math . . . or Are They?

Strange but true: Women score much lower on math tests if they are first asked unrelated questions about gender issues...dozens of other experiments have confirmed that subtly cuing women or minorities to think subconsciously about their sex or race causes them do poorly in areas where the stereotype suggests they are weak.

The experiment cited has a few reasons to pick at it, it's a very small sample size at 90 students, it's also a very selective sample size containing only students from Lafayette College (which is some indication of similar ability going into the study), and I'm really unsure of how an essay on living in Northeastern PA is a "control group". This last nitpick is probably just me not understanding the basis for that, though.

In any case, the study sorted 90 students into three groups, each given questions to reflect on before taking a spatial-math test (Vandenberg Mental Rotation Test) to see if there was any influence on their abilities. The three groups were the "control" group (as mentioned above), the "snob complex" group (they were asked about being at an exclusive school), and the "gender issues" group (they were asked questions that caused them to reflect on gender).

The results found that men in the "gender issues" group did about 25-30% better on the math test, men in the "control" group did about 15-20% better, and men in the "snob complex" group showed "no significant difference" to the scores of the women. Because of the nitpicking I show above, I'm not sure how conclusive this study really is, but it really should be looked further into with a larger and more diverse sample size.

Anyway, I found it fascinating.

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