Stanford Professors: Saying Girls Are ‘As Good’ As Boys At Math Perpetuates Bias


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Grace Carr Reporter
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Two Stanford professors conducted a study examining language and concluded that comparing girls to boys rather than flatly stating they are equal is biased against women.

The study, published June 28 in the Journal of Cognitive Science, studies expressions of gender and examines whether stating “girls are as good as boys at math” has a negative effect on how men and women view the capabilities of women.

“The subtle implications of subject‐complement statements are particularly important to investigate because of how powerfully implicit information can influence thought and behavior outside conscious awareness,” the study argues.

Stanford Social Sciences Associate Dean and psychology professor, Ellen Markman, along with researcher Eleanor Chestnut conducted the study by examining responses from 640 English speakers aged 18 to 69 based on statements given to the participants by the researchers.

The statements included “girls do just as well as boys at math,” “boys do just as well as girls at math,” “girls and boys are equally good at math,” and “boys and girls are equally good at math.” (RELATED: School Stops Professor From Raising Female Students’ Grades In The Name Of Gender Equality)

The researchers concluded that saying “girls are as good as boys at math” can cause bias against women’s abilities despite good intentions. “On the surface, the sentence tries to convey that both sexes are equal in their abilities. But because of its grammatical structure, it implies that being good at math is more common or natural for boys than girls,” a Tuesday press release about the study says.

“Considering that several fields with large gender gaps like computer science and physics value raw talent, statements that imply that boys are naturally more talented could be contributing to women’s underrepresentation,” said Chestnut.

The authors concluded that parents and teachers, as well as adults in general, should avoid using language that “fram[es] one gender as the standard for the other.”

Campus Reform also wrote a Thursday article on the study.

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