Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Women worse at math than men' explanation scientifically incorrect, experts say

Date:
January 18, 2012
Source:
University of Missouri-Columbia
Summary:
Researchers have conducted a review that casts doubt on the accuracy of a popular theory that attempted to explain why there are more men than women in top levels of mathematical fields. The researchers found that numerous studies claiming that the stereotype, "men are better at math" – believed to undermine women's math performance – had major methodological flaws, utilized improper statistical techniques, and many studies had no scientific evidence of this stereotype.

A University of Missouri researcher and his colleague have conducted a review that casts doubt on the accuracy of a popular theory that attempted to explain why there are more men than women in top levels of mathematic fields. The researchers found that numerous studies claiming that the stereotype, "men are better at math" -- believed to undermine women's math performance -- had major methodological flaws, utilized improper statistical techniques, and many studies had no scientific evidence of this stereotype.

Related Articles


This theory, called stereotype threat, was first published in 1999 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Essentially, the theory is that due to the stereotype that women are worse than men in math skills, females develop a poor self-image in this area, which leads to mathematics underachievement.

"The stereotype theory really was adopted by psychologists and policy makers around the world as the final word, with the idea that eliminating the stereotype could eliminate the gender gap," said David Geary, Curators Professor of Psychological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. "However, even with many programs established to address the issue, the problem continued. We now believe the wrong problem is being addressed."

In the study, Geary and Giljsbert Stoet, from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, examined 20 influential replications of the original stereotype theory study. The researchers found that many subsequent studies had serious scientific flaws, including a lack of a male control group and improperly applied statistical techniques.

"We were surprised the researchers did not subject males to the same experimental manipulations as female participants," Geary said. "It is reasonable to think that men also would not do well if told 'men normally do worse on this test' right before they take the test. When we adjusted the findings based on this and other statistical factors, we found little to no significant stereotype theory effect."

The researchers believe that basing interventions on the stereotype threat is actually doing more harm than good, as vital resources are being dedicated to a problem that does not exist.

"These findings really irritate me, as a psychologist, because this is a science where we are really trying to discover what the issues are," Geary said. "The fact is there are still a disproportionate number of men in top levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We need more women to succeed in these fields for our economy and for our future."

The study, "Can stereotype threat explain the sex gap in mathematics performance and achievement?" will be published in the journal Review of General Psychology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Missouri-Columbia. "'Women worse at math than men' explanation scientifically incorrect, experts say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120118123141.htm>.
University of Missouri-Columbia. (2012, January 18). 'Women worse at math than men' explanation scientifically incorrect, experts say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120118123141.htm
University of Missouri-Columbia. "'Women worse at math than men' explanation scientifically incorrect, experts say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120118123141.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Former NFL Players Donate Brains to Science

Former NFL Players Donate Brains to Science

Reuters - US Online Video (Mar. 3, 2015) Super Bowl champions Sidney Rice and Steve Weatherford donate their brains, post-mortem, to scientific research into repetitive brain trauma. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds

Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds

Newsy (Mar. 3, 2015) Researchers found an abnormal protein associated with Alzheimer&apos;s disease in the brains of 20-year-olds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) Researchers gave lidocaine to 112 patients, and about 88 percent of the subjects said they needed less migraine-relief medicine the next day. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

Newsy (Mar. 1, 2015) Margaret Duffy of the University of Missouri talks about her study on the social network and the envy and depression that Facebook use can cause. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins