Young girls are less likely to think they're 'really, really smart' than boys are

By age 6, girls start to believe stereotypes.
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Young girls are less likely to think women are really, really smart, showing false stereotypes could affect what girls grow up to be.

That's according to a study by New York University that published in the journal Science Thursday. Researchers wanted to figure out if kids believe the stereotypes that are given to their gender – and it turns out, girls as young as 6 do.

"Our society tends to associate brilliance with men more than with women, and this notion pushes women away from jobs that are perceived to require brilliance," Lin Bian, who led the research, said.

For the study, researchers worked with kids ages 5-7, finding that by age 6 girls are less likely than boys to think women are brilliant – 65 percent of 6-year-old boys said their own gender was smart, compared to 48 percent for girls.

For 7-year-olds, it was 68 percent for boys and 54 percent for girls.

Also, 6- and 7-year-old girls were less likely to be interested in games that are described as being for kids who are "really, really smart."

This wasn't the case for 5-year-old girls, though. They thought their own gender was brilliant at nearly the same rate as 5-year-old boys.

“Even though the stereotype equating brilliance with men doesn’t match reality, it might nonetheless take a toll on girls’ aspirations and on their eventual careers,” Andrei Cimpian, the paper’s senior author, said.

Sarah-Jane Leslie, who contributed to the study, says earlier research shows these stereotypes are present in adulthood, too. Adult women were less likely to get higher degrees in fields thought to require "brilliance" – like STEM and humanities.

That, coupled with this most recent research, shows "these stereotypes begin to impact girls' choices at a heartbreakingly young age," Leslie said.

Researchers do say more work needs to be done to determine how broadly this applies, though.

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