Indiana University Psychologists Explore How Negative Stereotypes Impact Women’s Performance in Mathematics

indianaA new study by researchers at Indiana University in Bloomington finds that gender stereotypes about women’s ability in mathematics have a negative impact on women’s performance in the field. The study also found that both men and women believe that gender stereotypes do not harm women and serve to motivate women to succeed in mathematics.

In the study, men and women were given 10 minutes to solve seven mathematics problems on a computer. A negative stereotype was introduced into the experiment. Some participants were told before the study began that investigators were trying to find out why women were not as good as men at mathematics. Women who were confronted with the negative stereotype tended to do worse than other women.

The study was led by Kathryn L. Boucher, a postdoctoral research associate, and Mary C. Murphy, an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University.

murphy“This study has major implications for women in technology and business environments, where women’s abilities are regularly impugned by negative stereotypes,” said Dr. Murphy. “These are the places where women are most likely to experience stereotype threat — and if their supervisors and co-workers cannot anticipate how these threats interfere with performance, that’s a serious problem. It’s one of the ways women end up underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math.” Dr. Murphy is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

boucherDr. Boucher added that “this study’s implications go beyond the classroom into the many other social environments where negative stereotypes about women play a role. It also puts into perspective the enormous challenge of eliminating the effects of stereotypes despite growing awareness about their harm to women and society.” Dr. Boucher is graduate of the University of Kentucky and earned a Ph.D. in social psychology at Indiana University.

The article, “Forecasting the Experience of Stereotype Threat for Others,” was published on the website of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study


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