### TL;DR The distribution of women and men across academic disc...
> *"investigations of the “brilliance = males” stereotype that focu...
**Description of Study 2:** Study 2 replicated study 1 but with ...
**Description of Study 1:** Study 1 set out to asses children's ...
**Description of Study 4:** Study 4 was designed to compare chil...
**Description of Study 3:** Study 3 set out to assess whether ch...
> *"Many children assimilate the idea that brilliance is a male qua...
REPORT
PSYCHOLOGY
G ender stereotypes about intellectual
ability emerge early and influence
childrens interests
Lin Bian,
1,2
* Sarah-Jane Leslie,
3
Andrei Cimpian
1,2
*
Common stereotypes associate high-level intellectual ability (brilliance, genius, etc.) with
men more than women. These stereotypes discourage womens pursuit of many
prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish
brilliance (such as physics and philosophy). Here we show that these stereotypes are
endorsed by, and influence the interests of, children as young as 6. Specifically, 6-year-old
girls are less likely than boys to believe that members of their gender are really, really
smart. Also at age 6, girls begin to avoid activities said to be for children who are really,
really smart. These findings suggest that gendered notions of brilliance are acquired early
and have an immediate effect on childrens interests.
T
he career aspirations of young men and
women are shaped by societal stereotypes
about gender (1, 2). For example, the stereo-
type that men are better than women at
mathematics (3) impairs womensperform-
ance in this domain (4, 5) and undermines their
interest in mathematics-intensive fields (6, 7).
However, popular beliefs about ability associ-
ate not only specific cognitive processes (e.g.,
mathematical reasoning) with a particular gen-
der but also the overall amount of cognitive
ability. It is commonly assumed that high-level
cognitive ability (brilliance, genius, giftedness,
etc.) is present more often in men than in wom-
en (811). This brilliance = males stereotype
has been invoked to explain the gender gaps
in many prestigious occupations ( 1215). How-
ever, little is known about the acquisition of this
stereotype. The earlier children acquire the no-
tion that brilliance is a male quality, the stronger
its influence may be on their aspirations. The
four studies reported here (N = 400 children)
show that, by the age of 6, girls are less likely
than boys to believe that members of their gen-
der are really, really smart”—a child-friendly
way of referring to brilliance. Also at age 6, the
girls in these studies begin to shy away from
novel activities said to be for children who are
really, really smart. These studies speak to the
early acquisition of cultural ideas about brilliance
and gender, as well as to the immediate effect
that these stereotyped notions have on children s
interests.
The stereotypes associating men but not
women with brilliance and genius (811) may
take a toll on womens careers; fields whose
members place a great deal of value on sheer
brilliance (e.g., mathematics, physics, philosophy)
have lower proportions of women earning ba-
chelors and doctoral degrees (1217). However ,
investigations of the brilliance = males stereo-
type that focus exclusively on participants of col-
lege age or older overlook a critical fact: Cultural
messages about the presumed cognitive abilities
of males and females are likely to be influential
throughout development (18, 19). If children ab-
sorb and act on these ideas (3, 20, 21), then
many capable girls are likely to have already
veered away from certain fields by the time they
reach college. Thus, it is important to investi-
gate
the acquisition of the brilliance = males
stereotype in early childhood, as children enter
school and begin to make choices that shape their
future career paths.
Study one examined the developmental tra-
jectory of this stereotype in 96 children aged 5,
6, and 7 (32 children per age group; half boys,
half girls). Children came mostly from middle-
class backgrounds, and 75% were white. (The
supplementary materials contain additional de-
mographic information. However , across studies,
childrens race/ethnicity and socioeconomic sta-
tus did not significantly moderate the results
of interest.) We assessed childrens endorsement
of the brilliance = males stereotype with three
tasks, presented in counterbalanced order (see
the supplementary materials). In task (i), chil-
dren were told a brief story about a person who
was really, really smart. No hints as to the
protagonists gender were provided. Children
were then asked to guess which of four unfamiliar
adults (two men, two women) was the protag-
onist of the story. In task (ii), children saw several
pairs of same- or different-gender adults and
guessed which adult in each pair was really,
really smart. In task (iii), children completed
three novel puzzles in which they had to guess
which objects (e.g., a hammer) or attributes (e.g.,
smart) best corresponded to pictures of unfamiliar
men and women.
Across tasks and studies, the pictures depicted
males and females matched for attractiveness
and professional dress (potential cues to intelli-
gence). In each task, we recorded the proportion
of relevant trials on which children linked in-
tellectual abili ty with people of their own gender;
these proportions were then averaged into an
own-gender brilliance score. As a comparison,
we also elicited childrens ideas about whether
men versus women are really, really nice. These
two traits are differentially linked to gender in
common stereotypes (2). As the relevant cultural
notions are being assimilated, childrensresponses
should likewise differentiate between these traits.
The results suggest that childrensideasabout
brilliance exhibit rapid changes over the period
from ages 5 to 7. At 5, boys and girls associated
brilliance with their own gender to a similar ex-
tent (Wald c
2
=0.02,P =0.89)(Fig.1Aandtable
S2). The high scores are consistent with the over-
whelming in-group positivity previously observed
in boys and (especially) girls across early and
middle childhood (22, 23). Despite this strong
tendency to view ones gender in a positive light,
girls aged 6 and 7 were significantly less likely
than boys to associate brilliance with their own
gender (Wald c
2
=8.10,P = 0.004) (Fig. 1A). Thus,
the brilliance = males stereotype may be fa-
miliar to, and endorsed by, children as young
as 6. The stereotype associating females with
being nice seems to follow a similar develop-
mental trajectory (Fig. 1B).
In study two, we replicated our initial findings
with a larger sample (144 children; 48 per age
group).Childreninthissampleratedbothadult
and child targets. (Study one included only adult
targets.) As before, there was no statistically sig-
nificant difference in own-gender brilliance scores
for 5-year-old boys and girls (Wald c
2
=0.01,P =
0.94), but a significant difference emerged start-
ing at age 6 (Wald c
2
=9.63,P = 0.002) (Fig. 1C
and table S2). This pattern did not differ signif-
icantly by whether children rated adult versus
child targets (Wald c
2
=1.42,P = 0.23).
What might explain the drop in girls evalu-
ation of their genders intellectual abilities? Al-
though many factors are likely involved, in study
two we tested whether this drop is associated
with differences between younger (5-year-old)
and older (6- and 7-year-old) girls in their per-
ceptions of their school achievementinformation
that is, in principle, relevant to judging intelli-
gence. These perceptions were measured with
four questions similar to those we used to mea-
sure stereotypes (e.g., children had to guess which
of four children, two boys and two girls, gets
the best grades in school). In contrast with the
drop in brilliance scores, there was no signifi-
cant difference between younger and older girls
in the likelihood of selectingothergirlsashaving
top grades (t =0.22,P =0.83)(fig.S1).Oldergirls
were actually more likely to select girls as having
top grades than older boys were to select boys
Bian et al., Science 355 ,389391 (2017) 27 January 2017 1of3
1
Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Champaign,
IL 61820, USA.
2
Department of Psychology, New York
University, New York, NY 10003, USA.
3
Department of
Philosophy, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA.
*Corresponding author. Email: linbian2@illinois.edu (L.B.);
andrei.cimpian@nyu.edu (A.C.)
RESEARCH
on January 26, 2017http://science.sciencemag.org/Downloaded from
(t = 4.41, P < 0.001), consistent with the reality
that girls get better grades in school than boys at
this age (24). Nevertheless, there was no signifi-
cant correlation between girls perceptions of school
achievement and their perceptions of brilliance
(r =0.11,P =0.34;forboys:r =0.38,P = 0.001).
Thus, girls ideas about who is brilliant are not
rooted in their perceptions of who performs well
in school. [However, other aspects of childrens
experiences in school, such as teachers attitudes
and biases (25, 26), may still be implicated in the
development of this stereotype.]
In study three, we investigated whether chil-
drens gendered beliefs about brilliance shape
their interests. Sixty-four children aged 6 and 7
(half boys, half girls) were introduced to two
novel games, one said to be for children who
are really, really smart and the other for children
who try really, really hard (counterbalanced;
see the supplementary materials). Children were
then asked four questions to measure their in-
terest in these games (e.g., Do you like this
game, or do you not like it?). Girls were less
interested than boys in the game for smart
children (Wald c
2
=4.02,P =0.045)butnotin
thegameforhard-workingchildren(Waldc
2
=
0.53, P =0.47)(Fig.2AandtableS3).
To test whether the gender differences in
interest are related to childrens beliefs about
brilliance, we measured these beliefs with two
items adapted from study one. Indeed, as with
the 6- and 7-year-olds from the first two studies,
girls own-gender brilliance perceptions were
lower than boys (t =2.40,P = 0.020). Moreover,
these stereotyped beliefs mediated the rela-
tionship between children s gender and their in-
terest in the game for brilliant (versus persistent)
children: indirect effect = 0.11, 95% confidence
interval = [0.33, 0.004] (fig. S2). Thus, young
childrens emerging notions about who is likely
to be brilliant are one of the factors that guide
their decisions about which activities to pursue.
In study four, we compared 5- and 6-year-old
boys and girls interest in novel games said to
be for children who are really, really smart
(96 children; 48 per age group; half boys, half
girls). We predicted that 5-year-old boys and
girls interest in these games would not differ
because their ideas about brilliance are not
yet differentiated (Fig. 1, A and C). In contrast,
6-year-old girls interest was predicted to be lower
than boys, in line with the results of study three.
We found no significant gender differences in
interest among 5-year-olds (Wald c
2
=0.55,P =
0.46)andatrendinthepredicteddirection
among 6-year-olds (Wald c
2
= 3.66, P =0.056)
(Fig. 2B and table S3). Combining the samples
of 6- and 7-year-olds from studies three an d four
with a random-effects meta-analysis (27), we esti-
mated the magnitude of the difference in boys
versus girls interest toward the game for brilliant
children to be d = 0.51, 95% confidence interval =
[0.13, 0.88], P = 0.008.
We considered two possible alternative expla-
nations for the results of studies one to four.
First, because boys are sometimes held back from
entering the formal schooling system (28), their
understanding of int ellectual ability may be
delayed relative to girls (29), which may inflate
boys confidence ab out their brilliance (30). How-
ever, the boys and girls in our sample did not
enter school at different ages (e.g., the average
chronological age for first-grade boys and girls
was 6.87 and 6.72 years, respectively; t =1.28,P =
0.20). Moreover, own-gender brilliance scores
did not differ for boys who had already entered
first grade versus those who had not (M
before
=
0.70 versus M
after
=0.67;t = 0.33, P =0.74),but
these scores differed for girls (M
before
= 0.71 versus
M
after
=0.56;t =2.16,P =0.037).Second,because
women are subject to stronger modesty norms
than men (31), perhaps 6- and 7-year-old girls
lower interest in the games for brilliant children
(studies three and four) was due to an increase in
concerns about modest y. Contrary to this alter-
native, children in the age range we tested are
notoriously boastful about their abilities (30).
Moreover, the difference in boys versus girls
interest in the brilliance games was specifically
mediated by their perceptions about brilliance,
pinpointing these stereotyped perceptions (rather
than modesty) as the underlying mechanism.
Notably, our measure of the brilliance = males
stereotype is not susceptible to the modesty ex-
planation: Modesty norms dictate that a woman
should not boast about her own smarts (32, 33),
whereas we asked children to judge whether other
people were smart.
It will be important to test whether these find-
ings extend beyond a middle-class, majority-white
U.S. cultural context and to comprehensively
investigate the sources of the brilliance = males
stereotype in childrens environments. Nevertheless,
the present results suggest a sobering conclu-
sion: Many children assimilate the idea that
Bian et al., Science 355 ,389391 (2017) 27 January 2017 2of3
Fig. 1. Results of
studies one and
two. Boys (blue)
and girls (red )
stereot ype scores
in study one (A and
B) and study two
(C and D), by age
group (5- versus 6-
versus 7-year-olds).
Error bars repre-
sent ± 1 SE.
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1
0
56 7
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1
Own-
Gender
Brilliance
Score
Own-
Gender
Niceness
Score
Age (yrs)
567
Age (yrs)
Fig. 2. Results of
studies three and
four. Boys (blue)
and girls (red)
interest (average of
standardized
responses to four
questions) in novel
games in study
three (A) and
study four (B). The
main independent
variable for each
study (task in
study three, age in
study four) is
shown in bold.
Error bars repre-
sent ± 1 SE.
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0.0
-0.1
-0.2
-0.3
-0.4
Interest
Score
TASK:
AGE:
Smart
Game
Try-Hard
Game
Smart
Game
Smart
Game
6- and 7-
year-olds
6- and 7-
year-olds
5-year-olds 6-year-olds
RESEARCH | REPORT
on January 26, 2017http://science.sciencemag.org/Downloaded from
brilliance is a male quality at a young age. This
stereotype begins to shape childrens interests
as soon as it is acquired and is thus likely to
narrow the range of careers they will one day
contemplate.
REFERENCES AND NOTES
1. W. Wood, A. H. Eagly, Adv . Exp. Soc. Psychol. 46,55123 (2012).
2. S. T. Fiske, A. J. C. Cuddy, P. Glick, J. Xu, J. Pers. Soc. Psychol.
82, 878902 (2002).
3. D. Cvencek, A. N. Meltzoff, A. G. Greenwald, Child Dev. 82,
766779 (2011).
4. S. J. Spencer, C. M. Steele, D. M. Quinn, J. Exp. Soc. Psychol.
35,428 (1999).
5. S. Galdi, M. Cadinu, C. Tomasetto, Child Dev. 85, 250263
(2014).
6. P. G. Davies, S. J. Spencer, D. M. Quinn, R. Gerhardstein,
Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 28, 16151628 (2002).
7. M. C. Murphy, C. M. Steele, J. J. Gross, Psychol. Sci. 18,
879885 (2007).
8. S. Upson, L. F. Friedman, Sci. Am. Mind 23,6365 (2012).
9. A. Furnham, E. Reeves, S. Budhani, J. Genet. Psychol. 163,
2439 (2002).
10. B. Kirkcaldy, P. Noack, A. Furnham, G. Siefen, Eur. Psychol. 12,
173180 (2007).
11. A. Lecklider, Inventing the Egghead: The Battle Over
Brainpower in American Culture (Univ. of Pennsylvania
Press, 2013).
12. S.-J. Leslie, A. Cimpian, M. Meyer, E. Freeland, Science 347,
262265 (2015).
13. A. Cimpian, S.-J. Leslie, Science 349, 391 (2015).
14. D. Storage, Z. Horne, A. Cimpian, S.-J. Leslie, PLOS ONE 11,
e0150194 (2016).
15. M. Meyer, A. Cimpian, S.-J. Leslie, Front. Psychol. 6, 235 (2015).
16. K. T. U. Emerson, M. C. Murphy, Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 41,
295307 (2015).
17. D. K. Ginther, S. Kahn, Science 349, 391 (2015).
18. K. Crowley, M. A. Callanan, H. R. Tenenbaum, E. Allen, Psychol.
Sci. 12,
258261 (2001).
19. H. R. Tenenbaum, C. Leaper, Dev. Psychol. 39,3447 (2003).
20. N. Ambady, M. Shih, A. Kim, T. L. Pittinsky, Psychol. Sci. 12,
385390 (2001).
21. L. S. Liben, R. S. Bigler, H. R. Krogh, J. Exp. Child Psychol. 79,
346363 (2001).
22. Y. Dunham, A. S. Baron, M. R. Banaji, Dev. Sci. 19, 781789
(2015).
23. D. Cvencek, A. G. Greenwald, A. N. Meltzoff, J. Exp. Soc.
Psychol. 62,5057 (2016).
24. D. Voyer, S. D. Voyer, Psychol. Bull. 140, 11741204 (2014).
25. S. L. Beilock, E. A. Gunderson, G. Ramirez, S. C. Levine,
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S .A. 107, 1860 1863 (2010).
26. J. P. Robinson-Cimpian, S. T. Lubienski, C. M. Ganley,
Y. Copur-Gencturk, Dev. Psychol. 50, 12621281 (2014).
27. G. Cumming, Psychol. Sci. 25,729 (2014).
28. F. L. Huang, AERA Open 1,111 (2015).
29.J.Eccles,C.Midgley,T.F.Adler,inThe Development of
Achievement Motivation,J.G.Nicholls,
Ed. (JAI Press, 19 84), pp. 282 331.
30.R.Butler,inHandbook o f Competence and Motivation,
A. J. Elliott, C. S. Dweck, Eds. (Guilford Press, 2005),
pp. 202221.
31. L. A. Rudman, J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 74, 629645 (1998).
32. J. L. Smith, M. Huntoon, Psychol. Women Q. 38, 447459
(2013).
33. J. Mazei et al.,
Psychol. Bull. 141,8
5104 (2015).
AC KN OW LE D GM E NT S
We are grateful to the families who participated and to the
members of the Cognitive Development Lab at the University of
Illinois for research assistance and helpful discussion. We also
thank J. R. Cimpian for insightful feedback on previous drafts. This
research was supported by a Graduate College Dissertation
Completion Fellowship from the University of Illinois (L.B.) and NSF
grant BCS-1530669 (A.C. and S.-J.L.). The supplementary
materials contain additional data. The data for these studies are
also available on Open Science Framework: https://osf.io/yund6/
?view_only=9a8505d4e87b456a89f255b43e21234e.
SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIALS
www.sciencemag.org/content/355/6323/389/suppl/DC1
Materials and Methods
Supplementary Text
Figs. S1 and S2
Tables S1 to S5
References (34, 35)
30 July 2016; accepted 9 December 2016
10.1126/science.aah6524
Bian et al., Science 355 ,389391 (2017) 27 January 2017 3of3
RESEARCH | REPORT
on January 26, 2017http://science.sciencemag.org/Downloaded from

Discussion

### TL;DR The distribution of women and men across academic disciplines seems to be affected by ***perceptions of intellectual brilliance.*** In this paper the authors ran 4 different studies with young children in order to assess when the divergence in the perception of brilliance starts to emerge between the two genders. At age 5 boys and girls do not show any divergence in their perception of each gender's intellectual abilities. **By the age of 6 there is a significant drop in girls' perception of their own gender's intellectual abilities.** ***Children seem to assimilate brilliance as a male quality and this stereotype begins to shape their interests as soon as it is acquired*** - as can been seen in studies 3 and 4. Young children’s emerging notions about who is likely to be brilliant are one of the factors that guide their decisions about which activities to pursue and thus are likely to narrow the range of careers they will one day contemplate. It is important to investigate the acquisition of the “brilliance = males” stereotype in early childhood, as children enter school and begin to make choices that shape their future career paths. > *"investigations of the “brilliance = males” stereotype that focus exclusively on participants of college age or older overlook a critical fact: Cultural messages about the presumed cognitive abilities of males and females are likely to be influential throughout development. If children absorb and act on these ideas, then many capable girls are likely to have already veered away from certain fields by the time they reach college."* **Description of Study 1:** Study 1 set out to asses children's support of the “brilliance = males” stereotype with three tasks: 1. children were told a brief story about a person who was “really, really smart.” and then were asked to guess which of four unfamiliar adults (2 women, 2 men) was the protagonist of the story. 2. children saw several pairs adults and were asked to guess which adult in each pair was “really, really smart.” 3. children guessed which objects or attributes best corresponded to pictures of unfamiliar men and women. Results: - children's ideas about brilliance exhibit rapid changes over the period from ages 5 to 7. - boys and girls aged 5 associated brilliance with their own gender. - girls aged 6 and 7 were significantly less likely than boys to associate brilliance with their own gender. **Description of Study 3:** Study 3 set out to assess whether children's beliefs shape their interests. Here is how study 3 was run: 1. Children aged 6 and 7 were introduced to two games: - one said to be for children who were “really smart” - the other for children “who try really hard” 2. Children were then asked four questions to measure their interest in these games. Results: - Girls were less interested than boys in the game for smart children but not in the game for hard-working children. - Girls aged 6-7 had lower perception of own-gender brilliance than boys - this is similar to the findings of the first two studies for the 6-7 year-olds groups. **Description of Study 2:** Study 2 replicated study 1 but with a larger sample and in this study children had to rate both adult and child targets whereas study 1 one only included adult targets. Results: - there was no statistically significant difference in own-gender brilliance scores for 5-year-old boys and girls. - a significant difference started emerging at age 6 - as previously seen in study 1. - the pattern did not differ whether children rated adults or children targets. **Description of Study 4:** Study 4 was designed to compare children's interest in games for children who were “really smart”. Two groups of 5 and 6-year-olds were assessed each with half girls and half boys. Results: - In the 5-year-old group there was no difference in interest in the game for smart children. - In the 6-year-old group girls showed less interest than boys in the in the game for smart children. > *"Many children assimilate the idea that brilliance is a male quality at a young age. This stereotype begins to shape children’s interests as soon as it is acquired and is thus likely to narrow the range of careers they will one day contemplate."*