Being a genius or working very hard: is the profession getting more realistic

The post “Why are there so few women in philosophy?”referred to research that described several ways in which beliefs about abilities affect women’s career choices. One important factor was whether people in the field saw the foundation of ability as something like inborn genius. Since women are seen as being less likely to possess innate brilliance, and they know this, the ‘genius fields’ may well seem less attractive to women.

I think there are a number of comparisons it would be interesting to make. How do exceptionally gifted children fare if they grow up to go to philosophy grad school? Another is asked by Josh Knobe below.

What do you think?

From Josh Knobe:

In my (very limited) experience, it seems like things have actually gotten a little bit better in this regard. I am really curious to hear whether people have the same impression.

Back when I was a grad student, there was a prevailing sense that the ticket to getting a job was not making concrete contributions to philosophy but rather cultivating an aura of genius. Some of my fellow students ended up writing and publishing papers while they were in school, but this effort was seen almost as ‘tarnishing’ or ‘sullying’ the purity of their philosophical work. Of course, this is exactly the sort of atmosphere that Leslie et al. show leads to underrepresentation of women, and all of the women in my year ended up leaving the field.

In the time since then, my sense is that things have actually improved a bit. More and more, I see an emphasis not on innate genius but on actual concrete contribution. But this sense I have is based entirely on anecdote and personal experience, not on any serious empirical research. So I am curious, do other folks see things in the same way?

Let me close by mentioning one thing that worries me. There are a lot of researchers these days investigating creativity. Creativity may be teachable to some extent, but not, as far as I can tell, by hard work. I don’t know what that means for originality in philosophy, nor do I have much idea of how much creativity and originality a field needs. Here again, what do you think?

39 thoughts on “Being a genius or working very hard: is the profession getting more realistic

  1. Josh and I went to the same grad school, in roughly the same generation (as did Leslie, who is one of the contributors to the research). Our experiences are therefore roughly the same. We also had contact with faculty and people in that Northeast corridor of philosophy of that time (mid 2000s) and almost always the issue concerned who was “smart” versus “what did they do”. This seemed at work not only in the teaching and evaluation of students, but in the way we saw junior faculty evaluated and other senior faculty evaluated for jobs and tenure. This was a stark contrast with, say, the cognitive sciences and psychology where the emphasis was quite a bit more on “what work have they done.”

    It never occurred to me that this was a feature of the environment that contributed to the underrepresentation of women in philosophy, but if Leslie et al are correct, it is a pattern that runs throughout academia. Not having seen the paper, my guess is that the distinction really is limited to “smart” versus “hardworking” as opposed to “innate” versus “learned/practiced,” which is a distinction that applies to creativity, and other things. I haven’t seen that much discussion of underrepresentation in the creative arts, for instance.

  2. Hi barry, just a clarification: my contrast was between inborn or non- acquired brilliance/talent vs hardworking.

    Maybe ‘brilliance’ was too much; I’d have to look at the paper. Where I did my grad work, MANY people thought brilliance was the important thing. It was possible to get tenure without having written a word as long as one was seen as brilliant. Since brilliance required no products, it was sometimes discerned by somewhat mysterious means. Mind you, most people would recognize the names of some who passed the test, though not all.

  3. At least as far as my own experience is concerned, creativity is a function of *confidence* and ability. This applies to my work in philosophy and the visual arts. Take away my confidence, and I might be paralyzed. Imagine driving a car while a passenger constantly critiques your decisions, despite the fact that you are an excellent driver. After a while, you will lose confidence, and your driving skills will suffer. Many philosophers (male *and* female) tend to be back seat drivers when it comes to women’s contributions–this can have a real impact.

  4. I don’t really understand the worry about creativity. To use the standard growth/fixed mindset terminology, the growth mindset is one where basic traits are treated as acquirable through effort, which is the same as a sort of broad understanding of ‘hard work’ but not a narrower understanding of it. For example, imagine we found out that creativity could be altered by cultivating a habit of thinking of a very different solution to a problem, e.g. ‘how would I solve this problem if I had view x instead of view y’? That kind of habit cultivation requires effort, and so you’re acquiring the trait through ‘hard work’ in what I take to be the broad sense. That certainly doesn’t mean that you treat creativity as acquirable only by sitting down for three hours a day and trying to be creative (what I take to be the more narrow understanding of hard work). And it’s difficult to see how any trait could be taught without this requiring effort or hard work of the former sort (unless we think you can increase creativity without requiring a person to put in any effort whatsoever, e.g. by giving them a creativity injection). So I think the relevant distinction is between treating basic traits as non-acquirable vs. acquirable with effort, rather than non-acquirable vs. acquirable by hard work in the narrow sense.

  5. “More and more, I see an emphasis not on innate genius but on actual concrete contribution.”
    Even though there is more of a focus on actual work and not the “aura” of genius a philosopher portrays, it still seems like the “genius” part hasn’t really gone away. The original post brings to mind the psych study done by Carol Dweck (and many subsequent studies that suggest that same results). In the study, Dweck and her team tested the effect of certain types of praise on academic success. Two groups of students were presented with a series of very difficult math problems. The group of students who were praised for being smart ended up doing worse on the difficult math questions and felt that their bad performance was a result of not being smart after all. The group of students who were praised for being hard working ended up doing better and they actually enjoyed the experience of working on the difficult problems even when they answered some of the question incorrect.
    If it is true that there is the idea that philosophy is a field where genius (something akin to “smartness” as a thing that is different than “mere effort”) is needed, it’s not really that surprising that women might be more discouraged from the finishing their studies in PhD programs.
    In my personal experience, I’ve noticed a lot of students (especially the women graduate students in my department) were praised for being smart (as an undergraduate and graduate student). Although this kind of praise was a compliment based on their grades, it seems that it could have a detrimental effect on the way graduate students confront the more difficult work grad school and doing philosophy as a profession present. When work in philosophy gets more difficult (publishing, dissertation writing, etc.) it’s easy to doubt that you really are all that smart and really good at the field.

  6. Interesting Grad Student: I would be curious to know the gender make-up of the group, because a sociologist I am acquainted with found that there is a cultural phenomenon of praising boys for being “gifted” in math (for example), when they do well, and praising girls for “working hard” when they do well in the same subject, which led these girls to feel that they really weren’t as good in that subject, and if they didn’t work hard they couldn’t keep up (not realizing that the boys were putting in the same amount of work as they were.)

    Personally, on days when I wonder why I’m studying philosophy; when someone says that I am “gifted” or “talented” in philosophy, rather than telling me “You worked hard on that paper, and that’s why I gave you an A” I feel more confident going forward and believing that I’m where I belong.

    I’ve been working hard all my life, I know how to work hard…but I would like to be reassured that I am good at philosophy, that I am gifted at philosophy; because if anyone could *do* philosophy simply by “working hard” why wouldn’t they?

  7. Graduate student, I think it is problematic to address an empirical question with a merely possible example. I have no idea whether getting people to think through a problem with a different set of assumptions helps them to be more creative. A some profs in effect do that – by asking how various philosophers answer a certain question.

    One way of encouraging creativity in seals apparently is to reward them only for things they haven’t done before. My grad school did that a lot – one was often highly rewarded for new thoughts. There can be significant problems with that, though. One is that many professional environments are not especially interested in new thoughts from someone starting out. The result is that either one has a tough team of mentors or one loses out. It will – at least until recently – be women who lose more often.

  8. The possible example wasn’t being used to address an empirical question. It was being used to illustrate the difference between the narrower meaning of ‘hard work’ that I think you must be assuming in your post for the claim at the end to be plausible, and the broader meaning of ‘hard work’ that I take other people discussing these issues to be assuming.

  9. Graduate student: why do you think I must be assuming a narrow sense of ‘hard work’? I don’t think I was. Have you looked at empirical studies of creativity?

    I do think that one may need to work hard to fully realize a creative, original idea, but that’s a different matter.

    I was describing to a clinical psychologist today a friend who is undoubtedly brilliant, but also, in the view of many people, at least a bit crazy. Yes, he said, but that’s often the combination; after all, these brilliant people do often think differently.

    I gather some people in industry think that it’s good if a number of their employees can think out of the box, and there are exercises now being employed by some management training types. They don’t look the least like working hard. I don’t think they get very significant results, but they get somewhere.

    BTW, I don’t want to say that brilliance always requires insanity of some degree.

  10. “Graduate student: why do you think I must be assuming a narrow sense of ‘hard work’? I don’t think I was.”

    Because if you’re using hard work the broad sense then I can’t see why you would be worried by this. If it’s not supposed to express a worry for the growth mindset (which I don’t think it can be under the broad reading of hard work) then what is supposed to be worrying? Lots of traits, IQ included, seem to be partly innate and to partly get better through effort. Maybe creativity is one of those traits, but I don’t see any reason to think that this is worrying for any of the views being discussed.

    “I gather some people in industry think that it’s good if a number of their employees can think out of the box, and there are exercises now being employed by some management training types. They don’t look the least like working hard.”

    Since you’ve said that you don’t take yourself to be using working hard in the narrow sense, do you mean they don’t look the least bit like they require effort? Surely it’s not possible to do these exercises without effort.

  11. Here are some suggestions one finds:

    1. Indulge in childish play – use crayons and paper and scribble.
    2. Bring a problem to mind as you start to enter the twilight between awake and asleep
    3. Open up your workplace so you’re not boxed in
    4. Let your desk get messy – messy desks allow serendipitous connections
    5. Daydream
    6. Suspend your inner critic and write without stopping for 45-60 minutes a day for three days a week.

  12. Steff Rocknak, interesting comment. I think that by wanting students to produce logically defensible ideas, philosophy profs may well be acting against creativity minds. Given what we’re coming to understanding about how much goes on out of consciousness, awareness of a really neat idea may arrive in consciousness some time before support for it.

    You comment suggests you didn’t develop a disabling inner critic.

  13. I get asked the “why so few women philosophers?” question a lot, and I’ve never seen any remotely satisfactory answers. All the explanations, including this one, don’t so much explain the gender gap as just, well, locate it somewhere else that doesn’t make sense either. Or just somehow restate the observation that there are really, really few women doing philosophy. I hate to think that nobody knows why, but I begin to suspect that nobody knows.

  14. Hi Hilde,

    Thanks so much for your thoughts on this. I really appreciate the comment, and would be interested to hear more about how you see this issue.

    Just to reiterate, the hypothesis under discussion here is that the underrepresentation of women in philosophy is due in part to the fact that our discipline tends to emphasize innate talent rather than emphasizing concrete accomplishment. The evidence for this hypothesis comes from an empirical study by Sarah-Jane Leslie, Andrei Cimpian and colleagues. That study looked at a whole range of different disciplines and found that underrepresentation of women was predicted by this sort of cult of genius.

    I would be very open to the possibility that there might be reasons to reject this hypothesis, but I wonder if you could say just a little bit more about what those reasons might be.

  15. Hilde, I’m so glad you’ve brought the discussion back to the question of how the research really bears on the question of underrepresentation. Let me add to Josh’s characterization that women are generally not thought to be likely to have strong innate intellectual talent, as the quoted article says.

    That seems to imply that women who share these beliefs are going to think they won’t do well in the field. That seems to be an awfully good reason for them to avoid it.

    What am I missing here in what you’re saying?

  16. Interestingly, if you look at Ruth Millikan’s Dewey Lecture discussing her career, you’ll see that she credits a system that relied more on talent assessments and less on numbers of publications for her success in the profession.
    This is an anecdote and doesn’t settle a complicated issue about whether focussing more on numbers (and placement) of publications helps women philosophers or not. But given that refereeing is generally not double blind, I’d be surprised if it’s screening off whatever implicit bias there is in a non-numbers oriented system. Women in general have been making in-roads into historically male-dominated professions over that last twenty years. So any improvement for women in philosophy during a period in which the hiring and tenure practices have become more numbers oriented may be correlation, not causation.

  17. JD, it seems somehow unfair to point out that she and Margaret Gilbert shared a tt job for a number of years, so she wouldn’t have counted among full time tt faculty.

    I’d have to look back to the original discussion, but I think in general women in STEM are thought to publish less than men. So I’m not sure quantitative output is the factor stressed. Otherwise your point would rightly put that into question.

  18. Hi Jan,

    First of all, a huge congrats on winning the Marc Sanders Prize! That’s wonderful news and definitely very well-deserved.

    Anyway, I thought it might be helpful to give a few quick clarifications about the hypothesis under discussion here and then see what you thought.

    First, the hypothesis isn’t about a factor that is supposed to make women *unsuccessful* in academic philosophy; it is about a factor that is supposed to make women *disinclined to participate* in academic philosophy. Presumably, women have a lot of innate talent, and if philosophers were judged entirely on innate talent, female philosophers would be highly successful. So that isn’t the point. Rather, the hypothesis rests on the idea (backed up by a lot of empirical research) that when people present an activity as being mostly about innate talent, women tend not to want to participate in it. So the thought is that women would be much more interested in participating in academic philosophy if we focused on assessing philosophers not in terms of their smartness but in terms of how much they have actually accomplished.

    Second, the study did not involve looking at changes in philosophy over time; it involved looking at differences between different disciplines. For example, there are a lot more women in molecular biology and in psychology than in math or philosophy. But why is that? The empirical result is that the distribution of women across these disciplines is predicted by the degree to which practitioners of each discipline emphasize innate talent.

    Does that help at all? I would definitely be open to the thought that this claim is mistaken, and would love to hear any further thoughts you might have.

  19. Readers trying to follow this discussion might want to look at the earlier post of which the current post is a follow-on. If you click on “new research” you’ll be taken to a summary of the original research.

  20. I wonder if opposing genius to hard-work might be the wrong angle here, at least in the sense that a perception of philosophy as a “genius” field might lead women to self-select out (perhaps I am unusual in being a female who thinks it would be really excellent to someday be a genius? and, at least in philosophy, the historical record shows that this can come very late in one’s life rather than having to happen before you are 30…). I am wondering instead how the “favoring genius” aspect of philosophy might lead to certain kinds of interactions or set up certain kinds of situations. For example, how do we judge someone (or an argument, let’s say) to be “pure genius”–because it “strikes us” as brilliant? How about when someone is working on an idea that doesn’t seem to make sense to “us”? When does one come down on the side of “this person may be (or even is probably…) onto something I am just not grasping yet” and when on the side of “this person’s ideas are just all confused, don’t work, miss the point, make no sense”? Lots of room for implicit bias here, no? Even more so I would think when one does not share the same implicit understandings (in Alexis Shotwell’s sense of the term). Another (I’m not sure whether related or totally unrelated) point: it seems to me that the idea of mentoring/educating by way of “developing” or “cultivating” “genius” has different (and troubling) connotations (to me at least) depending on the social locations of the cultivator and the one cultivated.

  21. Quick clarification: the supposed deterrent is not *just* that a discipline presents itself as requiring innate talent, but this must be accompanied by some sense that one does not have the talent (either via stereotype or some other source), correct? Otherwise we would see low numbers of women in creative writing, possibly also in literature/literary criticism. Creative writing certainly has its mythology of the talented genius and I believe lit does, too. But they do not seem to have problems attracting women.

  22. Just to be clear: the research by Cimpian, Leslie, Meyer, and Bian shows correlation (of .6) between the emphasis in the field on ‘good work’ rather than ‘genius’, on the one hand, and women’s representation on the other. The theory is indeed that stereotypes of women as lacking the genius quality is responsible for the correlation, but that wasn’t tested in the research.
    It’s possible creative writing doesn’t emphasize genius as much as GP thinks.

  23. Thanks, Anne & Jaime, these clarifications help me a great deal. I was reading the distinction wrong. I had elided “work” with “hard work” rather than “good work” as in “the work I produce”. One more question though: why the emphasis on perception of “my abilities”? It seems to me that if the distinction that is being tracked is between disciplines that emphasize “good work” vs. “genius,” women might self-select out knowing that the problem is not with them or their abilities at all–rather it might be because women have a lived experience (and hence knowledge or even just “pretty good sense of”) how implicit bias works, seeing as we live with its effects on a daily basis, and so realize that “genius” fields may be incapable of recognizing their actual abilities fairly. This, I think, places the problem back squarely where it belongs: not with women, or how we perceive things, but with what is correctly perceived as a standard that is likely to (unfairly) favor white men due to implicit bias.

  24. Interestingly, in the IAT (implicit attitude test) on bias against women as scientists one contrast is between words like “physicist” and words like “poet.” E.g., are you quicker at pairing “grandmother” and “poet” than at pairing “grandmother” and “physicist”? I confess I was.

    It’s possible that a gift for some creative writing is seen as more compatible with a woman’s mind.

  25. Could be, GP. There are some independent reasons to think there is a significant effect of self-perception, though.

    For one thing, the Good/Mangels study found that priming with information about what it takes to be successful in math produced or canceled the stereotype effect in seventh grade girls (but not boys) — this one explicitly contrasts *hard work* with *really smart*.

    Second, the Cimpian/Leslie/Meyer/Bian research found a similar effect in seven year olds, when the issue was whether they’d like to play a game (that requires innate smartness or hard-workish virtues).

    And third, I’m not sure perception of implicit (or explicit) bias in the field would really account for the difference between ‘genius’ and ‘work’ fields. Why assume assessments of work are less susceptible to bias than assessments of genius?

  26. Jamie makes a number of important points here, all of which are very well-taken. I’d like to focus especially on his third point.

    As he rightly points out, existing empirical work doesn’t give us a good sense of whether implicit biases are more likely to show up on one of these kinds of evaluations than on the other. Nonetheless, I would hypothesize (just based on informal experience) that the biases are stronger for evaluations of genius than for evaluations of actual accomplishment. That is, suppose we can ask either the question ‘Is paper x any good?’ or the question ‘is Professor X a genius?’ Surely, both sorts of evaluation will be plagued by implicit bias, but my hypothesis would be that there will be even more bias on the latter question than on the former.

    Part of my reason for believing this comes from thinking about other sorts of biases (other than gender bias). As a discipline, we seem to be biased in favor of philosophers who graduated from prestigious departments, who mingle in the right social circles, who have the aura of importance that comes from taking themselves very seriously. Now, consider the philosophers who don’t have any of those qualities. My sense is that people do often recognize that their concrete accomplishments are substantial but that people are much less likely to regard them as geniuses.

  27. Josh and Jamie, I’m not sure it’s assessments of work products that’s contrasted with genius.

    In my experience MANY people find it easy to allow girls are and generally will be hard workers. Of course, those people may sigh, since they think hard work does not mean the girls are close to the very, very bright boys.

  28. Anne, the ‘genius’ vs ‘hard work’ distinction is definitely one of the important ones, and that’s the one highlighted in Cimpian’s work. The ‘brilliant person’ vs ‘excellent work’ distinction I got from S-J Leslie, in a paper I heard her give; the idea was that in psychology or linguistics people are much more likely to praise a paper or experiment or theory, as opposed to attributing genius, than they are in philosophy.
    The results of the experiments all these people have done are really striking and I’m sure they will be useful. I personally find the more conceptual aspect that Leslie has been presenting to be intriguing. (Cimpian is also interested in the cog sci of this conceptual aspect, I know.)

  29. Thanks for your response, Jamie (and I apologize for misspelling your name in my last post!).

    On your points one and two, is it considered good science to generalize from a sample of children to adults? This seems strange to me–why would we assume that adults would respond to situations just as children do?

    On point three, I would add to Joshua’s comments the following. At least with good work, a person has some recourse to disguising one’s gender: one can use a pseudonym to publish a novel, one can simply publish using one’s initials instead of one’s first name, etc. And in disciplines that emphasize results (say of experiments), one might perceive that getting those results might just have a chance at trumping bias. But if what is assessed is not good work or results, but rather whether the *person* is (appears to others to be) a genius independently of good work or results… well, there are really no options here for even _trying_ to evade implicit bias when one is a person who does not pass as a member of the dominantly situated group.

    On a separate note, I am concerned about emphasizing “hard work” for a number of reasons–not the least of which is that it may contribute to a negative stereotype of women already out there: that we are not really good at what we do, but are just “hard worker bees.” Perhaps as an alternative we might emphasize *practice*, which is close to “hard work” but doesn’t seem to carry the negative connotations. (I say all this assuming that part of the point is to actually encourage women into the discipline, yes? And not to disparage those of us already here by inadvertently contributing to a stereotype of women. I don’t mean to be snarky by that–I really do find the idea “woman = hard worker” very disparaging. I think this is echoed in Lisa G’s comment above. Most of the women I know aspire to be excellent, not hard workers; and many of us do not even perceive ourselves as “hard workers”, but rather people who just can’t seem to stop doing philosophy…)

  30. GP,

    I think the reason the experiments focus on children is that the practical problem they’re interested arises in middle school and possibly before. So I’m pretty sure the researchers are not generalizing from children to adults. It’s possible that the susceptibility to this sort of stereotype threat goes away during adolescence, so you’re right, to be confidant we’d need to see the same studies again with subjects a bit older. Still, though I don’t know the literature that well, I don’t *think* stereotype threats disappear for adults.

    Maybe it’s true that bias is more damaging when it shows up in assessments of the person rather than the work. It seems plausible that there are both effects, the one operating through women’s and girls’ self-understandings and the other operating through their perfectly lucid understandings of how they are going to be perceived by others. Leslie and Cimpian have tested for the former, but that certainly doesn’t mean the latter is unimportant.

    I basically agree with you about the ‘hard work’ thing, except I would just repeat a point of Joshua’s: the hypothesis the new research is working with is not that women and girls *are* the hard worker bees, but that they are more apt to be attracted to an activity in which the operant virtues have to do with hard work rather than genius. They’re testing the efficacy of a stereotype, not claiming that the stereotype is accurate.

  31. Thanks, Jamie. As soon as I start to think of inferences about the quality of one’s mind, I’m reminded of problems women can have. For women success may be seen as a sign they used sex to get the invitation, award, etc. women talking about their work are self-promoting, not philosophically deeply engaged. Women’s academic goals signal their desire to control others. Seemingly original work is really borrowed. And so on. I am unfortunately in a position to know these cliches are alive and well.

  32. Jamie, thanks for these clarifications. To be clear, I didn’t think the researchers were necessarily generalizing to adults, just wondering why you were (or at least seemed to be). It makes sense to me that stereotype threat could (and probably does) remain through adulthood, but I think this is a different question from whether self-perception changes (or develops) over time and also from whether one’s relation to stereotype threat remains constant from childhood to adulthood. Perhaps children who deal with stereotype threat become thoughtful adults who realize (or realize more fully) that stereotypes are indeed something wrong with the world and not them (even if they still feel and struggle against the effects of stereotype, both internally *and* externally). So I think the question remains whether the problem is with women or even with just not catering properly to what women think they are capable of–mind you, the latter would still be a problem with women, either because women *misperceive* their abilities or because they properly perceive an inability. Instead, as I have already suggested the problem might rather be with something women correctly perceive (or even just unconsciously sense) about the discipline—for example, that a lot hangs on whether others “follow” your argument and that whether others follow your argument may have a lot to do with your visible identity (or your “cred”) and/or with the kinds of things you care and argue about.

    I should say that I do think that our numbers are not due to one single cause, but rather to a confluence of problems (maybe some that are not necessarily even related). So it probably serves us well to investigate a number of different avenues–try different things and see what works. Still, I am concerned about how our investigations frame the issue. It is tiresome to “be a problem” on top of everything else and this is something that has been echoed for centuries in the work of non-dominantly situated intellectuals. I would love for the focus to be on priming and prodding white men to see what gets them to change their attitudes and behavior. (Okay, that last probably comes from a place of tiredness on my part. I do appreciate your following my argument this far.)

  33. Hi GP,

    I think adults who realize that stereotypes have more to do with the world than with them are still susceptible to stereotype threat, just as adults who realize that cognitive biases are distortions are still susceptible to cognitive bias.

    On the other stuff, you’re probably right. I haven’t thought much about the question of blame (maybe that’s why I don’t do ethics!). To me the really interesting question is whether we can help retain more young women in philosophy by downplaying the cult of genius.

  34. Just wanted to chime in to agree with all these recent comments. It definitely seems pernicious to perpetuate the stereotype of women as ‘hard worker bees’ or to suggest in any way that women are somehow the locus of a ‘problem.’ But of course, the hypothesis under discussion here is not that we need to make people have any particular thought about women. Rather, it is that we need to make a more general change in the way that philosophers are evaluated.

    In psychology departments, for example, there is a far greater proportion of women, and the claims is that this stems from something fundamental about how psychologists are evaluated. From the moment you enter grad school as a psychologist, the emphasis is not on your talent but on your accomplishments. You know from the beginning that when you are applying for a job, people are not going to ask ‘Is this person smart?’ but rather ‘What has this person actually discovered?’ The data suggest that if we could move in that same direction, women would be far more inclined to participate in the discipline.

  35. Hi all,

    Sorry to jump in so late — Josh just drew my attention to this very interesting conversation. I’m happy to clarify any aspects of the research that you still had questions about, so please feel free to ask. In addition, I wanted to make just a couple of quick points:

    1) We do in fact have a number of experiments with adults that make the same point as the experiments with children (which were highlighted in the blog post). In these studies, whether a novel opportunity (a major, an internship, etc.) is described as requiring brilliance vs. dedication has an impact on whether men and women want to pursue it, with women being less likely to pursue the opportunities that are said to require brilliance.

    2) We have evidence that these effects operate both via women’s self-understandings and (as Jamie nicely put it) via their lucid understandings of the bias they will face. Relevant to the first pathway, we have evidence for a link between (1) the extent to which women endorse the negative stereotypes against their gender (which is arguably relevant to their self-understanding) and (2) the extent to which they prefer the “dedication” over the “brilliance” activities/opportunities. That is, the more deeply women internalize the negative stereotypes against their intellects, the more negative is their reaction to the “brilliance” activity. Relevant to the second pathway, we have evidence that the effect of the brilliance vs. dedication manipulation is carried in part by women’s estimation of how they will be perceived. For example, women in the “brilliance” condition are much more likely to feel that they will constantly have to prove themselves than are women in the “dedication” condition; thus, they fully realize what awaits them should they choose to pursue such opportunities.

    3) Just to be clear, we do not endorse the “women = worker bees” stereotype (and its counterpart, that men are more likely to be brilliant), nor do we seek to perpetuate it with this research. Rather, the big-picture goal is to reveal the many different ways in which these pernicious stereotypes limit opportunities for women. The research described in my blog entry suggested that these stereotypes may lead women to question whether they can, or should, pursue brilliance-required disciplines. However, these stereotypes may also (a) give rise to bias against women (who will be judged through the lens of the negative stereotypes); (b) lead women to actually perform more poorly in high-stakes situations (via the well-documented effects of stereotype threat on working memory); (c) lead women to feel they don’t belong in brilliance-required fields; (d) cause women to experience anxiety and other negative emotions; and so on. Ongoing research is testing all these pathways.

    4) I definitely agree with Josh that implicit bias may have a bigger impact on how we evaluate a person than on how we judge a product (e.g., a paper). Evaluating a person’s worth as a scientist, philosopher, etc., is just so much more amorphous a task, which opens the door that much wider to bias and prejudice. But we should not believe for a second that evaluation of an actual product will be bias-free. As a striking example, I wanted to point you to a paper by Tsay & Banaji (2011, “Naturals and strivers: Preferences and beliefs about sources of achievement”). Participants who heard exactly the same audio clips of someone playing the piano judged them more positively if the person playing was said to be naturally talented than if they were said to have worked hard for their skill. Importantly, the participants in these studies were professional musicians — exactly the sorts of people you would expect to be most discerning.

    Thanks again for your interest in this work!

    All the best,

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