Jared Mauldin, a senior in mechanical engineering at Eastern Washington University published the following letter in his campus newspaper.
Lovely overview of stereotype threat September 8, 2015
from an MIT student. And it contained a discussion of a remarkable study I hadn’t come across before, on how to eliminate the gap between men and women on mental rotation. It turns out that just spending a little time imagining oneself as a stereotypical male raises women’s scores so dramatically the gap is reduced to statistical insignificance.
In a now-famous study, psychologists at the University of Berlin falsely told participants that they had been selected to participate in a series of tests “to measure the ability to put oneself in someone else’s position” – a fabrication devised to avoid confounding factors in their real study on gender identity priming. They prepared a text describing a day in the life of a “stereotypical woman” who takes care of her family, works part time, and is insightful, helpful, and agreeable. They also prepared an equivalently-structured text outlining the activities of a stereotypical manly man who is tough, risk-taking, and does weight training after work. Subjects were randomly given one of the two texts, and then asked: “If you were the person described in the text, which adjectives would you use to describe yourself?”
Soon after participants described themselves with either the male- or female-associated traits, they were asked to take a mental rotation test presented as independent of the first part of the study, supposedly to measure their personal spatial aptitude. On this mental rotation test, women who were “primed” with the female identity scored an average of 3.86 on the exercise, compared to the female-primed males’ average of 5.14. Okay, expected. But then when primed with the male text, women scored an average of 5.49, while men scored 5.53… wait a second, what?
As it turns out, there is zero statistically significant gender difference in mental rotation ability after test-takers are asked to imagine themselves as stereotypical men for a few minutes. None. An entire standard deviation of female underperformance is negated on this condition, just as a man’s performance is slightly hindered if he instead imagines himself as a woman. (well then.) Although this study is of course not a logically definitive answer to all things “nature versus nurture,” it does add a tremendous structural asset to the growing mountain of evidence that “natural” ability differences are confounded by identity and subconscious self-stereotyping. Demographic expectations may be subtle or overt, but they are omnipresent, and they are likely much more powerful than most of us have ever considered.
Thanks to S, and S, for calling this article to my attention!
Yup, definitely being taken over by women August 16, 2015
Over the last year, we have heard a lot about the feminist/women’s (there are different versions) takeover of philosophy. That line of thought is nicely put in perspective by the various other similar claims discussed here.
The idea of a gender perception gap is borne out by studies in other areas. In one study on gender parity in the workforce, sent my way by colleague Flavia Dzodan, it was found that men “consistently perceive more gender parity” in their workplaces than women do. For example, when asked whether their workplaces recruited the same number of men and women, 72 percent of male managers answered “yes.” Only 42 percent of female managers agreed. And, while there’s a persistent stereotype that women are the more talkative gender, women actually tend to talk less than men in classroom discussions, professional contexts and even romantic relationships; one study found that a mixed-gender group needed to be between 60 and 80 percent female before women and men occupied equal time in the conversation. However, the stereotype would seem to have its roots in that same perception gap: “[In] seminars and debates, when women and men are deliberately given an equal amount of the highly valued talking time, there is often a perception that [women] are getting more than their fair share.”
How do you give men the impression of a female majority? Show them a female minority, and let that minority do some talking. This is how 15 minutes of Fey and Poehler becomes three hours of non-stop “estrogen,” how a Congress that’s less than 19 percent female becomes a “feminized” and male-intolerant political environment, and how one viable female Presidential candidate becomes an unstoppable, man-squashing Godzilla. Men tend to perceive equality when women are vastly outnumbered and underrepresented; it follows that, as we approach actual parity, men (and Elisabeth Hasselbeck, for some reason) will increasingly believe that we are entering an era of female domination.
No, bias against women in science not disproven July 17, 2015
Another great article about that Williams and Ceci article Michael Brownstein had a great post on.
The 2015 study, performed by Wendy M. Williams and Stephen J. Ceci, isn’t rigorous. It’s plagued by five serious methodological flaws.
To read about them, go here.
Science Fraud and our retraction May 24, 2015
You may be aware of the this recent incident of supposedly discovered fraud:
IN December, Science published a paper claiming that people could change their minds about same-sex marriage after talking for just 20 minutes with a gay person. It seemed too good to be true — and it was.
On Wednesday, the journal distanced itself from the study, after its accuracy was disputed, and one of the authors could not back up the findings.
We joined in on the initial enthusiasm for the reported research, and now we want to recognize that the results are disputed. The question remains, how do scientists with much to lose take the chances involved in publicly putting forth cooked data? The article linked to above offers an answer:
Economists like to say there are no bad people, just bad incentives. The incentives to publish today are corrupting the scientific literature and the media that covers it. Until those incentives change, we’ll all get fooled again.
Michael Brownstein on Williams and Ceci April 15, 2015
Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci have just published an article in PNAS titled “National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track” (here). The article is striking, and seems to show a great deal of progress in gender equity in hiring (notwithstanding worries that some have expressed that this study demonstrates “reverse discrimination”). There has been interesting discussion of the article on Facebook (FB), the Daily Nous, and New APPS, and most of what I say here is a reworking of points that others have already made. First I’ll make a couple positive points about the article; then raise a worry about the authors’ interpretation of their data; and then raise a few questions about the data.
On the positive side, W&C’s data tells us more than we knew before about how gender attitudes and gender discrimination work. As Edouard Machery said on FB, we need to know the facts in order to create effective interventions. This seems right. The question, I think, is what exactly the study shows, and whether it shows what the authors think it shows.
Anonymous marking makes huge difference in elementary school February 7, 2015
and non-anonymous marking has long-lasting effects.
Beginning in 2002, the researchers studied three groups of Israeli students from sixth grade through the end of high school. The students were given two exams, one graded by outsiders who did not know their identities and another by teachers who knew their names.
In math, the girls outscored the boys in the exam graded anonymously, but the boys outscored the girls when graded by teachers who knew their names. The effect was not the same for tests on other subjects, like English and Hebrew. The researchers concluded that in math and science, the teachers overestimated the boys’ abilities and underestimated the girls’, and that this had long-term effects on students’ attitudes toward the subjects.
For example, when the same students reached junior high and high school, the economists analyzed their performance on national exams. The boys who had been encouraged when they were younger performed significantly better.
They also tracked the advanced math and science courses that students chose to take in high school. After controlling for other factors that might affect their choices, they concluded that the girls who had been discouraged by their elementary schoolteachers were much less likely than the boys to take advanced courses.
For more, go here.
Reader Query: “The Science of Sex Appeal” February 6, 2015
A reader writes:
Has anyone seen the documentary “The Science of Sex Appeal,” and if so, could you please recommend academic sources that counter the claims made by this video?” While Cordelia Fine’s book is great for arguing against this evolutionary psychology bullshit more generally (sorry; maybe it isn’t all bullshit, but THIS stuff is), I’d really like to be able to point to specific claims made in the video and offer specific, scientifically supported claims to the contrary. I haven’t found anything through database searches.
UPDATE: This post has been a nightmare to moderate. Do to many requests, I tried to confine comments to ones that really address the reader’s query, rather than dealing in big generalisations about whether feminists hate evolutionary psychology, etc. I’m now closing comments.
FURTHER UPDATE: This is being briefly re-opened.
Lasting change in view from 20 minute conversation with gay person January 31, 2015
WE REGRET TO SAY THAT THE RESEARCH REPORTED HERE APPEARS TO BE FRAUDULENT (AJJ.5.23.15):
For the study, Michael LaCour of UCLA and Donald Green of Columbia surveyed a bunch of registered voters in Southern California to get their views on gay marriage (and a bunch of other issues, to hide the true purpose of the study), and offered them financial incentives to get friends and family members to participate as well. Then, trained canvassers were dispatched to the homes of the people who had taken the survey, where they delivered a script about either gay marriage or recycling (to create a placebo group) and asked the voters to express their opinions on the subject. Halfway through the conversations about gay marriage, the gay canvassers revealed they were gay and wanted to get married but couldn’t because of California’s then-ban on gay marriage, while the straight ones “instead described how their child, friend, or relative” was dealing with the same conundrum. The conversations lasted, on average, 22 minutes… In the short term, the 20-minute conversations about gay marriage had a clear and large effect: Before the conversation, the residents had held beliefs on gay marriage in line with the average resident of Nebraska or Ohio; a few days after, their beliefs were in line with the average residents of Connecticut and Massachusetts (an increase of 0.48 points on a 5-point scale), and whether the canvasser was gay or straight didn’t have much impact on the size of the effect. But it was the longer-term effect that was more surprising: While “90% of the initial treatment effect dissipated a month after the conversation with canvassers” among voters who spoke with a straight canvasser, among those who conversed with a gay canvasser, the size of the effect increased over time — “ only gay canvassers’ effects persisted in 3-week, 6-week, and 9-month follow-ups.” By the end of the study, among voters who spoke with a gay canvasser, the gap between where they were and where they ended up on the issue of gay marriage was equivalent to the difference in opinion on the subject between the average resident of Georgia and the average resident of Massachusetts.
For more, go here.