Re 4: Many girls request gender-specific media

From: Jenny Gutbezahl (
Date: Tue Aug 24 1999 - 13:24:48 EDT

Dempsey or Brown wrote:
> Basing his ideas on the work of mathematician Urie Treisman from the
University of Texas-Austin, Steele found that when students were led to believe
the items were intellectual and their race mattered, the performance results
were lowered. When the "stereotype vulnerable" conditions aren't available to
the students the results do not appear
> to reflect the related reduction of the test results. Oh, sure, Steele's
> research is more widely cited as a race study, but since Treisman was working
specifically with women and "math anxiety," I am willing to accept that what
Mattel did was more than a mass marketing decision.

Actually, Steele, in collaboration with S.J. Spencer, also did a series
of similar studies with male vs. female participants using the Math GREs
(the studies with African-Americans used the English GREs). When
students were specifically told that the test did NOT differentiate on
the basis of gender, i.e., that women were not at a disadvantage, then
women's scores increased significantly, and were not significantly lower
than the men's scores. Indeed, they were slightly, but not
significantly higher.

When students were told that the test DID differentiate, i.e., that men
performed better on the test, men scores were significantly higher.
When students were told nothing, the average scores were the same as
when they were told that men generally performed better on the test.

Steele concluded that:

a) gender stereotypes can make a difference in performance, and
b) the default is to believe that men will do better, unless someone or
something specifically tells you otherwise.

Citation: Spencer, S. J., & Steele, C. M. (1994). Under suspicion of
inability: Stereotype vulnerability and women's math performance.
Unpublished manuscript. SUNY Buffalo and Stanford University.

Jenny Gutbezahl

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