Young girls believe that men are smarter than women.
A study, which will appear in Thursday's issue of Science, found that girls in the first few years of elementary school believe brilliance is a male trait. The study comes amid research efforts to better understand the underrepresentation of women in STEM, which includes the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Psychology professor Andrew Cimpian of New York University, says that the lab's previous work highlights how young children, boys and girls, can absorb gender stereotypes -- in this particular case, that men have more of an innate talent to succeed in comparison to women.
"Because these ideas are present at such an early age, they have so much time to affect the educational trajectories of boys and girls," Cimpian said.
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Researchers conducted the study by presenting 96 kids spanning ages 5-7 years with a reading prompt about a very intelligent person, whose gender they would, in turn, guess.
The children were given another test, in which they were shown images of two adults, some varied from same-sex to opposite-sex pairs, and they were asked to identify who was most intelligent.
Results showed that five-year-old girls were more likely to assign brilliance to women just as boys of the same age were to assign such to men.
However, seven-year-old girls were likely to identify women as "really, really smart" only 48 percent of the time, as opposed to boys who identified men as "really, really smart" 65 percent of time.
"This study shows that girls are internalizing those cultural messages early in development, believing that, yes they may work hard, but they are not naturally really smart," said Christia Spears Brown, professor of psychology at Kentucky University who says that the research presented in this study falls in line with her previous work in gender stereotyping.
"These beliefs can have important implications for what types of academic paths children choose to take, and shows why girls are opting out of majors like physics, despite earning high grades in school."