In the October 20 issue of Science, researchers Dar-Nimrod and Heine from the University of British Columbia reported on a study they conducted. They told one group of women that women do not perform well in science and math, using a disguised research study report as the basis of this "fact." The other group was not shown the "study results." And guess what? Well, of course. The women who thought that women were naturally bad at math and science performed much more poorly than the group that just got to wing it, using their own perceptions and skills. Chris Lee at Nobel Intent also commented on this study and as he points out, "scientific theories that promulgate genetic explanations for performance difference become self-fulfilling. . . there are enough high-performing women scientists in all fields to indicate that genetics is unlikely to be a major contributor to women's average under-performance in math and science."
These results are amazingly similar to the research conducted with blue and brown-eyed children in the 50s. One group was inferior one day and the other group was deemed inferior the next day with the expected results: huge drops in self-esteem, feelings of interiority and associated behaviors, such as shyness, loss of humor, etc.
This study also reminds me of the recent finding regarding people who ignore the stereotypes associated with a certain age. Researchers found that indeed they behaved in every way like people many years younger. We seem to want to fit the stereotype one way or another. Are these behaviors a result of mirror-psych neurons?
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