Gender Bias In The Classroom: Do Teachers Give Boys More Attention?

From “How Schools Shortchange Girls,” by the American Association of University Women:

A large body of research indicates that teachers give more classroom attention and more esteem building encouragement to boys. In a study conducted by Myra and David Sadker, boys in elementary and middle school called out answers eight times more often than girls. When boys called out, teachers listened. But when girls called out, they were told to “raise your hand if you want to speak.” Even when boys do not volunteer, teachers are more likely to encourage them to give an answer or an opinion than they are to encourage girls.

From the journal Childhood Education (v73 p36-9 Fall 1996):

Teachers call on and interact with boys more than girls (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). This is probably not intentional. During the numerous teacher-student interactions that occur over the course of the school day, boys use creative and effective techniques to catch the teacher’s attention. Boys quickly raise their hands to respond or contribute to discussions, wave their hand around and up and down, change the arm they have raised when it gets tired, jump out of their seat and make noise or plead with the teacher to call on them. Girls, however, raise their hand but will soon put it down if they are not acknowledged. As a result, teachers call on boys and interact with them most of the time, while girls’ passive, compliant behavior often means they are ignored. [...]

In addition to allowing boys more time to respond, teachers often extend boy’s answers by asking a follow-up question or by asking them to support their previous response. Girls are more likely to receive an “accepted” response from teachers such as “Okay” or “Uh-huh.” [...]Carmen’s answer prompted only the comment “Okay.” These behaviors send a very negative message about the importance of girls’ contributions to class discussions. [...]

Teachers tolerate more calling out from boys than from girls. Boys call out answers (when the teacher does not call on them) eight times more often than girls do (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). Teachers often respond to boys’ calling out, thus reinforcing the behavior. When girls call out, however, teachers are more likely to remind them that they are not following the class rules. [...]

In one area females usually receive more attention than boys–physical appearance. Girls receive compliments more often than boys on their clothing, hairstyle and overall appearance (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). This emphasis on appearance also influences how their school work is evaluated (Dweck, Davidson, Nelson & Enna, 1978). Girls receive praise for neatness while boys receive recognition for academic achievements.

From “Gender issues in the classroom” (Clearing House, Jul/Aug97, Vol. 70, Issue 6).

David and Myra Sadker researched gender equity in the classroom for over twenty years, and in a 1989 investigation with Lynette Long they explored the progress of gender equity in classrooms since the passage of Title IX. In a follow-up book, Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls (1995), the Sadkers, drawing on numerous interviews with students and teachers, found that micro-inequities occur daily in classroom interactions. Included in their study, which investigated verbal interaction patterns in elementary, secondary, and college classrooms in a variety of settings and subject areas, are the findings that girls receive fewer academic contacts, are asked lower level questions, and are provided less constructive feedback and encouragement than boys — all of which translates into reduced preparation for independent effort. The Sadkers posit that this imbalance in attention, coupled with the quality and quantity of interaction, results in the lowering of girls’ levels of achievement and self-esteem.

There is a need for more recent research; I certainly hope things have improved. However, the relatively few recent academic articles on this subject usually find that bias in the classroom remains a problem.1 And even if things are getting better, the effects of how children were taught 10, 20, 40 years ago will unfortunately be with us for quite some time.

  1. Recent examples include “Gender Bias In The Classroom,” Childhood Education v. 81 no. 4, Summer 2005, p. 221-7; and “Three Third-Grade Teachers’ Gender-Related Beliefs and Behavior,” Elementary School Journal, Sep2001, Vol. 102 Issue 1. []
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80 Responses to Gender Bias In The Classroom: Do Teachers Give Boys More Attention?

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  2. 2
    Dylan says:

    I just wrote on this topic myself from an article I read in Dissent Magazine. It also makes an appearance in Bitch Magazine this issue, with regard to something that Newsweek published. I am glad to see it is getting the attention it deserves.

  3. 3
    Dylan says:

    Actually, the article in Dissent is about a male student who has brought about a court case alleging sex discrimination. Quite a spin on this.

  4. 4
    Tuomas says:

    You didn’t include the juiciest bits.

    girls are not pursing math-related careers in proportion to boys; although the gender gap in math is shrinking, the gender gap in science is increasing;

    and many standardized tests contain elements of gender bias. These forms of gender bias undermine girls’ self-esteem and discourage them from pursuing nontraditional courses of study, such as math and science.

    Questions: Does the fact that girls are less interested in math and science prove discrimination against girls? What about the reverse on humanist sciences, does this prove a bias against boys?

    What does “contain elements of gender bias” mean? Does an opposite gender bias exist?

    Somehow I suspect that this whole piece, combined with the standardized test thing:

    These forms of gender bias undermine girls’ self-esteem and discourage them from pursuing nontraditional courses of study, such as math and science.

    Is a “non-judgemental” way of saying that girls who score bad on standardized math and science related tests pursue careers elsewhere.

    Duh.

  5. 5
    Kate L. says:

    You know it’s interesting, but student perception of this is that the phenomena does not exist anymore. If you talk to undergraduate students, those who were IN middle school and elementary school in 1996, they will VEHEMENTLY tell you this does not happen. A few women may disagree, but the general consensus between men and women who are currently college students (I have found) is that this trend simply doesn’t exist. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still happen (or that it does, we all know the problems with self reporting sometimes) – there’s a lot about gender bias and sexism we take for granted and accept as normal and natural and so we tend not to notice it, but it is an interesting perspective nonetheless.

  6. 6
    Dianne says:

    What does “contain elements of gender bias” mean?

    One easy example is that studies have demonstrated that if girls or women are reminded of their gender, even in a “benign” manner (ie asking if they live in coed or single sex housing or even just asking their gender as part of the pre-test information), they do worse than if they are not reminded in any way. Especially in math.

  7. 7
    Rosemary Grace says:

    If the standardised tests contain scenario questions, they could be set up along the lines of “Jane thinks the answer is x, Charlie thinks the answer is y, who is correct?” If Charlie is correct there is a subtle lesson that the boy is right. I remember noticing that this type of question in my middle school mathematics and physics classes almost always had the girl being correct, or the person with a non-anglo name, I figured it was the text books trying to be politically correct.

  8. 8
    LizardBreath says:

    You know it’s interesting, but student perception of this is that the phenomena does not exist anymore. If you talk to undergraduate students, those who were IN middle school and elementary school in 1996, they will VEHEMENTLY tell you this does not happen. A few women may disagree, but the general consensus between men and women who are currently college students (I have found) is that this trend simply doesn’t exist. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still happen (or that it does, we all know the problems with self reporting sometimes) – there’s a lot about gender bias and sexism we take for granted and accept as normal and natural and so we tend not to notice it, but it is an interesting perspective nonetheless.

    I really don’t think this means much. You say “there’s a lot about gender bias and sexism we take for granted and accept as normal and natural and so we tend not to notice it”, and that’s right, but it’s really hard to understand how strong the effect was.

    Back in highschool (in the late 80′s) I had a job collecting data for a study on this sort of thing — I sat in the back of a math class I wasn’t taking, and tallied who spoke, and in what context (called out, raised hand, answered question), by gender. The class looked perfectly normal to me, and if you’d asked me to report my impression of it, I would have said the boys weren’t talking any more than the girls. What I was tallying on my sheet, on the other hand, was that there was a 10-1 ratio of participation by boys to participation by girls — that ratio looked so normal to me that I would have guessed it was 1-1.

    Maybe things have changed since the 80s, but I don’t think unsystematic self-reporting is worth anything in this area.

  9. 9
    Dianne says:

    Lizardbreath: I informally did a similar study in college, out of curiosity and to see if a professor who said that men spoke in class more than women was right or BSing. For one week I didn’t say anything in any of my classes (theoretical calculus, physics, comp sci, and the required social sciences core class), but kept notes of who talked and whether they volunteered the answer or were specifically requested to speak by the professor. My results (which were admittedly not terribly scientific given the lack of controls, multiple possible biases, and small sample size) were that women were as likely as men to volunteer an answer but that if the professor asked a specific person to answer that person was 3X more likely to be a man than a woman. I got a similar answer when I did the same experiment in med school. Did you find the same bias when you did the more systematic study?

  10. 10
    Tuomas says:

    One easy example is that studies have demonstrated that if girls or women are reminded of their gender, even in a “benign” manner (ie asking if they live in coed or single sex housing or even just asking their gender as part of the pre-test information), they do worse than if they are not reminded in any way. Especially in math.

    Ah yes, the “stereotype threat”. I know only one such study — with questionable methodology.

    Girls and women would do well if we all just believed that gender is a social construct.

    Right…

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Ah yes, the “stereotype threat”. I know only one such study — with questionable methodology.

    Are you seriously claiming that there is only one study showing that stereotype threat exists? There are dozens.

  12. 12
    Tuomas says:

    Are you seriously claiming that there is only one study showing that stereotype threat exists?

    No.

    Let’s look at the concept:
    Stereotype threat:

    Numerous psychological studies have examined effects of stereotype threat in areas such as standardized tests, and athletic performance. For example, the commonly held assumption that women are less skilled in mathematics than men has been shown to affect the performance of women on standardized math tests. When female participants were primed beforehand of this negative stereotype, scores were significantly lower than if the women were led to believe the tests did not reflect these stereotypes(Spencer & Steele, 1997)

    In other words, the researchers were able to convince women to score lower than they usually do.

    But wait — why does the stereotype exist in the first place? (answer: because they score lower)

    In effect the, whole concept is circular logic: Women score lower because they are believed to score lower, and they are believed to score lower because they score lower.

    What a concept, and the best thing is that it’s pretty much unfalsifiable.

  13. 13
    Tuomas says:

    Also, we were talking about test that contain a gender bias.

    Let’s see some examples of those. Post hoc won’t be good enough (“because girls scored lower, there must have been a gender bias”).

  14. 14
    Tuomas says:

    Do these contain a message of “girls are teh suxxor at math” or something?

  15. 15
    Charles S says:

    Toumas,

    Given that you don’t understand the one stereotype threat study that you’ve heard of, maybe you should go read up on them, and maybe even read a few of the actual studies, before you spout off about them. At the moment, you are merely making an ass of yourself.

  16. 16
    Tuomas says:

    At the moment, you are merely making an ass of yourself.

    At least I don’t constantly misspell the names of those I argue with…

    Given that you don’t understand the one stereotype threat study that you’ve heard of, maybe you should go read up on them, and maybe even read a few of the actual studies, before you spout off about them.

    Oh, I understood it just fine. And I’m sure many other psychologists/humanists have circle-jerked over this one and others, producing other “correct” results.

    You might want to show me where I am so completely wrong.

  17. 17
    Tuomas says:

    Here’s one article.

    It practically screams experimenter bias.

    But it’s politically pleasing…

  18. 18
    Charles S says:

    Okay, that is an interview with a researcher, and not actually a study. About the only particularly relevant bit I noticed was the description of the actual methodology:

    So we give them, what you saw this afternoon is people taking a particularly frustrating test. It’s a very difficult test taken from a section of the Graduate Record Examination in literature. We know it’s going to cause frustration and that is going to trigger the relevance of the stereotype. When they experience that frustration, they’ll sense, oh boy, I could be seen stereotypically here. I could be confirming the stereotype. And for the students you saw who are very strong students, very committed to succeeding in school, that prospect of being seen stereotypically is disturbing. And it can undermine their performance right there. And that’s generally what happens. Compared to white students in that situation, they in that situation are not subject to that kind of a stereotype. And so they may be haunted by all kinds of things with regard to performing on standardized tests, but they’re not haunted by the prospect of confirming this stereotype. So you get two groups of students, white, black, who are equally prepared. Equal skills, everything. You give them this very difficult test that is presented as diagnostic of ability. The black student has this extra pressure on performance. And that is in our research invariably reflected in lower performance.

    Then you shift conditions just with the touch of a change of the instructions, you present the same test as a test that is something we use to study problem solving in the laboratory and is not diagnostic of ability. That turns the stereotype off for the black student. Now as the black student experiences frustration on this test, it has nothing to do with the prospect of confirming a stereotype or being seen from the standpoint of the stereotype. And if that pressure of being seen stereotypically is enough to depress their performance, then taking off that pressure should increase their performance. And that’s what happens in this research. Presenting the same test as non-diagnostic of ability, black students perform just as well as equally prepared white students in that situation.

    That isn’t a very detailed description, so I can’t imagine why you think it screams experimenter’s bias. Now, of course, the rest of the interview shows that the experimenter believes that the results he has gotten are valid, and has built those results into his larger beliefs on race and has thought about ways to counter balance the effects his research has demonstrated, but it doesn’t (can’t) show any way in which the researcher’s beliefs have introduced bias into his research or his results. There just isn’t enough research detail there to answer any questions about biased design.

    Let’s turn back to some of the statements that make you look like an ass:

    But wait — why does the stereotype exist in the first place? (answer: because they score lower)

    In effect the, whole concept is circular logic: Women score lower because they are believed to score lower, and they are believed to score lower because they score lower.

    What a concept, and the best thing is that it’s pretty much unfalsifiable.

    The stereotype of women being poor at math precedes the advent of standardized tests, so this isn’t circular. The stereotype is not simple a result of people observing the objective fact that most women aren’t good at math and applying that to all women. The stereotype exists first, the standardized tests come after. Anyway, the circularity (more of a spiral really) is not a disproof of the phenomenon. Feed-back loops are pretty common to social structures, and probably help to explain why social structures are very effective at maintaining themselves over time.

    Now, as to unfalsifiability, consider Steele’s research. If being reminded of a stereotype that suggests that you are bad at a particular subject (stereotype threat) did not have an effect (if the hypothesis of the existence of stereotype threat were to be shown to be false), then the results of the two groups of female students, one given a test in a context where the stereotype is emphasized, and another given the same test in a context where the stereotype was not emphasized – or was deemphasized, would produce statistically undistinguishable results. This would, would it not, falsify the hypothesis.

    So I am puzzled by what you thought you meant when you wrote that “the best thing is that it’s pretty much unfalsifiable. ”

    Now, I don’t have much hope of successfully demonstrating much of anything to you, as

    Oh, I understood it just fine. And I’m sure many other psychologists/humanists have circle-jerked over this one and others, producing other “correct” results.

    Is not the response of someone open to reasonable discussion of this subject. If you are going to arbitrarily impugn the integrity of professional researchers, it is best to be able to point to something somewhat more substantively wrong with their research than that they have given interviews in which they showed signs of believing that their research results were correct. Thus far, that is the entirety of your substantive argument that isn’t simply wrong.

  19. 19
    Tuomas says:

    Oh, you don’t know?

    Here.

    (pdf)

    You see, the gap (at least on race) exists even without the threat being present.

    Steele managed to make them do worse. “Here, take this test. It’s one where women do worse” *nudge nudge wink wink*. Research subjects comply. Sounds experimenter bias to me.

    For some mysterious reason, this is not often mentioned, nor does Steele mention it at all, so damn right I’m going to arbitrarily impugn the integrity of
    “professional” researcher.

    The stereotype is not simple a result of people observing the objective fact that most women aren’t good at math and applying that to all women. The stereotype exists first, the standardized tests come after.

    Yes yes, no standardized tests as we understand, but common sense observations that, on the average, women don’t perform as well on math related tasks.

    Of course this has fed essentialist notion that women should not do math.

    So I am puzzled by what you thought you meant when you wrote that “the best thing is that it’s pretty much unfalsifiable. ”

    Because of its very nature. The research/concept claims (as it is often presented, at least) that belief causes students to score as well/bad as they believe they will score. This is religious mumbo-jumbo, and like metaphysical concepts such as God and Miracles, it can’t really be proven wrong, because, you know, someone didn’t just believe hard enough.

  20. 20
    Tuomas says:

    Of course, this isn’t really a discussion about the stereotype threat.

    But my question remains: What specific elements that contain gender bias are present in the standardized tests, other than the everpresent stereotype threat that women don’t score as well?

  21. 21
    Tuomas says:

    Meaning that the fact that gap is present absent of bias is often not mentioned.

  22. 22
    Charles S says:

    The intro to the 1995 paper discusses the fact that standardized tests over-predict the performance of black students on other measures of academic performance (white students with 700 english SATs do better on average in other academic evaluations than black students with 700 english SATs). Unlike a standardized test, the 1995 study stereotype threat case promised immediate feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the test subjects. The letter you link to argues that the tests given in the study were equivalent to the formal standardized tests such as the SAT (because they used GRE questions). I may be mistaken, but I don’t think that the types of questions asked is the salient characteristic of such standardized tests. While such tests are extremely stressful because of their influence on ones future activities, they are not evaluated by people that you then have further interactions with. It is interesting and note worthy that the non-threat condition is comparable to the SATs, while the threat condition is more comparable to class room performance, but I don’t think it in any way justifies your insults to the ethics of the researchers.

    Steele managed to make them do worse. “Here, take this test. It’s one where women do worse” *nudge nudge wink wink*.

    Please provide a cite for this accusation. The pdf you link to does not show that being part of the methodology for the 1995 study (which admittedly was concerning stereotype threat to black students, not women). I am currently reading through the 1995 study methodology, and I see no evidence of any such step in their methodology.

    Here is the most relevant part of their procedures section:

    Participants in the diagnostic condition were told that the study was concerned with “various personal factors involved in performance on problems requiring reading and verbal reasoning abilities.” They were further informed that after the test, feedback would be provided which “may be helpful to you by familiarizing you with some of your strengths and weaknesses” in verbal problem solving. As noted, participants in all conditions were told that they should not expect to get many items correct, and in the diagnostic condition, this test difficulty was justified as a means of providing a “genuine test of your verbal abilities and limitations so that we might better understand the factors involved in both.” Participants were asked to give a strong effort in order to “help us in our analysis of your verbal ability.”

    In the non-diagnostic-only and non-diagnostic-challenge conditions, the description of the study made no reference to verbal ability. Instead, participants were told that the purpose of the research was to better understand the “psychological factors involved in solving verbal problems ….” These participants too were told that they would receive performance feedback, but it was justified as a means of familiarizing them “with the kinds of problems that appear on tests [they] may encounter in the future.” In the non-diagnostic-only condition, the difficulty of the test was justified in terms of a research focus on difficult verbal problems and in the non-diagnostic-challenge condition it was justified as an attempt to provide “even highly verbal people with a mental challenge ….” Last, participants in both conditions were asked to give a genuine effort in order to “help us in our analysis of the problem solving process.” As the experimenter left them to work on the test, to further differentiate the conditions, participants in the non-diagnostic-only condition were asked to try hard “even though we’re not going to evaluate your ability.” Participants in the non-diagnostic-challenge condition were asked to “please take this challenge seriously even though we will not be evaluating your ability.”

    If they actually also said in the stereotype threat case “By the way, blacks do worse on this sort of test,” and then failed to mention it in their procedures write-up, it would be a gross violation of the ethics of research publishing, as they would be flat out lying about their methodology. To do so would be fraud.

    By the way, I don’t think a study that did include an explicit reminder of the stereotype would be irrelevant. There are plenty of teachers who believe in and implicitly or explicitly advocate demeaning stereotypes to their students. A study that used explicit reminders of stereotypes would provide a reasonable experimental model for the effect of teachers like that.

    However, that isn’t what these studies claim to have done, and I trust that it isn’t what these studies did. If you have evidence to the contrary, please provide it. If you don’t have any such evidence, please refrain from publicly fantasizing about their supposed fraud.

  23. 23
    Charles S says:

    But my question remains: What specific elements that contain gender bias are present in the standardized tests, other than the everpresent stereotype threat that women don’t score as well?

    It’s an interesting question, and one I don’t know the answer to.

    One possible basis for the statement would be that girls and women taking the tests tend to report the tests as being biased against women at a higher rate than boys and men report them as being biased against men. This would seem a strange basis for calling the tests biased in an objective sense, but it would point to potential problems in the social context of the tests. Another possibility would be gender bias in question design, but I would be somewhat surprised (and very appalled) if this were actually currently a design problem for many standardized tests (I don’t think word problems of that sort common in standardized math and science tests anyway).

    However, the manner in which you have attempted to frame your response to this issue and to the OP in comments 3, 9, 11, etc:

    Duh.

    Right…

    What a concept, and the best thing is that it’s pretty much unfalsifiable.

    Do these contain a message of “girls are teh suxxor at math” or something?

    Oh, I understood it just fine. And I’m sure many other psychologists/humanists have circle-jerked over this one and others, producing other “correct” results.

    is the manner of a troll, so if you find that you are getting either no response from anyone or only extremely rude responses from me, please understand that it is because trolls aren’t really worth anything more than ignoring or flaming, and not because your arguments have been incontestable or because the feminists hanging around these parts are unwilling to engage in reasoned debate on the topic.

    You are not presenting as a person interested in reasoned debate.

  24. 24
    Tuomas says:

    The intro to the 1995 paper discusses the fact that standardized tests over-predict the performance of black students on other measures of academic performance (white students with 700 english SATs do better on average in other academic evaluations than black students with 700 english SATs).

    Interesting!

    Here’s what Steele says on an interview:

    That’s easy for me to answer and that is, absolutely not. And that is the very nub of the problem. That’s the argument that many who oppose affirmative action come to. Look, the assumption that they’re making is that we have a perfectly interpretable, objective measure of academic potential and contribution to society potential. That we have that in our hands, and that affirmative action is causing us to ignore that or downplay that or make exceptions to that. And the first point that that side has to recognize is that we don’t have that kind of measure in our hands. We don’t have that. The SAT and no standardized test is that kind [of] measure, can bear the burden of fairly assessing academic potential for all groups in society or all people for that matter in society. We just don’t have that.

    In other words, because blacks do better in SAT than in their later academic endeavors, we need AA to compensate for the fact that SAT does not predict academic performance… To — get this — admit more blacks.

    is the manner of a troll, so if you find that you are getting either no response from anyone or only extremely rude responses from me, please understand that it is because trolls aren’t really worth anything more than ignoring or flaming, and not because your arguments have been incontestable or because the feminists hanging around these parts are unwilling to engage in reasoned debate on the topic.

    Fine. Whatever. I have been a big meanie or something about stereotype threat so you or anyone else won’t answer anything about any other matter, either.

    And I said “duh”. Oh the horror! Surely a troll!

  25. 25
    Tuomas says:

    Sorry, seeing you have answered (in sort).

    One possible basis for the statement would be that girls and women taking the tests tend to report the tests as being biased against women at a higher rate than boys and men report them as being biased against men.

    I’d suspect so. In other words, when girls/women can’t compete with men, there must have been a bias.

    This would seem a strange basis for calling the tests biased in an objective sense, but it would point to potential problems in the social context of the tests.

    Like what?

    Another possibility would be gender bias in question design, but I would be somewhat surprised (and very appalled) if this were actually currently a design problem for many standardized tests (I don’t think word problems of that sort common in standardized math and science tests anyway).

    What would such gender bias in question design be, exactly? In math?

  26. 26
    Tuomas says:

    In other words, because blacks do better in SAT than in their later academic endeavors, we need AA to compensate for the fact that SAT (blacks, on average, score lower) does not predict academic performance… To — get this — admit more blacks.

    Added parenthetical.

    Oh, and this

    Do these contain a message of “girls are teh suxxor at math” or something?

    This was about as tongue-in-cheek that I could manage. Maybe you see it is trolling, I didn’t (at the time I made it, at least.)

  27. 27
    Ampersand says:

    Tuomas, just so you know, I certainly see statements like

    Oh, I understood it just fine. And I’m sure many other psychologists/humanists have circle-jerked over this one and others, producing other “correct” results.

    as violating the spirit of the moderation policies here. (So have a couple of Charles’ statements, to be sure). As Charles says, they don’t lead to confidence that you’re open to intellectual discussion reasonable disagreement.

    More importantly, I also see fragrant ignorance, delivered in a tone of smug condensation, as – to quote the moderation policy – “moving ‘Alas’ discussions away from what I’d like ‘Alas’ discussions to be.”

    So far this thread, you’ve claimed or strongly implied:

    1) That there’s only one study supporting “stereotype threat” – a statement so ridiculously ignorant that it immediately shuts down any chance that you’ll have any credibility.

    2) That “stereotype threat” is not falsifiable – even though no one who knows anything about study design could credibly claim that the stereotype threat studies don’t include falsifiability. Even the study design as you yourself described it incorporates falsifiability.

    3) That “Steele managed to make them do worse. ‘Here, take this test. It’s one where women do worse’ *nudge nudge wink wink*.” As Charles points out, this is effectively accusing Steele of being a liar and a fraud. (Plus, has Steele even run such a study with women? I don’t know that he has – other researchers have, of course, but afaik not Steele – and I have no faith in your knowledge of the facts.)

    These aren’t minor errors, Tuomas. These are errors that could only be made by someone who has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

    It would be different if you were willing to acknowledge your errors – but by and large, you don’t.

    Edited to add: To be clear, I don’t think it’s wrong to discuss something if you don’t know much about it. But there’s a big difference between honest ignorance (“I haven’t read these studies, but I’m skeptical. Here’s my concern:…”) and a position of feigned knowledge (“Ah yes, the ‘stereotype threat’. I know only one such study — with questionable methodology”) combined with arrogant contempt for scholars whose results you don’t like (“I’m sure many other psychologists/humanists have circle-jerked over this one and others, producing other ‘correct’ results”).

  28. 28
    mandolin says:

    I think the reference to bias in word problems comes from what used to be an issue — words problems were framed around male-centered activities which women would be less likely to A) resonate to, or B) have a deep understanding of.

    To answer a math word problem about a baseball, you have to know the rules of baseball.

    Sometimes women may not.

    Or even if they do, they may not know them as quickly or easily as men. It may require more work to puzzle over, and since the tests are timed – thats’ a deficit.

    As the earlier poster mentioned, examples this blatant may have been corrected for – though I’m pretty sure I do recall sports questions when I took SAT tests 5 or 6 years ago.

    Early IQ tests — like in the 30s — found appallingly low scores for immigrants by framing all the questions around American activities. To make a test biased, you only have to frame it aorund the interests of group A and ignore that groups B, C, and D have different experience and access.

    In Mismeasure of Man, Gould has an analysis of how the early IQ tests were biased against some groups. The same factors are probably, more subtly, at work here.

    **

    In response to the issue of SAT scores beign non-representative, I didn’t know that black students had a tendency to “overperform” — but from what I know about campus politics, I would expect that has to do with the culture of the colleges.

    There was a study at UC Santa Cruz in 2005 where they interviewed a diverse segment of the incoming class over the course of their first semester. Minority students, IIRC, felt alienated and disconcerted in a way that other students did not.

    Interestingly, the group of students who did best in their classes were white students who were the first in their family to go to college.

  29. 29
    Ampersand says:

    Here’s what Steele says on an interview:

    That’s easy for me to answer and that is, absolutely not. And that is the very nub of the problem. That’s the argument that many who oppose affirmative action come to. Look, the assumption that they’re making is that we have a perfectly interpretable, objective measure of academic potential and contribution to society potential. That we have that in our hands, and that affirmative action is causing us to ignore that or downplay that or make exceptions to that. And the first point that that side has to recognize is that we don’t have that kind of measure in our hands. We don’t have that. The SAT and no standardized test is that kind [of] measure, can bear the burden of fairly assessing academic potential for all groups in society or all people for that matter in society. We just don’t have that.

    In other words, because blacks do better in SAT than in their later academic endeavors, we need AA to compensate for the fact that SAT does not predict academic performance… To — get this — admit more blacks.

    Actually, he didn’t say that SAT doesn’t predict academic performance. He said it doesn’t predict academic (and contribution to society) potential. “Potential” and “performance” are not at all the same thing.

  30. 30
    Tuomas says:

    1) That there’s only one study supporting “stereotype threat” – a statement so ridiculously ignorant that it immediately shuts down any chance that you’ll have any credibility.

    I said I was aware of one such study. Of course, I attempted to find other such studies, most revolved around Claude Steele.

    2) That “stereotype threat” is not falsifiable – even though no one who knows anything about study design could credibly claim that the stereotype threat studies don’t include falsifiability. Even the study design as you yourself described it incorporates falsifiability.

    I was talking about the concept as it is presented, and then accepted by people beholden to the concept. By people beholden to concept I mean people who are (IMO)completely unwilling to contemplate the thought that race and gender might not be social constructs.

    3) That “Steele managed to make them do worse. ‘Here, take this test. It’s one where women do worse’ *nudge nudge wink wink*.” As Charles points out, this is effectively accusing Steele of being a liar and a fraud. (Plus, has Steele even run such a study with women? I don’t know that he has – other researchers have, of course, but afaik not Steele – and I have no faith in your knowledge of the facts.)

    Skilled bender of truth, if you prefer, for implying that stereotype threat+socioeconomic factors account for whole SAT gap.

    More importantly, I also see fragrant ignorance, delivered in a tone of smug condensation, as – to quote the moderation policy – “moving ‘Alas’ discussions away from what I’d like ‘Alas’ discussions to be.”

    I shall try to refrain from that. It may be that this isn’t something could come to any other conclusion than agree to disagree or banning, however, I have answered your questions.

    Actually, he didn’t say that SAT doesn’t predict academic performance. He said it doesn’t predict academic (and contribution to society) potential. “Potential” and “performance” are not at all the same thing.

    Which of course is unmeasurable if not measured by, say, performance.

    In Mismeasure of Man, Gould has an analysis of how the early IQ tests were biased against some groups. The same factors are probably, more subtly, at work here.

    Mandolin:
    About Mismeasure of Man:

    The Mismeasure of Man has been highly controversial. The popular and literary press have mostly praised the book, while most scientific journals have been critical.[4] Among psychologists, the reaction has been largely negative. Hans Eysenck’s[5] review called the book “a paleontologist’s distorted view of what psychologists think, untutored in even the most elementary facts of the science.”

    (my emphasis)

    In response to the issue of SAT scores beign non-representative, I didn’t know that black students had a tendency to “overperform” — but from what I know about campus politics, I would expect that has to do with the culture of the colleges.

    There was a study at UC Santa Cruz in 2005 where they interviewed a diverse segment of the incoming class over the course of their first semester. Minority students, IIRC, felt alienated and disconcerted in a way that other students did not.

    Interestingly, the group of students who did best in their classes were white students who were the first in their family to go to college.

    Cultural factors probably play a large part, too.

  31. 31
    Tuomas says:

    Interestingly, the group of students who did best in their classes were white students who were the first in their family to go to college.

    It is my understanding that connections (which white people often have) and AA (for minorities, especially certain ones, which I suspect were the ones who felt most alienated) aid one in getting to college.

    In this light, it would seem hardly surprising that the ones who have got there largely by merit do the best.

    Alienation and disconcertation may come from many factors, racism from (other races), intra-race racism (“acting white”), and from the fact that these students find the studies harder.

  32. 32
    Tuomas says:

    To be clear, I don’t think it’s wrong to discuss something if you don’t know much about it. But there’s a big difference between honest ignorance (”I haven’t read these studies, but I’m skeptical. Here’s my concern:…”) and a position of feigned knowledge (”Ah yes, the ’stereotype threat’. I know only one such study — with questionable methodology”) combined with arrogant contempt for scholars whose results you don’t like (”I’m sure many other psychologists/humanists have circle-jerked over this one and others, producing other ‘correct’ results”).

    I can see that.

    However:

    combined with arrogant contempt for scholars whose results you don’t like

    This is quite directly implying that I have contempt for “soft” sciences just because I don’t like their results.

    No, their results are nice and well-meaning, I’m sure.

  33. 33
    Tuomas says:

    Ampersand:

    About the study and experimenter bias:

    Here’s my concern about all studies on stereotype threat.

    1) Stereotype exists that, say, women do worse in math (lot of stereotypes exist)
    2) A researcher wants to test why this is
    3) Thus the researcher primes them on a stereotype, that already exist, and that already most people are aware of (like the test subjects)
    4) This ‘priming’, in effect (that I sarcastically referred as *wink wink nudge nudge*) is an act that falls under the umbrella of experimenter bias — by it’s very definition:

    Experimenter’s bias is the phenomenon in experimental science by which the outcome of an experiment tends to be biased towards a result expected by the human experimenter. The inability of a human being to remain completely objective is the ultimate source of this bias.

    In other words:

    What stereotype threat could you test with a double blind experimenter with no interaction? Not a single one, since the very test requires an interaction, however subtle it may be, where the test subjects are reminded of the stereotype.

  34. 34
    Tuomas says:

    Or actually, I should say in point 2 a researcher wants to test whether this is because of anxiety women feel when stereotyped, obviously.

  35. 35
    Tuomas says:

    About the point 4:

    Bottom line: There is an interaction to the stereotyped group and the researcher that lets the research subjects know what this is about. However scientific, controlled and subtle that may be, it is not outrageous to say that it *wink wink nudge nudge*.

    How CAN you test a stereotype threat, if you CAN NOT mention the stereotype in any way?

    You can’t, hence experimenter bias.

  36. 36
    Charles S says:

    Well, except that that super subtle, unintentional “wink wink nudge nudge” is actually the thing you are trying to measure. So not experimenter bias.

    I had thought you meant “wink wink nudge nudge, we’re trying to show that women do worse on these tests, don’t do your best,” not “wink wink nudge nudge, we don’t really think you are capable of doing well on this.” The first one would corrupt the study, but the second one is exactly what the study is trying to demonstrate, that sufficient exposure to the stereotype means that situations that connect to the stereotype at all raise anxiety levels, which reduce test taking ability. In the case of the 1995 study, the distinction between testing ability and testing problem solving psychology, with the promise of feedback on either personal strengths and weaknesses, or of feedback to familiarize them with test question styles, is the “nudge nudge wink wink, remember the stereotypes” in the study.

    Actually, the design isn’t described sufficiently, but the study could easily have been done double blind, if the proctors of the tests were given the instructions on whether to say it is a test of ability or a test of problem solving process (the part of the methodology I quoted previously) but were not themselves instructed on the actual purpose of the study.

    Mentioning the stereotype is only going to bias the results if stereotype threat is a legitimate phenomenon. If stereotype threat doesn’t have an effect, why would it matter if the researchers subliminally get the test subjects to think about the stereotypes before taking the test? If you are concerned that the researchers might unintentionally have gotten the subjects to think about the stereotype to a greater extent than the research design intended, then the research would have over-estimated the actual effect, but it wouldn’t be being influenced by anything except the phenomenon being studied.

  37. 37
    Tuomas says:

    Well, except that that super subtle, unintentional “wink wink nudge nudge” is actually the thing you are trying to measure. So not experimenter bias.

    Yes experimenter bias.

    They have managed to show that they can, indeed, influence a test result — to the worse, which is what they expected, and what they — I repeat — HAD to cue the research subjects about.

    In the case of the 1995 study, the distinction between testing ability and testing problem solving psychology, with the promise of feedback on either personal strengths and weaknesses, or of feedback to familiarize them with test question styles, is the “nudge nudge wink wink, remember the stereotypes” in the study.

    Yes, exactly. And this is called “experimenter bias”. It doesn’t matter that the experimenters weren’t the ones who came up with the idea. It still fits the definition.

    Mentioning the stereotype is only going to bias the results if stereotype threat is a legitimate phenomenon. If stereotype threat doesn’t have an effect, why would it matter if the researchers subliminally get the test subjects to think about the stereotypes before taking the test?

    Why does it have — in most of the tests — have an effect predicted by the stereotype?

    Because the effect is what they are trying to measure — and they are letting the subjects know this.

    Look, I’m not saying “you can’t influence a test score” — you can, of course (which is why a thing called “experimenter bias” exists), but to draw/imply that this will help explain the differences in testing scores in larger scale (when it shows no such thing) is where the non sequitur comes.

    And it is nonfalsifiable as a general concept, because one can not study about things where a stereotype does not exist, and second it can not measure other factors that may have affected the testing situation (because of the correspondence between researcher/subject). It can not show us why a negative stereotype exists in the first place.

    I’m not trying to condescending here, all I’m saying that the stereotype threat intrinsically has an experimenter bias. Am I finally making sense?

  38. 38
    mandolin says:

    Thanks, I don’t think I’ll trust wikipedia on that book. I’d rather trust the scientists who taught it to me. :P

  39. 39
    Tuomas says:

    Thanks, I don’t think I’ll trust wikipedia on that book. I’d rather trust the scientists who taught it to me. :P

    Which science would that be?

  40. 41
    Charles S says:

    You are making more sense, but I still think that you are mistaken.

    Because the effect is what they are trying to measure — and they are letting the subjects know this.

    The second part of that statement is completely unsupported. They are not letting the test subjects know what they are studying, and the only way they are invoking the stereotype is by stating that the test will demonstrate the students ability and that they will provide feedback on strengths and weaknesses. That is it, and the study results suggest that that is sufficient to invoke the stereotype in the subjects minds, leading to increased anxiety and decreased performance.

    Look, I’m not saying “you can’t influence a test score” — you can, of course (which is why a thing called “experimenter bias” exists), but to draw/imply that this will help explain the differences in testing scores in larger scale (when it shows no such thing) is where the non sequitur comes.

    And I’m completely failing to see why you think “it shows no such thing.” Do you think that students never encounter anything that reminds them of the negative stereotypes concerning their group, do you think that they never encounter such reminders in close proximity to test taking?

    And it is nonfalsifiable as a general concept, because one can not study about things where a stereotype does not exist, and second it can not measure other factors that may have affected the testing situation (because of the correspondence between researcher/subject). It can not show us why a negative stereotype exists in the first place.

    But it could be tested in different places with different intensities of stereotype indoctrination and enforcement. And potential confounding effects exist in all research. Decent research (and simply repetition of experiments and large numbers of subjects) attempts to decrease these confounding effects, but they are always potentially there. Is it your argument that the entirety of sociological and psychological research is baseless and invalid?

    Why would you expect stereotype threat research to reveal the origin story of stereotypes? That isn’t what it attempts to do, and isn’t what it claims to do.

  41. 42
    mandolin says:

    Biology, monsieur.

  42. 43
    mandolin says:

    “Alienation and disconcertation may come from many factors, racism from (other races), intra-race racism (”acting white”), and from the fact that these students find the studies harder. ”

    Well, yeah, if the alienation was academic, but it wasn’t. They felt alienated from the non-academic arms of the institution. They did not feel socially integrated into it, which makes a lot of sense, if you happen to be familiar with the UCSC campus and realize that the minorities by and large AREN’T integrated. One of the ten colleges is informally designated the “minority” college, and through a complicated process of self-selection and institutional selection (for instance, I knew a person of color who had gone to tour the school whose tour guide acted surprised that she would want to see a college other than Oakes), it has become a bit of a gated community.

    The alienation is may well also be cultural — hell, I’m minded toward anthropology (though, yes, I took classes in biology and genetics), I think just about everything has cultural factors. The institution is set up to expect students from a certain cultural background; it’s demonstrably not great at adapting those expectations to fit the full population its intended to serve.

    But anyway, how students relate to the institution as a social entity has nothing to do with the “hardness” of classes.” :-P

    Do you really actually think that people of color are not as smart as whites — or are you playing devil’s advocate / probing for weak points in my argument? I admit that I often find it difficult to suss out what your ideological position is exactly, but I hadn’t gotten the impression from your posts here and elsewhere that you were a straight up racist.

  43. 44
    Tuomas says:

    The second part of that statement is completely unsupported. They are not letting the test subjects know what they are studying, and the only way they are invoking the stereotype is by stating that the test will demonstrate the students ability and that they will provide feedback on strengths and weaknesses. That is it, and the study results suggest that that is sufficient to invoke the stereotype in the subjects minds, leading to increased anxiety and decreased performance.

    Yes, perhaps they even believe that.

    Stereotype threat:

    Description:

    The argument draws a conclusion from data that has been influenced by the expectations and hopes of the person collecting the data.

    Comments:

    In most cases this influence is unconscious and unintentional. Bad data may be due to such “honest” mistakes as rounding up or rounding down to favor a certain result, or treating ambiguous results as favoring the preferred result. However, there have also been documented cases of outright fraud.

    So Steele studies whether, say, blacks score less than whites in SAT because of stereotype threat. He already knows that blacks score less on SAT (here comes the expectation), and claims to have subtly and subliminally influenced the subjects so as to test his hypothesis without them realizing it.

    Steele’s claim — that the subjects did not know what he was testing, in effect he is saying that he was too coy for them to have picked up what was going on, and he simply can not know that.

    It is pretty much the textbook definition of experimenter bias.

    And I’m completely failing to see why you think “it shows no such thing.” Do you think that students never encounter anything that reminds them of the negative stereotypes concerning their group, do you think that they never encounter such reminders in close proximity to test taking?

    Because it really doesn’t show all that much. Merely that Steele primed some subjects to do worse. A nice thing to know, but it shouldn’t be presented as having any more significance than it really does.

    This is the truly wretched thing is that this concept “stereotype threat” is presented as a major, or even only explanation for differences in standardized testing.

    Why would you expect stereotype threat research to reveal the origin story of stereotypes? That isn’t what it attempts to do, and isn’t what it claims to do.

    No, not origin story of all stereotypes, obviously. However, it is often presented as a major explanation to gap men-women gap in math, or white-black gap in SAT.

    Steele endorses this:

    There are many implications because stereotype threat is not something that happens just on standardized test performance. It happens whenever these students are in the domain where the stereotype is applicable. So [with] any kind of intellectual performance or interacting with professors or teaching assistants or other students in a classroom, this stereotype is relevant and constitutes a pressure on those behaviors. As I say, we’ve looked at the same kind of thing with regard to women and mathematics. For that group, it’s particularly rife with stereotype as they get into advance mathematics work in college. Then, fewer and fewer women are present. The world of mathematics and science becomes a more male world. And the threat of the sort we’re describing here for women gets more intense.

    So, the first implication is that this is probably something more general than something that affects standardized test performance, as important as that is. It’s something that’s a pervasive element of experience in society in general. Also I think it’s important to realize what it says about interpreting standardized test scores for different groups. We tend to think of standardized test scores, almost the term, standardized test, gives the image that this is a test that is standardized. It’s fair for everybody. It is a fair and impartial measure of school potential, potential to succeed in school. And this research raises at least one source of concern about that, that different groups in the midst of those tests may be under different degrees of pressure, and their performance is likely to reflect that. And the gaps that we see are interpretable in those terms as opposed to differences of preparation or differences of ability.

    Mandolin:

    Biology, monsieur.

    Thx. I agree with you that “race science” in 1920s etc. and craniology is crap, however, Gould misrepresents his contemporary opponents.

    But that is a drift.

    Do you really actually think that people of color are not as smart as whites — or are you playing devil’s advocate / probing for weak points in my argument? I admit that I often find it difficult to suss out what your ideological position is exactly, but I hadn’t gotten the impression from your posts here and elsewhere that you were a straight up racist.

    Reality is not a matter of my belief (oops, according to stereotype threat, it is :P), but I take no position on whether SAT or IQ gap between whites and blacks is racial, or explained by something else. Or how well these tests measure intelligence, whatever that may be. (POC is more complicated, as Asians generally score higher than whites).

    Does someone, for example, believe that higher infant mortality of blacks is caused by the stereotype of higher infant mortality among blacks, rather than multitude of real-world non-belief socioeconomic factors?

    Thank God the only alternatives aren’t biological determinism and the concept of “stereotype threat”.

    I also fail to see what my supposed ideology has to do with anything.

  44. 45
    Tuomas says:

    Sorry, the first link is to experimenter bias, obviously.

  45. 46
    Charles S says:

    It is pretty much the textbook definition of experimenter bias.

    You keep saying this, but you continue to provide nothing to support your claim.

    I can’t really think of any new ways to explain to you why studying how the way that test questions are presented affects the performance of some students on those test questions is not a demonstration of experimenter bias. If you can’t see that those are two completely separate things, I really can’t help you.

  46. 47
    Tuomas says:

    You keep saying this, but you continue to provide nothing to support your claim.

    Nothing?

    I have provided support to this claim repeatedly. Read my posts #32, #36, #43, for example.

    I can’t really think of any new ways to explain to you why studying how the way that test questions are presented affects the performance of some students on those test questions is not a demonstration of experimenter bias. If you can’t see that those are two completely separate things, I really can’t help you.

    Because… The experimenter is studying this difference and corresponds with the subjects, thus leading to the possibility of them being influenced by him/her!

    This is the fourth time, Charles.

    If you can’t see that those are two completely separate things, I really can’t help you.

    No, I can’t help you.

    They are not, and I’m not going to pretend that they are different because, well, they just are.

  47. 48
    mandolin says:

    It has to do with whether you’re arguing sincerely.

  48. 49
    Tuomas says:

    It has to do with whether you’re arguing sincerely.

    ?

  49. 50
    Ampersand says:

    What stereotype threat could you test with a double blind experimenter with no interaction? Not a single one, since the very test requires an interaction, however subtle it may be, where the test subjects are reminded of the stereotype.

    There are a lot of ways.

    For instance, some experiments have been done in which the test subjects are reminded of the stereotype — or not reminded — via a videotaped presentation of some sort. The videos look identical on the outside; which video is shown to subjects is random chance. The experimenter doesn’t know which video they watched – and thus whether or not the viewers have been reminded of the stereotype or not – until after standardized tests have been completed by the subject.

    That one is from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 28, No. 12, 1615-1628 (2002). But it’s hardly the only example of a blinded stereotype threat study out there.

    Another example, this time from Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 27(4), 329–336. The students were randomly assigned to one of three groups. In these groups, the students were handed a questionnaire which might activate a stereotype threat in some but not all of the students. Or the questionnaire might be worded neutrally. The experimenters handing out the surveys had no idea whether or not the questionnaires they were handing out contained a reminder of stereotypes or not.

    That’s just two examples of many (other examples: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2002, Vol. 83, No. 3, 638–647; Child Development Volume 74 Page 498 – March 2003; etc, etc, etc.). The fact is, stereotype threat has been found, again and again, even in properly blinded studies. Your theory that stereotype threat is just a result of experimenter bias doesn’t hold water.

  50. 51
    Tuomas says:

    Your theory that stereotype threat is just a result of experimenter bias thus doesn’t hold water.

    I recall only passionately arguing that Steele’s very likely contained a an experimenter bias.

    For instance, some experiments have been done in which the test subjects are reminded of the stereotype — or not reminded — via a videotaped presentation of some sort. The videos look identical on the outside; which video is shown to subjects is random chance. The experimenter doesn’t know which video they watched – and thus whether or not the viewers have been reminded of the stereotype or not – until after standardized tests have been completed by the subject.

    In effect, you are saying that my claim was that the interviewer has to talk about with them one on one (it was not). Why does the video affect the fact that the subjects can’t figure out what is being studies (especially now that stereotype threat is public “knowledge”)?

    In effect, again you are only proving that you can make videos that affect subsequent test performance. Sure thing. I’d probably score lower after watching something that I have emotional investment with too, rather than something neutral.

    My point is largely this: I do not reject the notion that one can not influence test scores, or that low expectations may not sometimes lead to low results. My point is that it is not the end-all of describing all differences, that it is used as a theory to prove that stereotypical differences are caused by people being aware of stereotypes.

    Unfortunately, it is often (mostly, like in this thread at #5) presented as a significant, ‘scientifically proven’ fact. What is the political implication behind the stereotype threat (as we know certain stereotypes) is that as long these stereotypes exist, the difference in performance (as long as it is according to a stereotype, which are formed by… differences in performance) can always be claimed to be caused by this threat. Always.

    What would be a historical example of (first) removal of the stereotype threat, and the stereotype goes away? It usually goes the other way, as the stereotype is proved to be wrong. This contradicts the larger implications of the stereotype threat directly.

  51. 52
    Charles S says:

    Tuomas,

    I think what is tripping you up is that stereotype threat is a form of experimenter’s bias. If I conduct a study to see if women are good at math, and I expect they aren’t, and if my beliefs lead me to trigger stereotype threat in my female subjects, then my study has been tainted by experimenter’s bias.

    Indeed, stereotype threat can be seen as a form of experimenter’s bias that is endemic to academic testing (and one that doesn’t even require bias on the part of the experimenter).

    But the fact that stereotype threat is experimenter’s bias does not mean that any study of stereotype threat is tainted by experimenter’s bias. That is the claim that you are making, and it is one that you still haven’t supported, and it is a claim that the blind studies Amp referenced make it even harder for you to provide support for. The degree to which stereotype threat biases the results is the thing being studied. If stereotype threat did not exist, then the methods used to cause subjects to perform worse would not have any effect.

  52. 53
    Charles S says:

    So your main point is that the idea of stereotype threat is sometimes possibly over used by some people in some arguments?

  53. 54
    Tuomas says:

    That is the claim that you are making, and it is one that you still haven’t supported, and it is a claim that the blind studies Amp referenced make it even harder for you to provide support for. The degree to which stereotype threat biases the results is the thing being studied. If stereotype threat did not exist, then the methods used to cause subjects to perform worse would not have any effect.

    Are you saying that the students won’t figure out “oh, they’re testing stereotypes“, if the assistants handing the papers don’t know it?

    If I conduct a study to see if women are good at math, and I expect they aren’t, and if my beliefs lead me to trigger stereotype threat in my female subjects, then my study has been tainted by experimenter’s bias.

    But the stereotype exists (as long as the group in question is underrepresented, and as long as it is underrepresented, there is a stereotype…), whether on invidual (claims to) believe(s) it or not.

    Indeed, stereotype threat can be seen as a form of experimenter’s bias that is endemic to academic testing (and one that doesn’t even require bias on the part of the experimenter).

    Indeed it can. How can this statement be proven wrong? (honestly, the non-falsifiability…)

    So your main point is that the idea of stereotype threat is sometimes possibly over used by some people in some arguments?

    One point, surely, and a rather important one, considering that even the stereotype threat studies (in their absent stereotype threat group) can’t account for the whole difference, which is often omitted.

    And I don’t think we have to search too far for those!

    I suppose I could settle for something like: Sure it can have a possible effect and may account for some of the differences. I wouldn’t mind that, at all.

    However accepting it as the lynchpin of inequal represantation… No.

    It’s an interesting (if very dubious, IMHO) concept, and I tend to agree with “the endemic experimenter bias” -hypothesis.

  54. 55
    TBQ says:

    It is odd though, that boys are far less likely to graduate from high school and less likely to go to and graduate college. I fail to see any problems for girls in the actual outcome. I am 35, I never remember a teacher being biased in practice against girls. I never remember a teacher telling me I had any limitations in my career choices. I am sure it happens, but it is not across the board everywhere.

    If boys are being called on in class more, it could as much be to keep them engaged, knowing that boys disengage much sooner than girls due to their brain chemistry, than to short change girls. Boys tend to need more interaction than girls in the classroom to succeed. They are more restless, more active. They get bored more easily.

    I would love to go to single sex classrooms. That would solve the problem altogether. Allocate equal funding per student and equal staffing per student, and allow teachers to use different methods based on the need of the students. I would also seek to get more make teachers into the male classrooms, instead of having 80% of grade school teachers be women. It would also take away the huge distraction for teen boys of having girls in the classroom (and vice versa), and would allow them to concentrate on their studies. I would like to see boys and girls going to college and graduating at equal rates.

  55. 56
    alyssa says:

    It seems probable that the likelihood and significance of gender bias is also regionally dependent. I am a Chicagoan but was living in Branson, MO when my elder daughter started school. At the very first parent-teacher conference, her teacher (a man) said to me, “Ashley is really good at math for a girl.” I replied, “No, Ashley is just really good at math.” He nodded and looked at me like I had two heads – I doubt he even understood my point. I never detected any such attitudes in the Chicagoland schools she has attended since.

  56. 57
    Hollis Gabriel says:

    I am extremely sensitive to the bias girls face on a daily basis at all educational levels. I am, however, seeing extreme sexism towards boys in my son’s school in Louisiana. Teachers, both male and female, are favoring girls in very odvious ways. At the elementary level, girls are chosen to run errands and help the teachers at a much hiugher rate than boys. Boys are disciplined more severely then girls who have the same inappropraite behaviors. In middle school, the same holds true but it is more prevalent and odvious. One teacher has a group of girls she constistantly treats to ice cream after school. Another walks by girls who are not focused on their classwork, but always stops to fuss at the boys. ItGirls are allowed to go the to bathroom when boys are denied the request. The list goes on and on. Many parents of the boys are unhappy about this sexism. Is it possible that the teachers are unaware of their behavior? Have studies been done about this reverse sexism?

  57. 58
    Susan says:

    My experience at being a mother of both boys and girls is that the school system is run by women, for women, and that the little boys are much against the wall.

    If you’re a neat, clean, docile little girl, you’re In With Flynn in the school system. They’re gonna love you. If you’re a normal young male, you’re too loud, too messy, too independent, you don’t keep quiet enough, and you make way too much noise. Expect to be given a lot of talkings-to, expect to be on Ritalin soon. (In my day, expect to be hit with a lot of rulers.)

  58. 59
    mythago says:

    My experience at being a mother of both boys and girls is that the school system is run by women, for women, and that the little boys are much against the wall.

    Huh. My experience as a mother of both is that the school system puts a premium on neat, clean and docile, period. Do you have any idea how schools react to normal little girls who are loud, messy and independent? Hint: Even worse than they react to boys ditto.

    (Meta to self: Why waste your time? Susan’s probably one of those people who thinks there aren’t any “normal” girls who are anything but quiet, neat and dependent, and boys who aren’t loud, messy and independent are future sissy-men.)

  59. 60
    crys t says:

    Mythago: indeed, dealing with the Susans and Hollis Gabriels of the world does seem increasingly like a waste of time.

    In both my experience as a female child and as a teacher of children, it was blatantly obvious to me that boys got/get the lion’s share of the attention. Sure, girls get called on to run errands–being servants is our/their proper capacity in life. It’s hardly a sign of favour.

    And all that focussing on boys who aren’t working while ignoring girls doing the same–exactly how does that indicate a preference for girls? How is being invisible better? As a teacher, it was obvious to me that boys acted up in class precisely in order to get my attention, while the girls were quiet because they’d already given up on expecting anything from adults.

    And of course, when I had to discipline the boys, they always whined, “You favour the girls!!” even though they’d gone out of their way to get me to notice them in the first place.

  60. 61
    Susan says:

    (Meta to self: Why waste your time? Susan’s probably one of those people who thinks there aren’t any “normal” girls who are anything but quiet, neat and dependent, and boys who aren’t loud, messy and independent are future sissy-men.)

    Memo to self: ignore rude people who think personal insults are the equivalent of logical arguments.

  61. 62
    mythago says:

    Thanks for confirming that I wasn’t merely being paranoid, Susan.

    crys, for a truly head-desk experience, go read that book by Christina Hoff Sommers. She does an excellent job of pointing out how assembly-line schooling pressures children to conform, shut up, and move along at the proper pace–and then every few pages some neuron snaps in her brain and she starts in about how it’s because schools are run by FEMINISTS who HATE BOYS like her precious sons and they OPPRESS BOYS and that’s the whole problem. Because, you know, girls are just sorta naturally sheeplike and never do anything but sit quietly in class.

  62. 63
    Susan says:

    Thanks for confirming that I wasn’t merely being paranoid, Susan.

    I wouldn’t know about that. I didn’t address your insult, because it wasn’t worthy of notice. I prefer logical arguments to personal attacks, myself.

  63. 64
    Anke Wehner says:

    I realise this is way old, but I recently went through a stochastics course in which text problems including gender were not uncommon, and were in many cases biased against women, so I thought I’d give examples.

    This included a question pointing out that more (university) students are male than female, a higher percentage of male students passes their maths tests and a higer percentage of male students get a doctor’s degree. Yes, that is true, but it did make me uncomfortable, being female and taking a maths test.

    Other examples were questions involving Bernoulli distributions – the two possible results being “male” and “female” – with the questions constructed so “male” was the obvious choice for “winning” and “female” meant “losing”, also including a distinct trend to give the percentage of males in a group and having people calculate the percentage of females themselves.

    The professor also in the first practise session flat out said that women don’t do as well as men in this class – and five minutes later misheard a female student’s correct answer and told her she was wrong. I really don’t assume any malignancy on his part, but that was really awkward.

  64. 65
    sylphhead says:

    But did you ever consider that the men in math departments are just sad, bitter, and lonely people?

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  66. 66
    Lylinn Adams says:

    I have yet to see someone post on this who actually faces this. Perhaps someone has and I missed it, and if so, feel free to correct me on this.

    I am a female student who will be graduating from a small high school this May. At seventeen, I know I am not the norm for female students. I am quiet and I don’t talk a lot in class, but I have a very good reason for it.

    My reason is this: I have been routinely, and often subtly, degraded for being the ‘smart girl’. When I was boldly mistreated by other students, typically male but occasionally female, the teacher did nothing to stop them. If I tried to stand up for myself, it just got worse. I got sick of it, so I stopped participating in classroom discussions where I knew I was going to be treated like that.

    I am quite different from most of the girls in my area. I grew up with a single mother, and my mother is an English professor at the local college. As a result, I grew up learning to think for myself. Many of my friends, sadly, did not have this. They were taught that a woman’s place is in the home, and that woman with careers should be teachers or some other job involving caring for others (like a nurse). I mainly use the example of teacher because one of my friends, and I would like to point out that she is incredibly intelligent, is going to become a teacher. She has stated on several occasions, however, that she would rather be a doctor, but she doesn’t believe she can succeed if she were to choose that path instead.

    It makes me sad to see her give up on her dreams like that. I know it isn’t just her. Our science classes, the ones that are not required for graduation, are dominated by male students. My physics class has roughly 25 students in it, which is a large class by our averages. Of those 25, only three are female. There were four, but one dropped the class.

    Ah, standardized tests. Where do I begin? The math and science tests are favorable towards male students. They tend to ask questions that, in this area, are over subjects (particularly trig, Al II, and physics) that are not emphasized with girls. Several of us were incredibly happy to see them abolish the system last year.

    Most girls are not encouraged to study science and math beyond high school. I can tell you that based on personal experience. I am seventeen, and female, and I want to be a physicist. I would really like to be an astrophysicist. I cannot even begin to count how many times people–both my age and older–have looked at me like I was crazy for that. There have even been subtle comments that I won’t succeed, or it isn’t my place to be aiming towards a career in that field. The only reason that I am pursuing it is because I grew up with a single mother in a family of scholars, and I was not taught to adhere to the traditional values of the area. However, this doesn’t change the fact that I still have to watch my friends, and even girls I don’t like, be forced to give up their dreams for something that society wants for them instead. The worst part is: most of the time, they don’t even realize what they’re doing. They rationalize everything like that, and convince themselves that it’s what they want. My friend who wants to be a doctor has given me what could be considered textbook answers when I ask why she is giving up her dream to become something else (and something that already exists in her family–her mother is a first grade teacher).

    It’s depressing. It’s only made worse by the realization that very few people actually understand what is really going on. Scientists can’t tell people what’s happening, because most of them are male and they don’t have to put up with this. Watching it happen to someone else and never experiencing it yourself is very different than watching it happen to someone else and going through it yourself at the same time. I have been discredited a lot because of my age. I’m told that I’m to young to understand what is happening to me. It’s disgusting. If you want real information about gender bias in schools, find students who can think for themselves (a rare thing in today’s world, sadly) and ASK them.

    -Lylinn

  67. 67
    Anne says:

    Lylinn Adams, thank you for posting! It’s nice to hear a genuine personal experience instead of a lot of speculation. I’m sorry to hear the deck is so stacked against you, though – I was hoping the situation had improved. Allow me to encourage you: physics is a fascinating area, and astrophysics in particular. Apropos the topic of the post, the gender ratio in physics is still skewed, for reasons you are all too aware of, and in spite of examples from Emmy Noether and Marie Curie on forward. Astrophysics is a little better – the astro group at my university was started by a woman, and there are many important women in astrophysics, for example Jocelyn Bell Burnell, co-discoverer of the first pulsar, and Jean Swank, principal investigator on the tremendously fruitful Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer. I can’t promise you you’ll be done with sexism once you graduate, but there is a goodly group of people who know what you’re going through and who will do what they can to lighten the burden.

  68. 68
    Katie says:

    Though you provided information from three different sources, each one cites research preformed by the same duo: Myra and David Sadker.

    “If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.”

    Try The War Against Boys for another an additional perspective.

    Thanks for the post.

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  70. 69
    Jake says:

    I find this very interesting. I don’t know if I buy this study. I’m going to start paying attention to this more in my own schooling and see if it rings true. I’d like to add, though, that boys are also more commonly called out for misbehavior in the classroom, that girls can “get out of trouble” easier, and that in general, girls don’t have to pay for things/can get things done by asking a lot more effectively than guys can. I think this is a problem, too. Girls are taught that they can get what they want by manipulating or asking guys for it, perpetuating the women are weak stereotype. I agree with your points, but I’d like to bring up that girls have advantages, too, and that total gender equality isn’t going to happen because guys and girls are not the same. The closer, the better, but I still want to open doors for girls I’m dating.

  71. 70
    Elusis says:

    Girls are taught that they can get what they want by manipulating or asking guys for it

    Lower-weight, conventionally attractive, white, feminine, cisgender, middle/upper-class, neurotypical, able-bodied girls are taught that until they start to age or gain weight or acquire some kind of injury or illness that impacts their looks, and as long as they’re not too smart or too loud or too assertive or too “masculine” in behavior, they can get what they want by manipulating or asking guys for it.

    There, fixed that for you.

  72. 71
    Schala says:

    I would really like to be an astrophysicist. I cannot even begin to count how many times people–both my age and older–have looked at me like I was crazy for that. There have even been subtle comments that I won’t succeed, or it isn’t my place to be aiming towards a career in that field. The only reason that I am pursuing it is because I grew up with a single mother in a family of scholars, and I was not taught to adhere to the traditional values of the area.

    My personal take on astrophysics, as a layperson who doesn’t know what kind of studies it takes to reach there, how many make it, where the jobs can be found for that field…is that it’s extremely hard for ANYONE to get there.

    Rajish in Big Bang Theory does not represent most men…he represents a subset of very dedicated people who happen to understand the subject enough and with enough ease, to make a career out of it. I bet a tiny minority of men, too. Unlike say, warehouse worker.

    So I’d wonder how that person came to the conclusion that it was THIS field they wanted, given the rarity. Wether they had a vagina or a penis would be immaterial.

    And all that focussing on boys who aren’t working while ignoring girls doing the same–exactly how does that indicate a preference for girls? How is being invisible better? As a teacher, it was obvious to me that boys acted up in class precisely in order to get my attention, while the girls were quiet because they’d already given up on expecting anything from adults.

    I wonder how this would be interpreted if it was the other way around. It seems to be about fishing for an excuse, and reaching.

    Being invisible is how men in wider society are treated when they need actual help (not Ritalin help, but victim-catering services). Because needing services means they’re weak, thus unmanly, thus not deserving of the services (circular logic is fun). But it’s not a problem when it happens to them?

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