Mary Kekatos, Daily Mail, October 10, 2019
Children associate being ‘brilliant’ with white men, but not black men, a shocking new study suggests.
Researchers surveyed 200 children and found that, regardless of their own race, they linked the stereotype of intelligence with white men much more than white women.
However, by contrast, the stereotype wasn’t applied to black men, as black women were seen by the children as smarter.
The New York University team says the findings feed into patterns of stereotypes that discourage children of color and women from pursuing careers like those in science and technology, where being seen as an intelligent person is valued.
‘Among adults, gender stereotypes apply differently to men and women depending on their race,’ said senior author Dr Andrei Cimpian, an associate professor in NYU’s department of psychology.
‘That’s why it is important to consider how gender and race intersect when examining children’s gender stereotypes about intellectual ability.’
For the study, published in the Journal of Social Issues, the team recruited 200 five and six-year-olds from public elementary schools in New York City.
Researchers showed the children photographs of eight pairs of adults — a woman and a man of the same race — in a setting such as a home or office.
The kids were then told one of the two adults was ‘really, really smart’ and asked to guess which adult was the smart one.
Overall, the results showed that children named the white men in the photographs as the ‘smart person’ compared to the white women.
The team compared the answers of white children to those of minority children — mostly black, Hispanic and Asian — and the responses were largely the same.
But when it came the pairs of black men and women, the ‘brilliant’ stereotype was more often linked to black women than black men.
‘Overall, these findings reinforce the conclusion that the gender-brilliance stereotype is acquired relatively early on in life,’ said co-first author Jilana Jaxon, an NYU doctoral student at the time of the research.
‘But they also suggest that this stereotype may “look” different depending on the ethnicity of the women and men that children are reasoning about.’
The researchers say that we acquire stereotypes as children where we view white men are smarter than black men.
Because of this, we therefore believe that they are more qualified to pursue careers in areas such as science and technology — and white men are more likely to get promoted in these fields.
The team says that policies that help children understand what ‘intellectual ability’ is might ‘reverse this inequity’.
‘Understanding this nuance of how race modifies gender stereotypes is important,’ said co-first author Ryan Lei, an NYU postdoctoral researcher at the time of the study.
‘Research such as this is essential if we want to combat the effects of these stereotypes on all children’s educational and career aspirations.’