Little girls doubt that women can be brilliant, study shows

This undated photo provided by Rebecca Wilson shows her daughters Alex, 9, left, and Winter, 5, showing off their new backpacks for a new school year. (AP Photo/Rebecca Wilson)

Can women be brilliant? Little girls are not so sure.

A study published in the journal Science suggests that girls as young as 6 can be led to believe men are inherently smarter and more talented than women. And that can make girls less motivated to pursue novel activities or ambitious careers.

It may not be surprising that such stereotypes exist -- but the findings show these biases can affect children at a very young age.

A co-author of the study -- Andrei Cimpian at New York University -- says our society associates "a high level of intellectual ability with males more than females." And he says the research suggest that the link is "picked up by children as young 6 and 7."

In one part of the study, girls and boys were told a story about a person who is "really, really smart," and then asked to identify that person among the photos of two men and two women.

At 5, both boys and girls tended to associate brilliance with their own gender. But as they became older and began attending school, children apparently began endorsing gender stereotypes. At 6 and 7, girls were "significantly less likely" to pick the women.
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