The average man thinks he’s smarter than the average woman. And women generally agree.
It starts early. At the age of five, most girls and boys think that their own sex is the smartest, a finding consistent with the idea that people tend to think more highly of people like themselves. Around age six, though, right when gender stereotypes tend to take hold among children, girls start reporting that they think boys are smarter, while boys continue to favor themselves and their male peers.
They may have learned this from their parents. Both mothers and fathers tend to think that their sons are smarter than their daughters. They’re more likely to ask Google if their son is a “genius” (though also whether they’re “stupid”). Regarding their daughters, they’re more likely to inquire about attractiveness.
Once in college, the trend continues. Male students overestimate the extent to which their males peers have “mastered” biology, for example, and underestimate their female peers’ mastery, even when grades and outspokenness were accounted for. To put a number on it, male students with a 3.00 G.P.A. were evaluated as equally smart as female students with a 3.75 G.P.A.
When young scholars go professional, the bias persists. More so than women, men go into and succeed in fields that are believed to require raw, innate brilliance, while women more so than men go into and succeed in fields that are believed to require only hard work.
Once in a field, if brilliance can be attributed to a man instead of a woman, it often will be. Within the field of economics, for example, solo-authored work increases a woman’s likelihood of getting tenure, a paper co-authored with a woman has an effect as well, but a paper co-authored with a man has zero effect. Male authors are given credit in all cases.
In negotiations over raises and promotions at work, women are more likely to be lied to, on the assumption that they’re not smart enough to figure out that they’re being given false information.
Overall, and across countries, men rate themselves as higher in analytical intelligence than women, and often women agree. Women are often rated as more verbally and emotionally intelligent, but the analytical types of intelligence (such as mathematical and spatial) are more strongly valued. When intelligence is not socially constructed as male, it’s constructed as masculine. Hypothetical figures presented as intelligent are judged as more masculine than less intelligent ones.
All this matters.
By age 6, some girls have already started opting out of playing games that they’re told are for “really, really smart” children. The same internalized sexism may lead young women to avoid academic disciplines that are believed to require raw intelligence. And, over the life course, women may be less likely than men to take advantage of career opportunities that they believe demand analytical thinking.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Alex Jurkiewicz — May 31, 2017
Your selected image raises an interesting question -- how often is "beautiful" used for boys? I wonder if the study would be any difference if the authors looked at a collection of beauty-related words. "Is my son/daughter beautiful/handsom/good looking/cute?"
Probably not, but it might make reduce the disparity :-)
6PenceOrRye — June 1, 2017
Interesting, I don't see anything about whether there actually is a difference in intelligence between males and females.
What if there is?
In my experience there is. One simple example: I've met very few women who can read a road map, yet I've met very few men who can't.
Patrick Serna — June 7, 2017
This ENTIRE article is a LIE. Females are consistently socialized by older females to think they are smarted then males. It is this GROUP identity that they NEED to escape.
Medical doctors are almost ALL female now. What is this crap about males doing better in biology, Lisa Wade?
JUXTOPOSE whenever female is stated in this article with male, and then you have a reality-based supposition.
Further more: is this JUNK scholarly work exemplary of the kind of work being done at Occidental College? What a piece of JUNK.
KateC Wilson — June 8, 2017
To counter some of the essentialist, if not misogynist, responses: this is a helpful round-up and condensing of numerous studies. It could help to limn a provisional definition of "intelligence": storing more information, problem-solving, weilding abstract concepts, skills like reading road maps--or what?
Millennials, women in general, and Andrea Yates in particular « The Jury Room — June 21, 2017
[…] think boys are smarter and girls think girls are smarter. Not long after (about age 6 according to Sociological Images), gender stereotypes kick in and girls agree with boys—boys are smarter (and boys agree). The […]
Ok Zoomer — November 10, 2019
Just wanted to point y'all to a viewpoint that is similar to this, but acknowledges the presence of a higher rate of outliers in men:
Elizabeth — July 3, 2021
Focusing on a person's appearance: figure, face, etc., we forget about the personality. This creates a false impression. It is important not to pass by in such situations, but rather to publicize the topic of sexism: https://ivypanda.com/essays/sexism-problem/
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