A study from Arizona State University has found that men are more likely than women to think they are smarter than others.
Published in the journal Advances in Physiology Education, the study looked at students in a college biology classroom. They found that gender greatly influenced how intelligent a person thought they were, especially when compared to others.
“I would ask students about how their classes were going and I noticed a trend,” Katelyn Cooper, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “Over and over again, women would tell me that they were afraid that other students thought that they were ‘stupid.’ I never heard this from the men in those same biology classes, so I wanted to study it.”
To make their findings, the team spoke to 250 people taking a biology course. They had to estimate their own intelligence and compare it to others in the class, including the student they worked with the most.
In the results, men said on average they were smarter than about 66 percent of the class, whereas for women it was 54 percent (even when both had a 3.3 GPA). Male students were 3.2 times more likely than females to say they were smarter than the person they worked with most, no matter if they were male or female.
Speaking to NBC News, the study’s senior author and assistant professor Sara Brownell said that more and more studies like this are painting a similar picture, despite biology being seen by some as a “safe place” for women in STEM fields.
“Females are not participating as much in science class,” she said. “They are not raising their hands and answering questions.”
The big issue is that, particularly in STEM fields, women may not think they are smart enough, which is not a particularly easy problem to fix. Studies like this, though, can hopefully bring light to the situation.
“It’s a mindset that has likely been engrained in female students since they began their academic journeys,” Cooper added in the statement. “However, we can start by structuring group work in a way that ensures everyone’s voices are heard. One of our previous studies showed us that telling students it’s important to hear from everyone in the group could be enough to help them take a more equitable approach to group work.”