Men are more likely than women to be seen as ‘brilliant’ in studies revealing widespread bias

By Arianne Cohen

He’s brilliant! And she’s . . . not. This is the finding of a new expansive study from New York University, which found that adults and elementary schoolers in 79 countries perceive men as being brilliant much more than women.

The career implications of this are enormous. “Stereotypes that portray brilliance as a male trait are likely to hold women back across a wide range of prestigious careers,” says lead author Daniel Storage, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Denver. Coauthor Andrei Cimpian’s previous research found that women are underrepresented in careers that require high levels of perceived genius, because they are not seen as possessing the raw intellectual talent to the same degree as men.

A certain level of brilliance is required to design studies that measure this implicit bias, because most people, including the participants in this study, state that they do not believe that men are smarter than women. But their minds reveal otherwise. This is called an “implicit stereotype,” which is an automatic assumption about gender and intelligence. To identify it, the researchers used the Implicit Association Test, a well-known speed-sorting task, where participants quickly categorize pictures and words that flash by, thereby revealing their implicit associations. The results were consistent across five studies.

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