“There are lots of people at the place where I work, but there is one person who is really special. This person is really, really smart,” said Lin Bian. “This person figures out how to do things quickly and comes up with answers much faster and better than anyone else. This person is really, really smart.”
Bian, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, read this story out to 240 children, aged 5 to 7. She then showed them pictures of four adults—two men and two women—and asked them to guess which was the protagonist of the story. She also gave them two further tests: one in which they had to guess which adult in a pair was “really, really smart”, and another where they had to match attributes like “smart” or “nice” to pictures of unfamiliar men and women.
“It’s an excellent, important, and well-designed paper,” says Alison Gopnik from the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the minds of babies and children. “The pattern it reports is very consistent with other studies which show the emergence of gender stereotypes at around age 6.”
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