Can salience of gender identity impair math performance among 7–8 years old girls? The moderating role of task difficulty

Abstract

Can the salience of gender identity affect the math performance of 7–8 year old girls? Third-grade girls and boys were required to solve arthmetical problems of varied difficulty. Prior to the test, one half of the participants had their gender identity activated. Results showed that activation of gender identity affected girls’ performance but not boys. When their gender was activated as opposed to when it was not, girls solved more problems when the material was less difficult but underperformed on the difficult problems. Results are discussed with regard to the stereotype threat literature.

Résumé

La saillance de l’identité de genre peut-elle affecter la performance mathématique de filles âgées de 7–8 ans? Des filles et des garçons de cet âge devaient résoudre des problèmes d’arithmétique de difficulté variée. Avant le test, on activait l’identité de genre de là moitié des enfants. Les résultats montrent que l’activation de l’identité de genre affecte la performance des filles mais pas celle des garçons. Lorsque leur identité de genre est activée (vs. n’est pas activée), les filles réussissent plus de problèmes faciles mais rencontrent plus de difficultés sur les problèmes difficiles. Les résultats sont discutés en référence à la littérature sur la menace du stéréotype.

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Neuville, E., Croizet, JC. Can salience of gender identity impair math performance among 7–8 years old girls? The moderating role of task difficulty. Eur J Psychol Educ 22, 307 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03173428

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Key words

  • Children
  • Gender
  • Math performance
  • Stereotype