Sex Roles

, Volume 47, Issue 3–4, pp 153–167 | Cite as

Gender Differences in Interest and Knowledge Acquisition: The United States, Taiwan, and Japan

  • E. Margaret Evans
  • Heidi Schweingruber
  • Harold W. Stevenson


The relationship between interest and knowledge was investigated in a representative sample of 11th grade students from cultures that differ in the strength of their gender-role stereotypes and their endorsement of effort-based versus interest-based learning. Among 11th graders from the United States (N = 1052), Taiwan (N = 1475), and Japan (N = 1119), boys preferred science, math, and sports, whereas girls preferred language arts, music, and art. General information scores were comparable across the three locations; however, boys consistently outscored girls. Gender and interest in science independently predicted general information scores, whereas gender and interest in math independently predicted mathematics scores. Cultural variations in the strength of the relationship between gender, interest, and scores indicate that specific socialization practices can minimize or exaggerate these gender differences.

culture differences effort gender differences general information interest mathematics 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Beller, M., & Gafni, N. (1996). The 1991 International Assessment of Educational Progress in Mathematics and Sciences: The gender differences perspective. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88, 365-377.Google Scholar
  2. Beller, M., & Gafni, N. (2000). Can item format (multiple choice vs. open-ended) account for gender differences in mathematics achievement? Sex Roles, 42, 1-21.Google Scholar
  3. Chen, C., & Stevenson, H. W. (1995). Motivation and mathematics achievement: A comparative study of Asian-American, Caucasian-American, and East Asian high school students. Child Development, 66, 1215-1234.Google Scholar
  4. Eagly, A. H. (1999). The origins of sex differences in human behavior: Evolved dispositions versus social roles. American Psychologist, 54, 408-421.Google Scholar
  5. Eccles, J. S. (1994). Understanding women's educational and occupational choices. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, 585-609.Google Scholar
  6. Feingold, A. (1993). Cognitive gender differences: A developmental perspective. Sex Roles, 29, 91-124.Google Scholar
  7. Geary, D. (1996). Sexual selection and sex differences in mathematical abilities. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 19, 229-284.Google Scholar
  8. Hall, G. S. (1921). Aspects of child life and education. New York: Appleton.Google Scholar
  9. Halpern, D. F. (1997). Sex differences in intelligence: Implications for education. American Psychologist, 52, 1091-1102.Google Scholar
  10. Hess, R. D., & Azuma, H. (1991). Cultural support for schooling: Contrasts between Japan and the United States. Educational Researcher, 20(9), 2-8.Google Scholar
  11. Hirsch, E. D. (1988). Cultural literacy: What every American needs to know. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  12. Hofstede, G. (1996). Gender stereotypes and partner preference of Asian women in masculine and feminine cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 27, 533-5446.Google Scholar
  13. Linn, M. C., & Hyde, J. S. (1989). Gender, mathematics, and science. Educational Researcher, 18, 17-19.Google Scholar
  14. Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (1992). Gender differences in abilities and preferences among the gifted: Implications for the mathscience pipeline. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1, 61-65.Google Scholar
  15. Lubinski, D., & Humphreys, L. G. (1990). Abroadly based analysis of mathematical giftedness. Intelligence, 14, 327-355.Google Scholar
  16. Mullis, V. S., Martin, M. O., Beaton, A. E., Gonzalez, E. J., Kelly, D. L., et al. (1998). Mathematics and science achievement in the final year of secondary school: IEA's Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Boston, MA: Boston College.Google Scholar
  17. Nagpaul, P. S. (2001). Guide to advanced data analysis using IDAMS software [on-line]. Retrieved from www. un-esco. org/webworld/idams/advguide/TOC.htm.Google Scholar
  18. Pintrich, P. (1989). The dynamic interplay of student motivation and cognition in the college classroom. In C. Ames & M. L. Maehr (Eds.), Advances in motivation and achievement: Motivation enhancing environments (Vol. 6, pp. 117-160). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  19. Ravitch, D., & Finn, C. E. (1988). What do our 17-year-olds know? New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  20. Rosenthal, R., & Rosnow, R. L. (1991). Essentials of behavioral research: Methods and data analysis (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  21. Schiefele, U. (1991). Interest, learning, and motivation. Educational Psychologist, 26, 299-323.Google Scholar
  22. Schiefele, U., Krapp, A., & Winteler, A. (1992). Interest as a predictor of academic achievement: A meta-analysis of research. In K. A. Renninger, S. Hidi, & A. Krapp (Eds.), The role of interest in learning and development (pp. 183-212). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  23. Stanley, J. C. (1993). Males and females who reason well mathematically. In G. R. Bock & K. Ackrill (Eds.), The origins and development of high ability (pp. 119-134). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  24. Stanovich, K. E., & Cunningham, A. E. (1993). Where does knowledge come from? Specific associations between print exposure and information acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85, 211-229.Google Scholar
  25. Stedman, L. C. (1997). International achievement differences: An assessment of a new perspective. Educational Researcher, 26, 4-15.Google Scholar
  26. Stevenson, H. W., Chen, C., & Lee, S.-Y. (1993). Mathematics achievement of Chinese, Japanese, and American children: Ten years later. Science, 259, 53-58.Google Scholar
  27. Stevenson, H. W., & Lee, S.-Y. (1997). Anexamination of American student achievement from an international perspective. In D. Ravitch (Eds.), The state of student scores in American schools (pp. 7-52). Washington, DC: Brookings Institute.Google Scholar
  28. Stevenson, H. W., & Stigler, J. W. (1992). The learning gap: Why our schools are failing and what we can learn from Japanese and Chinese education. New York: Summit Books.Google Scholar
  29. Stumpf, H., & Stanley, J. C. (1999). Stability and change in gender-related differences on the College Board Advanced Placement and achievement tests. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 7, 192-197.Google Scholar
  30. Wechsler, D. (1981). Manual for the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised. New York: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  31. Williams, J. E., Satterwhite, R. C., & Best, D. L. (1999). Pancultural gender stereotypes revisited: The five factor model. Sex Roles, 40, 513-525.Google Scholar
  32. Willingham, W. W., & Cole, N. S. (1997). Gender and fair assessment. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Margaret Evans
    • 1
  • Heidi Schweingruber
    • 2
  • Harold W. Stevenson
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Human Growth and DevelopmentUniversity of MichiganAnn Arbor
  2. 2.OERIU.S. Department of EducationWashington, DC

Personalised recommendations