Sexism takes its toll

时间:2019-03-07 01:19:00166网络整理admin

By Alison Motluk Advertising that demeans women is worse than annoying—it can be positively harmful. Being shown television advertisements that portray women as stupid can reduce women’s scores in mathematics tests, even if they are maths majors, psychologists have found. Paul Davies and his colleagues at the University of Waterloo in Ontario showed 60 first-year maths undergraduates six commercials from Canadian daytime television. They told the students they would later take a memory test on what they saw. All the students saw four neutral commercials, which contained no sexist stereotypes. Half the students saw two additional commercials that portrayed women in a favourable light, while the other half saw two with demeaning stereotypes. In one, a woman is jumping on her bed with joy about a new acne cream. In the other, a happy homemaker is drooling over a new brownie mix. Afterwards, the students took sections of a mathematics exam intended for postgraduates. The researchers found that the men and women who had not watched the sexist commercials scored in the 36th percentile. The test scores of women who had watched the ditzy commercials, however, plummeted to the 19th percentile. The scores of men in the same group were unaffected. The finding is especially worrying given that the volunteers were all maths majors from one of Canada’s leading universities for engineering and computer science, he says. “These are the people who survived the stereotypes and got into Waterloo.” Davies believes the adverts prime viewers to think about female stereotypes. After the volunteers watched the commercials and before they took the test, they were asked to distinguish real words from fake words flashed on a computer screen. Both the women and the men who had seen the sexist commercials were faster at spotting words like “emotional”, “illogical” and “gullible”. He suspects that the women who saw the sexist images were preoccupied with dissociating themselves from them instead of concentrating on the exam. The influence of this “stereotype threat” extended to decision making as well, Davies found. He showed the commercials to a different set of volunteers, also enrolled in first-year maths, and then asked them which majors they were considering. The women who saw the sexist adverts mentioned fine arts, creative writing and history more often than the women who saw the neutral set. The second group of women opted for maths, science and engineering at the same rates as the men. Davies says his results should be a warning to careers counsellors and employers who think that an occasional sexist quip doesn’t matter. “If you fling in a stereotype, it could have an effect.” More on these topics: