A new Stanford research has found that often 'well-meaning' phrases could have a detrimental effect on children. The study shows that phrases or sentences which frame one gender as the standard often perpetuate gender biases. At a time when the world is moving toward a more gender inclusive society, words spoken unintentionally can perpetuate the same gender myths they may be trying to debunk.
Statements such as "girls are as good as boys at math" although well-meaning have the tendency to perpetuate stereotypes that a teacher might be trying to debunk, said Stanford scholars Eleanor Chestnut and Ellen Markman in a new paper published in Cognitive Science.
The sentence, simple on the surface but because of its grammatical structure, conveys that boys are naturally good at maths.
Both the researchers tested a variation of the sentence, swapping 'boys' with 'girls', on a group of English-speaking adults and found that most people associated a natural math ability with the gender written in the second part of the sentence which is grammatically known as the complement.
Eleanor Chestnut, who is the lead author of the paper, said that statements which imply boys are naturally talented in certain disciplines like computer science or physics could be a reason for the wide gender gap in such fields.
"Adults, especially parents and teachers, should thus try to avoid consistently framing one gender as the standard for the other," she said.
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