ASU study: Men think they’re smarter
Men are more likely to think they’re smarter than their classmates, while women of similar intelligence see themselves as less so, according to a new study of a large class of biology students at Arizona State University.
The study, authored by Katelyn Cooper, Anne Krieg and Sara Brownell, was published this week in the journal
Advances in Physiology Education. The authors gauged students’ “academic self-concept,” or how they perceive themselves and their abilities.
The authors conducted a survey of about 200 students in an upper-level physiology class, asking them to compare their intelligence to the rest of the class and to the student in class they worked with most closely.
Students who weren’t native English speakers also were less likely to think that they were smarter than their classmates, and native English-speaking students were more likely to perceive
“It’s a mindset that has likely been ingrained in female students since they began their academic journeys. However, we can start by structuring group work in a way that ensures everyone’s voices are heard.” Katelyn Cooper Study author
they were smarter than their classmates.
On average, men were “significantly more likely” than women to believe they were smarter than their classmates, the study said.
The study predicts that the average man with a 3.3 grade-point average would believe he’s smarter than 66 percent of students in the physiology class. The average woman with the same GPA would perceive she’s smarter than only 54 percent of the other students.
Men also were more likely than women to think they were smarter than their group mates, defined by the study as the person in class they work with most closely.
When controlling for all other variables, including academic ability, the study found men were 3.2 times more likely than women to think they were smarter than their group mate.
All of this matters because students who have a higher academic self-concept likely will participate more in class discussions, and that helps people learn better, the authors concluded.
The study results may mean instructors should work to make sure participation in class is more equitable so all students have a chance to contribute, the authors wrote.
The study’s authors told ASU Now that these self-perceptions may mean female students decide not to pursue science because they don’t think they’re smart enough.
Cooper, a doctoral student at ASU who helped author the study, also told ASU Now that the problem won’t be easy to fix.
“It’s a mind-set that has likely been ingrained in female students since they began their academic journeys,” Cooper said. “However, we can start by structuring group work in a way that ensures everyone’s voices are heard.”