The Brilliance Barrier: Beliefs about Brilliance Are an Obstacle to Diversity in Science and Beyond

Date: 

Thursday, November 2, 2017 - 4:10pm

Speaker: 

Dr. Andrei Cimpian

Speaker University: 

New York University

Venue: 

STEPS 290
Colloquia
Title: The Brilliance Barrier: Beliefs about Brilliance Are an Obstacle to Diversity in Science and Beyond
Abstract:  I will describe a program of research suggesting that women and (some) minorities are underrepresented in fields whose members believe that raw intellectual talent is required for success. The environment in these fields may be less welcoming to members of these groups because of the cultural stereotypes that associate intellectual talent—brilliance, genius, etc.—with (white) males. This hypothesis is supported by two lines of evidence. First, results from a nation-wide study of US academics across 30 disciplines revealed that fewer women and African Americans obtain PhDs in fields that value brilliance. In fact, a field’s beliefs about brilliance predicted the representation of these groups above and beyond several other prominent explanations for gaps in representation (e.g., that women are underrepresented in mathematics-intensive fields). Second, a series of laboratory experiments suggested a causal link between a field’s beliefs about brilliance and the involvement of stereotyped groups. In fact, even children as young as 6 were sensitive to messages suggesting that certain activities are only for “really, really smart” children. I will conclude by outlining some of the practical implications of this program of research.

 

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