This shows women.
"This view has far-reaching consequences for the chances of success of those affected in these areas," says Bauer. Credit: Neuroscience News

Lower Socio-Economic Women Underrate Their Talent

Summary: A new study reveals that women from low socio-economic backgrounds tend to perceive themselves as less talented, even when their performance matches others’. This misperception can contribute to gender disparities, especially in fields like STEM.

Two studies involving 1,600 students in Germany and the USA found that women from lower socio-economic backgrounds rated themselves as the least talented despite comparable performance levels.

The study suggests that society’s external image and social hierarchies significantly impact self-perception, leading to reduced confidence and fewer opportunities for success.

Key Facts:

  1. Women from low socio-economic backgrounds often underestimate their talent, affecting their confidence and career choices.
  2. Gender disparities persist in areas like STEM, management consultancies, and hobbies due to these self-perception issues.
  3. Promoting qualities like diligence and hard work over innate talent can help mitigate disadvantages faced by socio-economically disadvantaged individuals.

Source: University of Vienna

Women from low socio-economic backgrounds consider themselves to be less talented than all other groups – even if they show the same performance levels. This is shown by a new study led by Christina Bauer at the University of Vienna. This misconception contributes to the pronounced disadvantage in domains such as STEM subjects, where talent is seen as an important success factor.

Social psychologist Christina Bauer has now published these key findings from her latest research in the current issue of the renowned journal Learning and Instruction – and suggests possible solutions to this problem.

Women and people from low socio-economic backgrounds are often seen as less talented, which can contribute to experiences of discrimination.

“While a man with very good grades is more likely to be judged as a genius, women with the same achievements are more likely to be seen as hard-working, for example,” explains Christina Bauer.

People from families with a lower socio-economic status are also generally seen as less capable. Social psychologist Christina Bauer and her colleague Veronika Job, both from the University of Vienna, have now investigated how this social perception affects the self-image of these people and how their life paths are subsequently influenced by it. 

Female gender and low socio-economic status – less talent?

Bauer and Job conducted two studies with a total of 1,600 students in Germany and the USA. The result: compared to all subgroups, women from lower socio-economic backgrounds rated themselves as the least talented – even if they performed just as well in their studies as everyone else.

“Our conclusion: society’s external image and social hierarchies also have a very strong influence on self-image,” says Bauer. 

This socialized distortion of self-perception is not without consequences: “Women therefore have less confidence in themselves, which reduces their chances of success and means that some industries and areas of society are very one-sidedly male-dominated and not very diverse,” explains Bauer.

For example, women with a low socio-economic status feel less comfortable in areas where talent is expected, are less confident and therefore make less of a contribution.  This applies, for example, to the STEM fields (mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology), jobs such as management consultancies, or even hobbies such as chess.

“This view has far-reaching consequences for the chances of success of those affected in these areas,” says Bauer. 

Diligence principle instead of talent focus as a possible solution

The authors also suggest solution strategies: In a previously published experiment, Bauer was able to show that women with a lower socio-economic status do not consider themselves to be less hard-working.

The current study shows, however, that they consider themselves to be less talented. One way to mitigate disadvantages would therefore be to give greater social recognition to the importance of qualities such as diligence and hard work rather than talent.

“This recognition can take place on different levels: How we talk about high achievers – instead of praising geniuses, and looking down on ‘nerds’, appreciating people for their hard work. Or how we give feedback – constructive feedback that makes it clear how people can improve, rather than just praise or criticism without a development perspective,” says Bauer.

Why this distorted self-image occurs will be the subject of further studies. “Stereotypes or different experiences with challenges, which are misinterpreted as a sign of a lack of talent, could play a role,” says Bauer.

About this neuroscience and psychology research news

Author: Theresa Bittermann
Source: University of Vienna
Contact: Theresa Bittermann – University of Vienna
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
Double Disadvantage: Female first-generation-students think of themselves as least talented, contributing to disproportionate disadvantage” by Christina Bauer et al. Learning and Instruction


Abstract

Double Disadvantage: Female first-generation-students think of themselves as least talented, contributing to disproportionate disadvantage

Background

Female and first-generation students have been shown to be socialized to think of themselves as less intellectually talented as compared to male and continuing-generation-students with similar performance-levels. With talent commonly seen as crucial, such biases in self-concepts can impair students’ motivation.

Aims

Taking an intersectional approach, we investigate implications for female first-generation-students.

Method

We conducted two pre-registered studies with 1600 university students from Germany (Study 1) and the US (Study 2), assessing individuals’ first-generation status, talent self-concept, academic experience, as well as the extent to which they chose to engage in intellectually challenging exercises.

Results

Study 1 (N = 1210) shows female first-generation-students think of themselves as least talented as compared to all other subgroups (female and male continuing-generation- and male first-generation-students). Study 2 (N = 390) shows that this bias in students’ self-concept leads female first-generation-students to experience higher degrees of academic worries and to be less likely to engage in intellectual challenges than any other group.

Conclusion

Present environments seem to lead female first-generation-students to see themselves as less talented than any other subgroup, disproportionately impeding their academic experience and engagement in challenging opportunities.

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