The Acquisition of Gender Stereotypes about Intellectual Ability: Intersections with Race

Jilana Jaxon, Ryan F. Lei, Reut Shachnai, Eleanor K. Chestnut, Andrei Cimpian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The common stereotype that brilliance is a male trait is an obstacle to women's success in many prestigious careers. This gender-brilliance stereotype is powerful in part because it seems to be acquired early in life and might thus shape girls’ career aspirations. To date, however, research on this stereotype has not considered how its acquisition might intersect with (1) the other social identities that men and women are perceived to hold, and (2) the social identities that children themselves hold. The present study examined these open questions. First, we compared 5- and 6-year-old children's (N = 203) assumptions about the intellectual abilities of White men and women with their assumptions about the intellectual abilities of Black men and women. Second, we compared White children's assumptions about the intellectual abilities of men and women with those of children of color (primarily Latinx, Black, and Asian). The results suggested two main conclusions: First, children learn to associate White men (vs. women), but not Black men (vs. women), with brilliance. In fact, children generally see Black men as less brilliant than Black women. Second, the results suggested that the stereotype associating White men with brilliance is shared by children regardless of their own race. These results add considerable nuance to the literature on the development of gender stereotypes about intellectual ability and have implications for policies that might be implemented to prevent the negative effects of these stereotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Social Issues
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

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