The Psychology Behind the Scholarly

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Why is it that so many more men than women end up in careers in the math and science arena?  Is it because men have more aptitude than women?  Or is it because we think that they do?  Psychologist Nadya Fouad explores this and other possible explanations in this fascinating article:

Tracking The Reasons Many Girls Avoid Science And Math

ScienceDaily (Sep. 8, 2008) — Most parents and many teachers believe that if middle-school and high-school girls show no interest in science or math, there’s little anyone can do about it.

New research by a team that includes vocational psychologists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) indicates that the self-confidence instilled by parents and teachers is more important for young girls learning math and science than their initial interest.

While interest is certainly a factor in getting older girls to study and pursue a career in these disciplines, more attention should be given to building confidence in their abilities early in their education, says UWM Distinguished Professor Nadya Fouad. She is one of the authors of a three-year study aimed at identifying supports and barriers that steer girls toward or away from science and math during their education.

“The relationship between confidence and interest is close,” says Fouad. “If they feel they can do it, it feeds their interest.”

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