A study of more than half a million people worldwide has found that 70 percent associate science more with men than women, according to results released Monday.
The study described the opinions as implicit stereotypes – beliefs that people are unwilling to express publicly, or don t know they have.
These stereotypes could nonetheless negatively affect girls willingness to study science and maths, and their performance in the subjects, according the study s authors.
The study, which surveyed both men and women in 34 countries, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal dated 22 to 27 June.
It also found that in countries where the stereotypes are most firmly established, men got better grades than women in both science and math at the eighth-grade level.
We found a general tendency, across every country that we investigated, that people on average have an easier time associating science concepts with male, rather than with female, said lead investigator Brian Nosek, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia.
Study participants were asked to quickly link gender-specific words such as he, son, she, and daughter, with science words like biology and liberal arts words like literature.
Most participants more rapidly linked science-related words with the masculine words than with the feminine words, according to the study s authors.
They were also surprised to discover a total lack of difference between the two genders in their tendency to identify science words with men.
Culture is a powerful force for shaping the beliefs and behavior of its members, Nosek said.
We believe that implicit stereotypes and sex gaps in science achievement are mutually reinforcing mechanisms, he added in a press release.
When people see patterns, such as men more often working in scientific fields and women more often in non-scientific fields, then a bias may develop in their minds that men may be better equipped to succeed in those fields and women less so, the researcher said.
The study was carried out as part of Project Implicit, a public website for research and education.
The test used for the study is available for a variety of subjects, including race, religion and politics. -AFP