21 January 2012

Girls Suck at Math; But True Grit Can Help Sum

World class psychologist David Geary looked into the issue of why girls suck at math, and came to the conclusion that you cannot blame "stereotype threat" or any of the other usual suspect excuses.
There is a large body of research about why more girls aren’t at the top of the spectrum in math skills. One study in 1999 blamed poor self-image for underachievement in math among girls. The theory was popular, Geary said, “because it gives a sense that you can do something about it easily, so it’s taken off as an explanation.”

Geary, a curators’ professor of psychological sciences, and Gijsbert Stoet from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom examined 20 influential replications of the original study and found serious scientific flaws. Among the most concerning was a lack of a male control group: Researchers told girls who were getting ready to take math tests that females typically don’t do well on the exams but did not give the same message to boys who took the tests. When Geary and his team adjusted the findings based on the lack of a control group and statistical flaws in other studies, they found little to no significant effect on performance based on stereotypes. _ColumbiaTribune
There are far more males at the top end of math ability than females, and that discrepancy tends to widen during the passage through puberty, into adulthood. Most knowledgeable cognitivists understand that the male hormone testosterone plays an important role in this notable and enduring discrepancy.

But for girls who are truly determined to succeed in fields where top level math skills are needed, besides a bit of math talent, there is nothing quite like "true grit."
“Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity, and plateaus in progress.”

...What differentiates kids who are gritty from kids who are not gritty is not just the hours of work they are putting in, (but) they’re putting the hardest kind of work in.

...Grit is also distinct from […] self-control, in its specification of consistent goals and interests. An individual high in self-control but moderate in grit may, for example, effectively control his or her temper, stick to his or her diet, and resist the urge to surf the Internet at work—yet switch careers [frequently]. As Galton (1892) suggested, abiding commitment to a particular vocation [..] does not derive from overriding “hourly temptations.” _Source

But of course, if you are practising the wrong things or the right things the wrong way, there is no amount of practise which will turn out right. Take as an example the way that some psychologists attempt to teach people about risk -- by using probability. How stupid is that? Risk is not a cerebral topic, it is visceral. If psychologists are too stupid to understand that fact, they should probably be working as janitors or parking attendants.

Here is an interesting study that looks at the effect of "make believe" personas in a virtual environment.
Video games constitute a popular form of entertainment that allows millions of people to adopt virtual identities. In our research, we explored the idea that the appeal of games is due in part to their ability to provide players with novel experiences that let them “try on” ideal aspects of their selves that might not find expression in everyday life. We found that video games were most intrinsically motivating and had the greatest influence on emotions when players’ experiences of themselves during play were congruent with players’ conceptions of their ideal selves. Additionally, we found that high levels of immersion in gaming environments, as well as large discrepancies between players’ actual-self and ideal-self characteristics, magnified the link between intrinsic motivation and the experience of ideal-self characteristics during play. _PsychologicalScience
As we approach the promise of virtual reality games and total sensory immersion environments, the ability to take on virtual identities which are either significant variations of our real selves, or even totally alien to our true selves, should prove to be a powerful learning tool -- not to mention a diagnostic and evaluative tool.

Along with grit and intelligent practise, one should also try to enhance one's own creative abilities. To that end, here is a useful infographic provided as a bonus, for no extra charge. Good luck.

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Blogger Matt M said...

A developmental neurologist I know (a female) made the comment that gender differences in brain sex are at least as profound as the difference of height between males and females.

Monday, 23 January, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Female neuroscientists are pushing the idea of brain sex differences more than male scientists are.

It is the female psychologists who are attempting to deny what is quite apparent to anyone with clear sight.

BTW, the title "Girls Suck at Math," was deliberately provocative. The truth is far more subtle than that, but still quite profound. Girls and boys are quite similar in math skills before puberty. Puberty -- particularly late puberty -- appears to accentuate the differences, so that at the top level of the profession, males are overwhelmingly dominant.

Monday, 23 January, 2012  
Blogger Captain Capitalism said...

But grit and determiniation are very sexistly biased towards males. Math is sexist. Ergo, reality must be bended towards the benefit of women. You are racist! ;)

Sorry, "sexist." Whatever term I need to deploy to make you the "evil enemy."

Tuesday, 24 January, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes, what a sexist and racist world we inhabit!

But if one is an HBD (human bio-diversity) realist, he has no choice but to use his discriminatory faculties in pursuit of truth.

These days, even using the word "truth" with a straight face will get you disinvited from many of the most fashionable cocktail parties.

Wednesday, 25 January, 2012  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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