Effects of gender stereotypes on performance in mathematics: A serial multivariable mediation model
Jingjing Song (Central China Normal University), Bin Zuo (Central China Normal University), and Lei Yan (Central China Normal University) 2016, 44(6), 943–952


The title of this article led to thoughts wandering well beyond the topic itself. The researchers set out to examine the relationship between gender stereotype and math performance, with competence belief, achievement goal, and effort considered as mediating variables. In their Chinese sample, they found that for females the stereotype had a negative effect on mathematics performance, and for males there was no such significant prediction of performance.

No surprises here. Yet, why not? Women can and do achieve as highly in mathematics as do men. I think there is an unfounded, overriding expectation that creates the gender stereotype for females. It is there, regardless of reality. At the same time, there may be more at play than gender in mathematics performance. How often does one hear the comment, from both males and females, “I’m hopeless at math”? Sometimes there is almost a detectable sense of pride with this claim. It’s as though an inherent hopelessness is a valid excuse for lack of performance. Belief in one’s competence is at such a low level that it eradicates even thinking of an achievement goal or making an effort.

While I was grateful to these authors for the thought-provoking research, I did struggle with my inclination for the term “maths” in preference to “math”!

Lesley Aitken | Copyeditor
Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal