Thursday, August 02, 2007

What's in a Name?

Apparently a lot. A new study claims that if a girl has a more "feminine" name she will be less likely to study math or science after the age of 16. The study tested 1,000 pairs of sisters and found that a girl named 'Alex' was twice as likely to take math or science at a higher level than a girl named 'Elizabeth'. Partly, it is the way people respond to certain names. While there are exceptions, the study said most people will treat 'Isabella' differently than 'Alex'. "Girls with feminine names were often typecast," said David Figlio a professor of economics at the University of Florida (author of the report). Most girls are aware that people tend to assume that boys are better in math and science. "It is a stereotype, and girls with particularly feminine names may feel more pressure to avoid technical subjects," Figlio said. This doesn't mean that girls with more feminine names are any less capable than any other girl; they be just as good.

A big part of the problem, the study claims, is because teachers subconsciously have lower expectations of kids with less 'traditional' names. A teacher in London, Edyta Ballantyne, got a list of names before even meeting the kids and said it was hard not to make a judgement. "I think most people get an image in their head when they hear a name," she said, "If you treat a child differently because of their name, then they will behave differently. That is why the issue for every teacher is to look beyond their name."

Another study finds that if you remind a girl of the stereotype that boys do better in math they will perform badly. "The women start worrying about screwing up which uses up important short term or working memory which could otherwise be used performing the task," said Sian Beilock who is an assistant professor of psychology at the university of Chicago. Sian took two groups of women and told one group that they were being tested to 'see why men generally do better on math than women' and the other was told they were just a part of a math performance experiment. The group who had the stereotype test averaged an 80%; down from their pretest at about 90%. "I thought about how boys are usually better than girls at math so I was trying harder not to make mistakes," said one women who took the stereotyped test.

I must note that the study about girl names has not yet been published officially. You can make your own conclusions about the credibility of the study. Here is another side of the story that was posted on a blog. It should be interesting to see if the study is published and the effects it might have.
(According to the state Department of Education: Girls in grades 3-8 are doing better in math, where their proficiency rate of 73.5 percent edges out the boys’ rate of 71.9 percent.)

If any of you are interested in science and technology (whether your name is Elizabeth or Lauren!) check out this website. It has some links to some good sites, but I didn't check them all (over 100) so just remember that not all its' information could be credible.
Peace, friends.


Anonymous said...

who cares about names? all girls have feminine names. I mean you'll never see a girl named jonothan or bob

Anonymous said...

I can see where girls with more feminine names would be assumed to be girly. I believe this also occurs with looks. Blonde girls, such as my friend who is better at math than most of the people in my class, is always assumed to be girly.

Nobodie said...

I think it's unfair that teachers treat kids differently becaus eof their names. It's like in my class, my teacher calls on a girl named Katherine more than a girl named Kaki.

Oh, and for the anonymous who commented at 6:12 AM, I've heard of girls named Adrian.