My labmate David Levari has been working on this research ever since I've known him, and it's all finally out in one big, beautiful bundle. The short version: as you solve more problems, you start to see more things as problems. Maybe this is why it feels like we never make progress on anything.
Short version: there are more women in STEM in countries with low gender equality (like Jordan) than there are in countries with high gender equality (like Sweden). Some people call it the "gender-equality paradox" and claim it exists because women are naturally less interested in science, so when you let them choose freely, they freely choose other things. We think that's wrong. Tons of research shows that gendered expectations and experiences push young girls away from STEM paths, even in supposedly gender-egalitarian places.
What gender-equality paradox research really shows is that the same gender bias that keeps women out of government/business/etc. is not the same gender bias that keeps them out of physics departments. That's because bias isn't one big boogeyman who causes every bad thing; it's a nasty rat nest of implicit and explicit attitudes that can form and change independently of each other.
I think the broader point is even more important. Some people––who fortunately are a tiny minority––think we've done away with all bias and discrimination, so group differences that remain must be due to innate differences in abilities or interests. That's wrong, and believing it risks making those differences acceptable and permanent. And that's bad for everybody, not just the folks we traditionally think of as disadvantaged. For instance, did you know that girls have gotten better grades than boys for over 100 years? If we assume that's because girls are just smarter than boys, then we start expecting boys to perform worse, and eventually our expectations *cause* boys to perform worse. And that's bad, just like gender disparities in STEM are bad.
(Okay not exactly the short version! But this is complicated.)
People think there is more violent crime than there used to be, even though violent crime has fallen (see Pew data here). So we should be suspicious when people claim that their neighborhoods used to be so safe that you never had to bother with locks on the doors. Here's a bit of data suggesting that people's neighborhoods are, if anything, safer than they ever were.
The General Social Survey asks folks: "Is there any area right around here––that is, within a mile––where you would be afraid to walk alone at night?". Here's the percentage responding "Yes":
I'm tickled as heck to have been cast in an upcoming live taping of the NPR storytelling podcast Circle Round. We'll be doing two kid-friendly folktales at the Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA at 2:30pm on April 22nd. Get tickets here.
Daniel Gilbert's lab, where I work at Harvard, is now accepting applications for our summer research training program. This program is what taught me how to do research as an undergrad, everything from running analyses in R to the subtle nuances of mTurk. Now that I'm a graduate student in the lab, I get a huge kick out of working with talented undergraduates every summer. We spend ten weeks talking about ideas, designing experiments, running them, analyzing data, and putting new true facts into the world. If you like social psychology a lot, and think you might like social psychology a lot a lot, this is a great program for you.
Official announcement follows:
Daniel Gilbert's lab at Harvard University is accepting applications for volunteer research assistants for summer 2018. The program provides hands-on experience in all aspects of the research process, including idea generation and development, study design, data collection, and statistical analysis. Ongoing research in the lab currently focuses on affective forecasting, altruism, advice, judgment and decision-making, and biases and errors in conversation and social interaction.
Interns work approximately 35 hours per week from early June to mid-August. The ideal candidate is a motivated undergraduate or recent graduate with a keen interest in social psychology. Previous research experience is an asset, but not a requirement.
To apply: send a CV, unofficial grade report, a brief cover letter that explains your interest in the program, and your availability between June and August to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are due March 1st.
Years ago, I cut my teeth as a research assistant working on early versions of this stuff, so I'm real proud to finally see it in print. Gus Cooney is a bang-up psychologist and someone ought to give him a job so I can have his office.