Thursday, May 24, 2007

Interesting Math studies.

The University of California did a study about girls and the stereo type that boys are better at math than girls. When the girls were told this, not only did they do more poorly on math tests they also did poorly in classes taken just after math class. The power of suggestion! The college women studied were generally known for doing well in math before the study began. The researchers believe that being exposed to the stereotype rattled the college women.
This is consistent with another study at ASU (that I am unable to find at the moment). They had equal numbers of African American students and white (European American?) students. The first groups asked to putt a golf ball into a hole, were told they were being tested on athletics. African Americans did better than the white people on the test. Then, a new group was also asked to putt a ball into a hole and they were told that it was a "mental exercise" to test IQ. Whites did better than African Americans this go around. Stereotypes, they are more than just words, aren't they?
The next study (and I can not believe someone paid money to study this), concluded that kids (and people) with ring fingers longer than their index finger were better at math and if the ring finger was shorter they were better at reading, writing or verbal skills. The length of your fingers in relation to each other is apparently correlated with how much testosterone and estrogen a baby is exposed to in the womb. I do find this study a tad disturbing. I mean I would hate for kindergarteners to be culled out by teachers examining their finger lengths. It would be appalling for a child to hear, "you did bad on that math test but, that is ok, your fingers tell me you won't be good a math anyway."
My other theory behind this study is that everyone's ring finger is longer than their index finger and educators at the University of Bath in England need more math students. What do you think?

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Crabby McSlacker said...

I find both the stereotype studies and the finger length research pretty interesting. Though they both sort of suggest opposites in terms of the nature/nurture debate. (Don't know why it's always a debate, though--I think it's pretty clear both our genes and our environments contribute to who we are as people).

The finger length thing also supposedly correlates (slightly) with sexual preference. I tried measuring--my left hand is hetero; my right hand is gay. So much for science.

Samantha said...

I just looked up the Gay/Straight finger study. If that study is true only men and lesbians are good at math!! And apparently all men gay or straight! Who pays for these studies?

Dawn said...

I am steadfastedly refusing to look at the length of these fingers flying over the keyboard!

But that golf ball study was interesting. We reaally need to be careful about the language we use with kids.

katieo said...

I think I saw that ASU golfing study on 20/20, they had a whole segment on stereotypes. THe guy's name conducting the research was Jeff Stone. (in case you were still wondering) It's still on the ABC news website.
Fascinating stuff. There's another study along the same lines about the effects of telling gifted kids they are smart versus telling kids they are hard workers.