Americans tend to think of scientists as lone figures, working in the lab by themselves, rather than as a group. By shifting this image, social scientists say that more students could be persuaded to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
A team of US researchers surveyed students in the US, India, and China about their views of and interest in STEM careers. As it reports in Social Psychological and Personality Science, the team in particular asked students about whether they thought STEM careers offered communal opportunities like altruism, affinity, and intimacy or agentic opportunities like power, achievement, and excitement.
"US participants believe that STEM fields do not provide opportunities to work with others, help others, or form bonds with others, which is associated with less interest in STEM careers," lead author Elizabeth Brown from the University of North Florida says in a statement.
By contrast, she and her colleagues found that students in Asia said STEM careers offered more communal opportunities, which they say could in part explain why there's greater interest in science careers in China and India.
"By incorporating communal activities into STEM, we can help to change stereotypes about STEM and attract many of those individuals with high STEM ability," Brown adds. "Additionally, incorporating communion into STEM is a fairly inexpensive way to increase the size of the STEM workforce."