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Opinion of Own Ability

A new study finds that men and women perceive their abilities in science differently, the New York Times reports. Men, it adds, appear to have a greater opinion of their abilities.

Researchers from Arizona State University had students in a college physiology course take a survey that asked them how smart they thought were in relation to their classmates in general and to classmates with whom they worked closely. As they report in Advances in Physiology Education, ASU's Sara Brownell and her colleagues found that male students with GPAs of 3.3 said they were smarter than 66 percent of the class, while female students with the same GPA said they were smarter than 54 percent of the class. Male students were also three times more likely to think they are smarter than classmates they worked closely with.

In a statement, Brownell notes that as classes focus more on small-group discussions, this lack of belief in abilities among some students may affect how they learn. In addition, she says that if women think they aren't as smart as their classmates even when they are, this may contribute to women leaving the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Brownell cautions at the Times, though, that the study was of one class.