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Concept Learning

Brilliance Bias: Brilliance as a Male Trait

Brilliance bias is the tendency to think of brilliance or genius as a male characteristic.

Brilliance and genius are often traits associated with STEM fields like mathematics, physics, engineering, etc. Despite multiple studies showing that gender plays no role in brilliance, brilliance is often attributed to men. Brilliance bias is the tendency to consider brilliance as a male characteristic.

brilliance-bias
Source: Sketchplanations

Our history books include few women, so subconsciously since we are young, men are our first thought when we consider brilliant people. Because of this underrepresentation, STEM careers that often need brilliance have fewer women employed. Many studies have indicated that women often suffer from impostor syndrome, which prevents them from pursuing STEM careers since brilliance is often seen as a male characteristic. A 2018 study surprisingly found that people were 40% less likely to refer a woman for a job that required high levels of brilliance.


Andrei Cimpian, PhD, a professor of psychology at New York University recently conducted a study to explore how 5- to 7-year-olds viewed brilliance. Children were told the story about someone who was really smart and was asked to pick the story’s subject from a collection of pictures of men and women. 5-year-olds showed a lot of pride and chose the same gender. However, the results from 6 and 7 year-olds were quite shocking. According to the results, girls of these age groups did not associate being smart with their group (females), but boys continued to do so. When boys and girls grow up, girls often associate being smart with something that boys do. A belief like this can have a snowball effect and often result in bias in the future.

The solution to this: add more women from history in our curriculum and books. Let’s celebrate the contributions of both women and men equally throughout history and erase this bias from future generations!

What do you think of this bias? Do you think that your thoughts are influenced by Brilliance Bias? Leave a comment or contact me directly.

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