Messages about brilliance undermine women's interest in educational and professional opportunities

Lin Bian, Sarah Jane Leslie, Mary C. Murphy, Andrei Cimpian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pervasive cultural stereotypes associate brilliance with men, not women. Given these stereotypes, messages suggesting that a career requires brilliance may undermine women's interest. Consistent with this hypothesis, linking success to brilliance lowered women's (but not men's) interest in a range of educational and professional opportunities introduced via hypothetical scenarios (Experiments 1–4). It also led women more than men to expect that they would feel anxious and would not belong (Experiments 2–5). These gender differences were explained in part by women's perception that they are different from the typical person in these contexts (Experiments 5 and 6). In sum, the present research reveals that certain messages—in particular, those suggesting that brilliance is essential to success—may contribute to the gender gaps that are present in many fields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-420
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - May 2018


  • Anxiety
  • Belonging
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Prototype matching
  • Self-efficacy
  • Stereotype threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Messages about brilliance undermine women's interest in educational and professional opportunities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this