We See Men As More Creative, And That’s A Big Problem For Women

When you picture a creative thinker — an architect, writer or tech innovator — what do you see? There’s a pretty good chance you’re imagining a man, perhaps a Steve Jobs or David Foster Wallace.

New research finds that we tend to associate creativity with stereotypically masculine traits like risk-taking, self-reliance and adventurousness. The series of four Duke University studies, recently published in the journal Psychological Science, suggests that as a result of this bias, people are likely to rate men’s contributions as more creative than women’s.

“[T]he perceived association between these stereotypically masculine traits and popular understandings of creative thinking creates bias in judgments of men and women’s creativity,” Dr. Devon Proudfoot, a business researcher at Duke and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email.

The upshot? Women may be at a disadvantage in professions where creativity and innovation are valued.

For the first experiment, the researchers randomly assigned 80 men and women to read one of two passages on creativity: One described it as the ability to “think outside the box”; the other as the ability to “connect the dots.” Then, the participants were asked to rate 16 personality traits based on how central they are to creative thinking.

As hypothesized, the volunteers rated stereotypically masculine traits (such as decisiveness, competitiveness, risk-taking, ambition and daring) as being more important to creativity than stereotypically feminine qualities (such as cooperation, understanding and support of others). This effect was even stronger among participants who read the passage about creativity as thinking outside the box.

In the second experiment, 169 volunteers were asked to read about a fictional person who was either a fashion designer or an architect, and was either male or female. Then, the volunteers rated three images of that person’s work for creativity, originality and outside-the-box thinking.

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