Psychologists say little girls have about six years before they’re affected by harmful gender stereotypes about their intelligence. The researchers published their findings in the journal Science.
Belief in oneself is not just some fluffy idea. A multitude of studies have shown that girls and women who are confident in their abilities are more likely to succeed in school and in their careers. They’re more likely to take risks, score higher on tests, and advance in the world. But widespread sexism can make this confidence very difficult to come by.
Lead researcher Lin Bian is a doctoral researcher at the University of Illinois. "Our society tends to associate brilliance with men more than with women, and this notion pushes women away from jobs that are perceived to require brilliance," Bian said in a statement. "We wanted to know whether young children also endorse these stereotypes."
The research team recruited 400 children between the ages of 5 and 7 for a series of four experiments. In the first, the kids were told a story about someone who was “really, really smart” and were told about four different people, two men and two women. In the second study, they simply had to guess which of the four people was “really, really smart.”
The 5-year-olds were quite equitable-minded, believing that either gender could be the story’s “really, really smart” protagonist. But by age 6, girls were far less likely to guess that women could be “really, really smart.”
In the third experiment, the researchers showed some of the 6- and 7-year-old kids two very similar games. One was labeled for “children who are really, really smart” and the other for “children who try really, really hard.” Then each kid was asked which game interested them more. Girls and boys were equally interested in the game for hard-working children. The game for smart children was significantly less popular among the girls.
Kids in the last study were shown a game “for smart children,” then asked if they were interested in playing. The 5-year-old girls were all for it, but 6-year-old girls had substantially less interest than the boys.
Co-author Sarah-Jane Leslie studies philosophy at Princeton University. "In earlier work,” she said, “we found that adult women were less likely to receive higher degrees in fields thought to require 'brilliance,' and these new findings show that these stereotypes begin to impact girls' choices at a heartbreakingly young age.”
Babies may be incapable of talking, but at just a few months old, they've already developed many of the characteristics that will one day make their speaking voice distinct. That's the takeaway from a new study, reported by The New York Times, in which a team of bioacoustic researchers found that you can tell what infants will sound like at age 5 by analyzing their cries.
For their study, published in the journal Biology Letters [PDF], the researchers recorded the voices of 15 French children 4 to 5 years old. They then compared the clips to the children's "mild discomfort cries" recorded when they were 2 to 5 months old. The results showed that a baby's voice can be used to predict 41 percent of the variances they will have in their vocal pitch at age 5.
Other studies have suggested that what our voices sound like when we're young is a strong indicator of what they will sound like later on—even after puberty changes our vocal chords. A boy's voice pitch at age 7 can predict up to 64 percent of the distinguishing features his voice will have as an adult.
The study authors write that many of these variances may develop before childhood, and potentially in utero: "These observations suggest that inter-individual differences in [voice pitch] arise early in life and are largely unaffected by puberty, and raise the possibility that [pitch] may even be determined before birth."
The most important markers that determine pitch are the length, size, and tension of our vocal folds. But those aren't the only determinants: Environmental factors like smoking, pollution, and climate can affect how our voices sound as well, though these changes are usually temporary.
Sesame Streethas been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.
1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.
According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.
2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.
Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.
3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.
Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.
4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.
Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.
5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.
Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?
According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.
6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.
Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.
7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.
Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.
8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.
Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.
9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.
Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.
10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.
Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.