Wednesday, August 28, 2019
Chronicle of Higher Education, How Calling on Random Students Could Hurt Women:
When professors pose a question in class, they often find that the same few students raise their hands — while everyone else avoids eye contact. To avoid this dynamic, some instructors simply call on random students.
They should think twice, says Judith E. Larkin. No one likes being put on the spot, says Larkin, a professor emerita of psychology at Canisius College. But the experience, her research shows, is particularly negative for women.
Larkin has studied the gender dynamics of public performance for years. Her interest was piqued in the late 1990s when she noticed there weren’t many female contestants on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Larkin later read that the show struggled to book them.
Larkin thought that her discipline, psychology, could help explain this phenomenon. So she designed an experiment, asking male and female students if they would submit their names to go on the show.
Women were less likely to volunteer, Larkin said, because they “would be much more ashamed than men would be if they couldn’t answer the question.” She and her frequent collaborator Harvey A. Pines think that is because women fear confirming the stereotype that they are not as competent as men. On the other hand, Larkin said, “for men, it’s the equivalent of, Eh, no big deal.”
Larkin and Pines continued to pull on this thread in their scholarship. They looked at a host of situations in which someone’s intellect would be on public display — including the classroom — and found the same sorts of differences by gender.