What happened when kids were asked to “draw a scientist”? Oh, this was more (much more) than a simple art activity. Way back in 1966 a group of researchers asked 5,000 school children to draw a scientist. They kept this experiment going for the following 11 years, until 1977. After the results were published, in 1983, more researchers repeated the experiment — over and over again.

With so many studies focusing on what happens when kiddos are asked to draw their own interpretations of a scientist, researchers from Northwestern University recently decided to do a meta-analysis of the data. The research, which was recently published in the journal Child Development, found that there were some serious gender issues going on.

photo: pixabay.com

When reviewing drawing data from almost 21,000 children (from studies completed in 1985 and after), researchers found that only 28% of the kids drew female scientists. And even though 42% of girls drew female scientists, only 5% of boys did. Hmm. If you’re thinking, “What does that say about gender stereotypes and the sciences?” you’re thinking like a scientist.

Along with finding a gap in how girls and boys view scientists in terms of gender, the researchers also found that children’s perceptions changed as they age. Even though the younger kiddos, under age six, were fairly even when it came to drawing male and female scientists, older elementary and middle schoolers were more likely to draw the scientists as male.

What do you think about gender, the sciences and kids’ perceptions? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

—Erica Loop



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