LW Women- Crowdsourced research on Cognitive biases and gender

by [anonymous] 2 min read10th Feb 2013112 comments


In the last LW Women post, it was mentioned, and I agree, that a two-way conversation is more productive, and presents varied viewpoints better than a one-way lecture. To that end, I am making this post an experiment in crowdsourcing research to LW. Instead of writing this topic up myself (more talking AT you), I want to see what happens if instead I leave a good prompt, along with some paths (search terms, journal articles) to start down for discussion. What information will a collectivist research project yield?  In other words, instead of reading what I write below as the article, pretend you are helping to collaborate on an article.

The next post in the series will go back to LW Women's submissions.


Recommended Rules (because last LW Women post reached 1000+ comments, and we want to keep that as navigable as possible)

When possible, make/use parent comments when you are discussing a specific bias, so that multiple studies or lines of reasoning on the same bias can be grouped together. 

When you post a summary of a study, make sure to read it first and give a decent rundown. If a study says "X sometimes, Y sometimes," do not just say "This study proves X!" 

Put meta discussion HERE (e.g.- What do you think about crowdsourcing research on LW? What do you think about the LW Women series, etc.)


What cognitive biases might effect various gender stereotypes and how people think about gender?  Below are some starting points. The links are to the wikipedia articles. This list isn't the be-all, end-all. It's just somewhere to get started. Use it to get ideas, or not.

Fundamental Attribution Error- aka Correspondence Bias-  Tendency to draw inferences about a person's unique and enduring dispositions from behaviors that can be entirely explained by the situations in which they occur.

Actor-Observer Bias - People are more likely to see their own behavior as affected by the situation they are in, or the sequence of occurrences that have happened to them throughout their day. But, they see other people’s actions as solely a product of their overall personality, and they do not afford them the chance to explain their behavior as exclusively a result of a situational effect.

Just World Fallacy- human actions eventually yield morally fair and fitting consequences

System Justification- People have a motivation to defend and justify the status quo, even when it may be disadvantageous to certain people... they are motivated to see the status quo (or prevailing social, economic, and political norms) as good, legitimate, and desirable.

Availability Heuristic-  people make judgments about the probability of events by how easy it is to think of examples

List of Biases- help yourself to a bias! 




Example Response

Below is an example response I wrote about the Ultimate Attribution Error and Availability Heuristic. I didn't use any studies. Do better than me! (Update: I decided I should also include an example of a study write-up, so made a comment with one HERE . Please DON'T just give a link and a single sentence!)


The first post on the LW Women series involved trying to minimize the inferential gap by sharing anecdotes of what it's like growing up as a "geek girl". When reading these submissions, I was struck by how it might seem like the Fundamental Attribution Bias (aka Correspondence Bias) is at play, but for whole groups. Turns out this is A Thing, and it's called Ultimate Attribution Error.

For example, say a woman mentions that she's bad with computers. From *her* perspective, she sees the situation as the cause of this: "Of course I'm not as good with computers! When I went to learn in a programming class, it was full of guys who stared at me the whole time and I was too uncomfortable to pay attention!" When women see other women with the same responses, they can empathize with the situational causes.

However, when men see women complaining about new technology, they are more likely to attribute these to factors about the women's personalities: "she's not good at computers."

We don't view *lack* of a negative as a factor in our personalities. For example, one is likely to realize that the reason they did badly in school is because their parents had a low socio-economic status and so they lacked opportunities. One *might* realize that one of the reasons they are good in school is because their parents have a high socio-economic status which gives them certain advantages and opportunities. But one is *unlikely* to realize that NOT having low socioeconomic parents is why you did NOT do badly in school.

Images from: PhD Comics and xkcd