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Studies Examine Gender Differences in Science Attainment

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San Francisco--Despite the underrepresentation of women in science and technical fields, gender differences in spatial and mathematical ability have declined to near zero, researchers reported here last week.

A separate study, also released here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, found that parents and teachers provide more encouragement to boys than to girls to learn science.

The first study--conducted by Marcia C. Linn, adjunct professor of education at the University of California at Berkeley, and Janet S. Hyde, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin--analyzed hundreds of studies conducted since 1974, when a landmark study found gender differences in verbal, quantitative, and spatial abilities.

Since that time, the new analysis found, with the exception of performance on the mathematics portion of the Scholastic Aptitude Test, such differences have declined.

"The differences are now so small as to be negligible," said Ms. Linn. "We should de-emphasize that issue."

Ms. Linn and Ms. Hyde noted, however, that males tend to have more confidence in their abilities than females, even when both groups perform equally well.

The second study, by Jacquelynne Eccles, professor of psychology at the University of Colorado, found that parents tend to exaggerate boys' abilities in science, while they underestimate those of girls. And, Ms. Eccles found, boys are more likely than girls to re8ceive items such as chemistry sets and calculators.

Similarly, Ms. Eccles's analysis of teaching techniques found, both male and female teachers in about half the classrooms studied tended to praise boys more than they did girls.

Awards for Service

In other conference action, the Children's Defense Fund and the environmentalist Paul Ehrlich were awarded the first Gerard Piel Award for Service to Science in the Cause of Humankind.

Named for the founder of Scientific American, the new prize honors individuals and organizations for their "contributions to the formation of public policy and opinion respecting the wise use of science in the cause of human well-being and fulfillment."--rr

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