Male Undergrads Automatically Overestimate Their Male Peers, Underestimate Women

Illustration for article titled Male Undergrads Automatically Overestimate Their Male Peers, Underestimate Women

In news that will come as a surprise to no one who has ever taken an econ class with a block of floppy-haired binge drinkers who were all, “Uh, it’s like my buddy Anderson said about the invisible hand?”, it appears that male students default to the belief that their fellow male students are the highest-achieving and most knowledgeable people in their classes—even if, as happens more than occasionally, this is not at all the case.


The Washington Post writes up a study from the University of Washington, commandeered by anthropologist Dan Grunspan:

After surveying roughly 1,700 students across three biology courses, they found young men consistently gave each other more credit than they awarded to their just-as-savvy female classmates.

Men over-ranked their peers by three-quarters of a GPA point, according to the study, published this month in the journal PLOS ONE. In other words, if Johnny and Susie both had A’s, they’d receive equal applause from female students — but Susie would register as a B student in the eyes of her male peers, and Johnny would look like a rock star.

“Something under the conscious is going on,” Grunspan said. “For 18 years, these [young men] have been socialized to have this bias.”

Being male, he added, “is some kind of boost.” At least in the eyes of other men.

The study asked these 1,700 students to nominate their strongest classmates at three points throughout the school year. In the end, the researchers found that women effectively exhibited zero gender bias, while men displayed an excess of it:

Female students gave other female students a recognition “boost” equivalent to a GPA bump of 0.04 — too tiny to indicate any gender preference, Grunspan said. Male students, however, awarded fellow male students a recognition boost equivalent to a GPA increase of 0.76.

“On this scale,” the report asserted, “the male nominators’ gender bias is 19 times the size of the female nominators’.”

Classroom “celebrities” — defined in the study as the students with the most classmate recognition — were overwhelmingly male. Men dominated the top three slots in all three classes, while women peaked at No. 4.

In one class, the most renowned man, so to speak, garnered 52 nominations, while the most renowned woman snagged nine.

Thank goodness that this disturbing suggestion of a trend—men only recognizing other men, women recognizing everyone pretty equally—disappears by the time young adults enter the workforce, right?

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Image via MGM


This applies 1000% in law school. I even got what we call “book awards” for having the highest grade in both of our writing classes, and I was still mansplained to every time we had a study group.