Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sex and Science

I am in the midst of writing an essay for Nature Chemistry - about why people are so curious about stereotypes of scientists, but seem less so about other fields. There is the DAST (draw a scientist test), but not as far as I can discover similar instruments to assess the images of other professions. Where are the DATTs (draw a teacher test) and DACTs (draw a chef test)? On the other end of the cultural spectrum there is the Big Bang Theory.

The earliest anthropological study I can find dates to the late 1950s and is by Margaret Mead (yes, that Margaret Mead) and Rhoda Metraux under the auspices of the AAAS. They analyzed thousands of essays, drawn from a set of 35,000 written by US high school students. The 1 page essays were written in response to one of three prompts. Prompt I read "When I think about a scientist, I think of..."

What took my breath away was Prompt II (italics are not mine, but as quoted in Mead's paper):
If you are a boy, complete the following statement in your own words.
If I were going to be a scientist, I should like to be the kind of scientist who...

If you are a girl, you may complete either the sentence above or this one:
If I were going to marry a scientist, I should like to marry the kind of scientist who..."
Math Man points out that I did both.

Images are from K.D. Finson, J.B. Beaver, B.L. Cramond, "Development and Field Test of a Checklist for the Draw-A-Scientist Test" School Science and Mathematics 95, p. 195 (1995).


  1. Oh. My. In our own short lifetimes, such a dramatic and very welcome change!