Stereotype threat theory- women bad at math because people said so?

Stereotype threat is a concept in psychology I came across which holds that awareness of the negative stereotypes for certain group of people in a particular task can hamper their performance. This theory has been used to try to justify why women are (supposedly) not as good in mathematics as men are.

So the claim is that it is the beliefs of women in this stereotype that makes them underachieve, and that eliminating the stereotype can improve their performance. This theory was first tested on 1999 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology by Spencer, Steele, & Quinn.


However, this claim has been under a lot of criticism. Most recently, a research article by Charlotte R. Pennington entitled “Stereotype Threat May Not Impact Women’s Inhibitory Control or Mathematical Performance: Providing Support for the Null Hypothesis” has included their own experiments testing women’s performance in spatial and mathematical tasks to disprove the stereotype threat theory.

The experiment was conducted including participants some of whom were warned that women had been shown to perform poorly compared to men. In the mathematical test, some participants were also told that women outperformed men. However, the awareness to stereotypes did not impact women’s performance.

Personally, I can’t find any sense to these claims. If I am told that I cannot perform a task, that would surely have some impact on me, I agree. But it’s possibly like that for any task, and for anyone.

I remember in grade 6 when I was told by my English teacher that my English language was remarkable, I started to under-perform because I was under pressure of having to meet expectations. I don’t think the stereotype threat should be an actual separate concept because we already have a word for this concept and it’s called the self-fulfilling prophecy. And this holds true for people and instances regardless of age, gender, or religion.

Also, in the experiments done for testing the stereotype threat, the participants were told “women are bad at math” before they were made to solve mathematical problems. This might be the most impractical method to do such a test because in the real world, we can assume that women don’t always get verbally dictated about their abilities like that, instead, it’s the belief that is said to cause the bad performance.

Hence, overall, the tests are just bad simulations of what happens in actuality. Let me know in the comments what you think of this theory that is gaining popularity.

Is this what separates humans from other animals?

It was a winter afternoon. I was walking through a forest as part of a trekking trail; I had just returned after spending hours at the edge of the Phoksundo Lake (the deepest lake in Nepal) the night before with my friends, drinking beer, laying on top of rocks, gazing into the night sky painted with a million stars.

Anyway, as I was walking, and listening to Metronome– one of my favorite songs by Toe, a Japanese Math Rock band- I start to immerse into the music and that’s when a thought crossed my mind “why do these clusters of sounds produced by applying friction on a surface sound so appealing to us humans?”.

When you think about it, it’s not just music, but any sort of artistic creation that grabs our attention and interest, be it a painting, a sculpture, a song, or a dance, we tend to be fascinated with these things in a way no animal is. Of course, animals like the flamingo dance to attract mates, the robin sing to mark their territory or to warn about predators. But it’s not the same for humans; I doubt that standing on your head and spinning around in a rhythm would increase your chance of getting a mate, or that reciting a poetry would repel your competitors away from your territory. So isn’t it utterly fascinating that humans involve themselves in these acts that have no known utilitarian purpose?

12592659_10209125083623210_8222078623353257541_n 2.jpg

This made me think- is art the major distinction that separates us from other animals? You may argue that the technology we use distinguishes us from animals in a far greater way than any art does but I beg to differ. The invention and use of technology is justifiable; they are merely tools we use to make our lives more simple and our tasks more efficient. How is it any different than monkeys using a stone to break open a walnut? Or crows dropping stones into pitchers to raise the water level to make it easier to drink?

The point is that the use of technology has a purpose that is common among animals- increase task efficiency; while the creation of art doesn’t. Who knows, we might have assigned some purpose into art forms that inherently didn’t exist like using it to relieve stress, to feel relaxed, to entertain us when we are bored, and so on, because we have grown so unconcerned with survivability while living peacefully in society. Animals, on the other hand, have no time to direct their actions on things other than those aiding in their survival.

Anyhow, it’s a wonderful and interesting thing that we are so engulfed in these art forms. I myself like to sketch, paint, write poems, and listen to music a lot. Personally, I do it to express myself. Again, I doubt that animals go to such great lengths of acquiring a new skill to express their thoughts and opinions. Oh, lions are always chasing you? Why not scratch your hooves on the ground and make drawings of a distressed deer being chased by a monster lion? That should ease your stress… No? Ok, maybe it doesn’t work that way for everyone!

To conclude, I’m not saying art is the biggest distinction between us and other animals but it is in the top of the list at least for me. Let me know if you agree in the comments below.

©Freethoughts01. Free your minds, embrace your thoughts!


Last-minute IELTS tips and tricks!

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)- this is the 5-letter word for the mechanism that will judge you on your competency in the English language. If you are planning on taking this test any time soon, lucky you because you have found the post that will help you achieve at least 0.5 more in your IELTS test! Read further to turn your 6.5 into a 7, your 7.5 into an 8 or even an 8.5, and so on.


So I just took the IELTS test and there are a few things I wanted to warn you about from my hands-on experience taking this test. These tips and tricks of IELTS are missed out in the countless YouTube practice videos that I watched while practicing for the test. These points did prove a bit troublesome for me during the test but I managed to score an 8 nevertheless.So here are my tips to improve your test scores:

  1. Pay attention to the NEXT QUESTION in the listening section: In the listening part, you just pay attention to one question while listening, spot the relevant sentence, and write the answer right? Yes, but there is more. You also need to read the next question while listening for answers of the current question. Not doing so caused a big problem for me during the test. I was listening to the tape while paying attention to the question in hand (let’s say question 13). The speaker spoke around 4 sentences but I still did not notice them addressing the question I was in. I got confused so I went and read the other questions till question 16; it turned out that the speaker had already reached question 16 while I was stuck listening for words that matched to question 13! As a result, I missed out on a total of 4 questions. Ouch! So…

    Tip 1: Read at least two questions while listening to the tape so if you happen to miss the first one, you can skip that and move to the next one.

  2. Don’t read too much during the reading section: In each question of the reading section, my technique was to read the whole passage and underline the important verbs, names, and dates, and jot down a suitable topic for each paragraph on the question sheet. Not surprisingly, that was a stupid thing to do! There are three passages to read and you have a total of an hour to read and answer them all. So, that means you get 20 minutes for each paragraph. Guess the shock I got when I heard “10 minutes remaining” when I was just about to start reading my third passage!

    So the better thing to do is to read one question, then start reading the passage to find the word that relates to the question, and do this for all questions. This worked for me in my third passage and I was able to complete the whole thing in just 10 minutes. It was easier this way because all the questions were in chronological order with the topics in the passage. I am not sure if this is always the case though. So…

    Tip 2: Keep watch of the time while doing the reading part and don’t read every word in the passage before getting to the question because you will have to read it again while searching for answers anyway. 

  3. Don’t just start writing in your essays: You get plenty of time to write your essay so it is best that you first think about what you are going to include in it and then put them in a systematic order in your head before you start jotting them down on the answer sheet. Not doing so caused some trouble for me. The question stated that I write why a specific thing happens, and if it is a positive or a negative trend. I started with giving my opinion- how it was a positive trend. Only later did I realize the question also has a “why” and i thought I should have answered that first. So I had to erase half a page and write again. And one most important thing to note here is that I finished the writing assignment (both tasks 1 and 2) in less than 40 minutes; so you don’t have to hurry and go straight into writing mode. You have plenty of time to plan out your answers.

    One last thing about this section- write plenty of supporting statements in your essay when it asks about your opinion on a topic. Even if you don’t believe in something, just step into the shoes of someone who does and write it! So…

    Tip 3: Plan what you are going to write, make a list of points you are going to use to support your statements in the essay, and how you are going to organize your sentence before you start to write because you have enough time to write afterwards.


  4. Don’t hesitate to ask to clarify doubts in speaking: In the speaking test, one thing to keep in mind is that you don’t speak off-topic. This may seem like a small issue- of course you would speak on the correct topic, right? But what I experienced is a bit different. I was asked about the advantages of reading books to watching movies. I didn’t had much ideas about it, so I started to talk about the DIFFERENCES of watching movies and reading books. Luckily, I became aware of my blunder after speaking for like 20 seconds after which I said “Sorry, could you repeat the question?” and then excused myself and started to then talk about the ADVANTAGES.

    I guess when you are under pressure of the exam and you don’t know much about the topic that is being asked, you might start speaking about things you know which might not completely relate to the topic at-hand. So…

Tip 4: Don’t hesitate to clear any doubts that you have in the speaking test, and pay attention to every word you speak! Don’t go off-topic.

That’s all the tips you will need; do your best and don’t leave the rest… at least pick random answers if you run out of time! That’s what I did for the questions I missed. All the best for your test yo!

Why I hate when people express their expectations of me…

You know when you get a gift from someone and that gift is something you never really wanted? Moreover it could be something that you don’t need but have to carry around now that it is with you. For me, that “gift” is other people’s expectations of me.
giftLook how neatly packed that burden of trust and expectations is when they give it to you. You want to know what’s in it so you shake the package around trying to guess what’s inside and boom! All of a sudden it opens up and latches on to you like a leech, watching every move you make exclaiming “I know you can do it!”

When I really think about it, not only did I not ask for it, but I also do not benefit from it. If I live up to someone’s expectations, they confirm their belief about me and get a sense of being right. What about me? The most I would get from it is the realization that the other person knows more about my abilities than I do myself, which is a freaky thing to know. But mostly, I just feel like I was manipulated to do something just because they gave me the burden of their trust. Oh, and if I don’t live up to their expectations, I just end up feeling horrible about it.

So my message to the world (or the 2-3 people who read my blogs?) is this- People’s expectations of you is based on their idea of you, which is not necessarily true. So don’t let them burden you with something that is theirs.
Instead, say I appreciate the effort but I respectfully decline your gift. Please keep it safely with you; if you really believe in me, give occasional “great job”s and maybe free food, and cheer for me on the inside. Thank you.”


Psychological Egoism?? (Writing against my own very first blog about selfishness!)

For those of you who don’t know, I had written a blog titled “The vagueness of the word ‘selfish’ and how all humans are, by nature, selfish beings” two years ago. However, now I am writing this blog against the claims that I made back then. The link to the old blog is given below if you are interested in checking it out:

Anyhow, it’s been well over 2 years since I wrote that blog; I was just a curious kid who used to think a lot and write about what I experienced back then. I did not bother to search over the internet about what actually is. However, I have been spending a lot of time on the internet lately, just reading random interesting things and I just happened to come across a particular topic in psychology and as I read more into it, turns out this is exactly the topic that I was arguing about in my blog 2 years ago! It’s called “psychological Egoism”.

Two years ago, I had thought a lot about how many people like helping each other and started thinking about different possible reasons for this unselfish culture of ours. Finally, I came to the conclusion that all human beings, even those who are altruistic by nature, only want to satisfy their own needs when they help others. In cases that people (such as those with altruistic motives) help others, they simply do it to gain pleasure from the action of helping others… or so I thought!


Let me talk about my new discovery on this topic. It is really interesting what I came across in this chapter about Psychological Egoism by Joel Feinberg. The chapter lists 4 points that people state to support the statement that people are all selfish beings. I have used one of these 4 points given because it was what I based my argument on in my blog two years back:

When a person gets what he wants, he feels pleasure. So, what we really want in any case is our own pleasure and we pursue other things only as a means.

Two years ago, this point that I came up with had me all convinced that I was right about people being selfish by nature. However, what changed my mind now, and had me thinking in a new light is a simple story about Abraham Lincoln; this short story and the message it carries made me realize the flaw in my thinking. The story is given in Feinberg’s chapter as follows:

“Mr. Lincoln once remarked to a fellow-passenger on an old-time mud-coach that all men were prompted by selfishness in doing good. His fellow-passenger was disagreeing with this position when they were passing over a corduroy bridge that spanned a slough. As they crossed this bridge they espied an old razor-backed sow on the bank making a terrible noise because her pigs had got into the slough and were in danger of drowning. As the old coach began to climb the hill, Mr. Lincoln called out, “Driver, can’t you stop just a moment?” Then Mr. Lincoln jumped out, ran back and lifted the little pigs out of the mud and water an placed them on the bank. When he returned, his companion remarked: “Now Abe, where does selfishness come in on this little episode?” “Why bless your soul, Ed, that was the very essence of selfishness. I should have had no peace of mind all day had I gone on and left that suffering old sow worrying over those pigs. I did it to get peace of mind, don’t you see?”

Here, in this story, the very fact that Lincoln did feel satisfaction as a result of helping the pigs tells us that he desired for something other than his own happiness. Think about it- what he cared for about is the pigs and their suffering mother; and he would not have said that he “would not get peace of mind” if he didn’t help them if their sufferings meant nothing to him!  So, what we get from this is that pleasure was the CONSEQUENCE of his desire for something else- helping others. If Lincoln did not feel anything towards the pig and their mother, he would not have derived pleasure from helping them.

So, as Feinberg puts it, rather than proving that people have selfish motives behind their actions, the presence of pleasure as a consequence proves that the action was unselfish.

Addiction to Virtual Games- Thoughts on its Whys and Hows

[This is just a free thought. No research done. My sole purpose is to evoke your thoughts. Enjoy!]

My little brother plays this online multiplayer game Clash Of Clans all day. Every bit of free time he has (he also ‘makes’ free time for himself by avoiding other works!), he spends on this game. I wanted to know why he is so addicted to it. Furthermore, I became curious as to what makes any game addictive.

I started exploring this topic  by first observing his way of playing- how much time he spends in the game, at what hours, and so on. What I noticed was that he plays it at least every hour as he gets resources in the game every hour (a very clever strategy to get the people to spend more of their time in the game). So, I asked myself “what does he lose from not collecting these resources?” the first thing that came into my mind was “progress”. Yes, these resources are used to progress further in the game. If you collect these resources every hour, you would have more resources than the player that collects it every two hour, hence you would ‘become stronger’ faster in the game. Then I started thinking about other games, and this is when I realized that all the games I know involves some kind of progress. In games like Mario, Candy Crush, Contra, you reach different levels, in RPG games, you yourself level up and become stronger, in DOTA, you get better knowledge of the heroes, the item combinations, the best way to use abilities, etc. and ‘level up’ yourself personally. So, with this, I had an idea as to how games keep people addicted to them- they give the players a sense of achievement ( a false sense of achievement,I should say as, these achievements are all virtual). So, they keep your need to achieve something satisfied.

It is alright to play games, i am not against them. But once you neglect your real life’s achievements and get satisfied with virtual achievements, that causes you trouble. We should try to make our friends and family who is addicted to gaming understand this.

This is just my free thought but I think if you introduce real life progress and sense of achievement in the people’s (kid’s) life, you MAY be able to make him leave his virtual achievement behind! A fair trade, i would say.

[Any comments including constructive criticisms are welcome]

Institutions of edu… control!

[First off, sorry for not posting for a long time to the small group of followers I have; been busy with under grad studies.]

What comes into your mind when you hear the word ‘rules’? For me, it used to be the word ‘efficiency’. Up to some degree, rules had the purpose of enabling operational efficiency. They help in arranging the task in such a way that it is easier to perform and benefits people. However, there also exist rules those do not serve this purpose. They are there mostly just to exercise control over the masses.

When I put it that way, it seemed more like an oppression-oriented mechanism than an efficiency/ progress oriented mechanism.

Now, there are a lot of oppression-oriented mechanisms in the society. These are practiced mostly in schools in my country (Nepal). The schools here exercise excessive control over its students up to the point that they become a form of oppression of the masses. This has led me to have some Marxist views regarding such institutions. Schools are more of an institution of control and ‘discipline’ than an institution of education. Some absurd rules in the schools in my country include:

  1. Not letting male students grow long hair (what’s even more ridiculous is their definition of long!); most schools don’t allow hair length of more than an inch (yes, they measure hair length- with a measuring scale!). Punishments for not following this rule may include humiliation, physical abuse (a slap, a hair-pull, an ear crusher, etc.). This trend had become so famous that even the Nepal Police had started detaining men they find in the streets with long hair at one point of time; their explanation- most men with long hair tend to be thugs! Okay… lord save my country from idiocy! But this new ‘law’ lasted less than a month as people protested through rallies.
  2. Students are not allowed to go to the bathroom or drink water without asking the teacher during class time, and what’s worse is that teachers rarely give you permission to go to the loo; in a few cases, if the teacher is in a bad mood, they even punish students for asking to go to the loo.
  3. You cannot talk in class! Nope, not even a word. If the teacher finds you even whispering in class, they punish (mostly slap) you. Same goes for smiling in class, looking backwards, and pretty much doing anything else besides listening to the teacher teach. Not oppression? I beg to differ.


The biggest problem in schools in this country is that teachers are given (or they think they are given) more authority than they should have while dealing with the students. I remember in grade 10 this one female teacher removed me from my seat in the school bus because she ‘always sits in that seat’, and I had to freaking stand the whole way home because the bus was always packed and had less seats than there were students. That’s bullying and abuse of authority and so is beating up little kids as I mentioned in my above 3 points.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I feel that these institutions seem more like institutions of control than institutions of education. They help instill a fear in the students about going against authority, conditioning students to abide by the system. I, for one, am happy I came out with my beliefs and mind intact. The 13 years children spend in their school teaches them to give in to authority, suppress their curiosity (as most teachers hate being asked “stupid” questions), suppress their creativity, and kill their self-esteem.

Also, if we take this topic at a more extreme and a more Marxist point of view, it can be argued that schools are a breeding factory for future office workers, training children for a 9-to-5 life doing works and obeying authority from a young age; but that is maybe for another blog later on!

With this being said, I want to congratulate all those children that came out with their curiosity, creativity, and self-esteem intact. But mind that I am not supporting a rebellious life as many adults would take this as; I am simply supporting liberty and life in itself.

The vagueness of the word ‘selfish’, and how all humans are, by nature, selfish beings


[This article deals with things as I perceive it, and in no way can be regarded as universal facts, or even backed by scientific research (hence the name ‘FreeThoughts’!). Constructive criticisms are welcomed.]


Person A: You are a selfish jerk!!

Person B: Oh yea? Then let us go into a more detailed analysis of what you are accusing me of, shall we?

And thus begins the analysis…

When you call someone selfish, have you every stopped to think the significance of what you are saying? If not, let me try to elaborate the way I perceive the situation.

Okay, firstly let us look at the definition of ‘selfish’. According to oxford dictionary, being selfish means lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure. Looking at this definition, I would say that human beings, by nature, are selfish.

Let us consider a situation…

View original post 886 more words


I’m looking everywhere, trying to find passion
Thought I had it, don’t know what happened
Lost in the mist of things
mind clouded with hope, confusion, fear
of tomorrow
I’m loosing my focus,
Give me a calmer mind to borrow
I can’t work right with this one,
It just seems to run at the face of responsibilities
It does opposite of what I ask
It tells me not to perform difficult tasks
It does not care about my future
It tells me to be content.

But I cannot live content,
Satisfaction kills motivation
No, I cannot live content.

My personal experience of False memory


Ok, so I was talking on the phone with my girlfriend and we start talking about our school days. Then I bring up the topic of musical interest. I ask her “do you still listen to Avril? I remember you sang an Avril song in grade 7 in front of the class.” She was puzzled. She claims to have never done such a thing. I tell her that I am sure she did, I even remembered it visually, you know like remembering a movie scene? I could picture her singing while looking down feeling shy. Yet she denies that ever happened. She then tells me it was another girl (let’s call her ‘T364C’) who sang an Avril song in front of the class in 7th grade.

Now, I was sure T364C could not have done that because T364C was the shyest girl I have ever met; I hardly knew how her voice sounded like. I remember she always used to be seated in front of me in exam and I used to ask her questions in the exam hall but every time, her lips moved absent sound. The process was always the same- I asked one question at least thrice, each time I could not hear a word she said, so I act like I understood when I was really just tired of asking and then write some random stuff on the answer paper because I did not know the answers. Man, I could have used some lip-reading classes!

Anyway, I was sure this girl could not have sung the song. It made more sense to me that my girlfriend sang it- she loved Avril, she was extrovert, and she had a good voice. Whereas T364C was introvert, and her voice was so low that you never really hear her say anything. However, I figured my girlfriend would not lie to me about it. After all, she would remember if she had sung a song in front of the class. So, this brings us to the topic of today’s blog- false memory.

As I came to know, our brain creates false memory of our past. It remembers what it can, and the things it can’t really remember it fills with stuffs that make sense. It fills in the memory gaps with the things that make the most sense in the given context. Let me present to you a similar situation where the biasness of the question creates inaccurate recall of incidents.

In one study (Loftus & Palmer, 1974), individuals were shown a film of an automobile accident. Later, half of the research participants were asked the first question and the other half the second-

  • “About how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?”
  • “About how fast were the cars going when they hit each other?”

The speed was estimated to be considerably faster by the individuals who were asked the first version of the question, even though the cars were in really slow speed.

One week later, they were all asked the same question- “did you see any broken glasses?”  Although the film showed no broken glasses, 32% of the participants who had been asked the 1st question answered “Yes” while one 14% of the participants who were asked the 2nd question answered “yes”.

Now going back to my incident, what I think happened in my case regarding the false memory of who sang the Avril song is that my brain might have remembered that someone sang the song in front of the class, and since it doesn’t remember who did, it chose the best possible option for who could have sung it- my girlfriend who is a fan of Avril and has a decent singing voice, and Hence created that false memory which was so believable that I even accused my girlfriend of having a weak memory! (And maybe irritated her a bit whilst sounding like an idiot- “no no no, you DID sing it, you just don’t remember it, hunni”! )

So, the next time you really believe you experienced something, think twice on what really could have happened, and make sure your brain is not just making things up!