I work in a school. It is not a regular school; my students are all immigrants who hail from a million different places. I love my job, my colleagues and my students, and having a background in psychology, I couldn’t have found a more appropriate workplace.
First, let it be known that a having a background in psychology does not mean that the psychologist in me is on at all times. For instance, I have had a *lot* of personality psych/abnormal psych, but unless I see a highly unusual behaviour/behaviours, repeated over time, I think nothing of it. I also (probably) have a wider range of what I consider “normal” behaviour than most people do (this because of my earlier work with patients suffering from psychotic disorders). But, when I see a behaviour repeated over time, I tend to notice. The behaviours I notice may be quite trivial, such as the one in which my colleagues all press an “unlock-switch” when going through a door from the student-lounge to the stairwell. This particular switch does not need to be pushed, and they are well aware, as they do not push it or attempt to unlock the door when coming from the stairwell to the student-lounge. Are you following me?
Let me put it in sciency terms:
Participants: Super-nice colleagues.
N= not sure, but at least 7. the mean age of participants is approx. 40 years (S.D.=10)
- Researcher’s eyes.
Student-lounge –> stairwell = switch pushed to unlock door
Stairwell –> student-lounge= no attempt made to unlock door
(We’re skipping the intro, method and discussion and heading straight for the conclusion).
Conclusion: teachers will press a switch where there is a switch to be pressed, even though the door they intend to open is unlocked. This due to conditioning, as said door used to be closed. More research is needed as to why the same teachers seem to not exhibit similar behaviour (swiping a key-card) when they come the other way.
Ok, I digress, what I was going to talk about was attribution-theory, and why many (not all) men/boys think differently when it comes to success, when compared to many (not all) women/girls.
One thing I’ve noticed in working with (literally) hundreds of students/pupils of both foreign and Norwegian descent, is that boys tend to be more confident than girls. When they do well, they take all the credit for their success; none or little is given to the influence of external factors/external environment (say, parents, teachers, background, socioeconomic status, pure luck and so forth). Girls do the opposite. When they do well, they tend to credit something or someone else (they’ll mostly attribute success to dumb luck). Here’s where attribution-theory comes in. What boys do is linked to what is known as the “self-serving bias”. That is, they believe that any success can be attributed to their own inherent skills. Faced with failure, they tend to attribute this to an external factor (bad test/bad teacher/poor working environment). Girls do the opposite; they are (frequently, not always) subject to the “impostor syndrome”. Despite continued evidence of their competence and skills, they are unable to internalize it and keep crediting outside factors.
It’s a little sad really.
A funnier (?) phenomenon is related to flirting. Have you ever noticed how some (not all) men seem to have way higher self-esteem than women when it comes to looks and perceived desirability? A lot of factors play in of course, societal pressures being a major one (but that’s not the topic of this post).
Nevertheless, here’s a neat article discussing how men tend to “overperceive” sexual advances (that is, flirting) while women “underperceive” sexual advances (again, flirting). A quick summary: a (Norwegian!) study found the over/under-perception-thing to be real, and the researchers suggested that it might be because men are biologically wired to never miss an opportunity to “spread their seed” (urgh..), while women have evolved to underperceive advances in order to find an optimal partner.
The moral of the story is: never make eye contact (or any other form of contact) ladies; you might get accused of sexual harassment ;) (On a serious note, this might explain some of the mistreatment of women in more patriarchal cultures).
Anyway, these research findings might go a way to explain why “Bob at the local bar” never can seem to take a hint, no? ;)
Thanks for reading, I better be off to work!