Ultimately, it breaks your brain if you think about it too much: We think different individuals are more or less capable, intelligent, kind, or driven because of basically surface-level qualities. Then again, Westerners still haven't quite shaken the ancient idea that beauty equals goodness.
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Two new studies reconfirm how deeply engrained gender bias is in humans of every gender. One study by Princeton University psychologists finds that when we decide whether someone is competent or not, part of our evaluation comes from how masculine or feminine we determine their face is. The researchers controlled for "attractiveness," and still found that faces judged by study participants as "confident" and "masculine" were rated more competent, regardless of the person's actual levels of competence.
Meanwhile, psychologists at New York University investigated why there are far fewer women in "genius fields" like physics and philosophy. There are lots of factors that contribute to the issue, such as boys' club atmospheres and sexual harassment, but one major element seems to be lifelong judgments of who gets to be brilliant. "National statistics show that the intellectual achievements of girls and women in the U.S. have matched, if not surpassed, those of boys and men," according to an NYU press release. "However, in a series of three experiments, the researchers found evidence of consistent bias against women and girls in contexts that emphasize intellectual ability."
This backs up previous research showing that women are not, in fact, the cause of gender bias at work. Whether it's through the job application process, salary negotiations, perceived niceness, or even how we talk about each other, we all have a long way to go before we can truly evaluate people for who they are.