15-minute writing exercise closes the gender gap in university-level physics

According to the article the gender gap in an otherwise very male dominated field, is easy to overcome, all that is needed is to do is a 15 minute writing exercise to help the ones with low self-esteem to find their values.

It sound a little bit too easy to overcome the barriers that causes the field to become male dominated in the first place, by just doing a simple self-esteem exercise.

Is there really any truth to this? Does it really work?

The paper: Reducing the Gender Achievement Gap in College Science: A Classroom Study of Values Affirmation

  • It was a very small study with a small sample size. Seemed reasonably constructed (at the very least, it claimed to be double blind). But a much bigger study would be needed to confirm the claim.
    – user5341
    Feb 22, 2013 at 22:10
  • It looks very strange, especially that males' scores were apparently damaged by the values affirmation exercise. It is also unclear that the control was in fact a control: it involved considering other people's point's of view, and it might be the case that doing this helped some (predominately male) students.
    – Henry
    Feb 22, 2013 at 23:10
  • 1
    @Henry - Given that a typical physics male student is likely to be a stereotypical nerd who hates essay writing, AND self-introspection both, it's possible that the effort involved did somehow damage their confidence. That, or it was a statistical fluke.
    – user5341
    Feb 24, 2013 at 2:20
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    @DVK Your characterisation of the sample size as small is misleading. It had a sample size of 399 - that's not small, it's at least average for psychology standards. But yes, replication is always nice. So it's nice that there is a published replication by the same team. They don't replicate it 100% - for me, this makes me trust them more.
    – Ruben
    Jun 5, 2013 at 19:04
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    @Henry And you're all victims of your own biases when you argue that male performance must have decreased, thus explaining the results. The female performance increase dwarfs the male performance decrease. Only for one outcome male performance decreases a little, this may well be the fluke. Control condition seems sound to me. I might write more on this, this type of study generates a lot of buzz it seems.
    – Ruben
    Jun 5, 2013 at 19:10


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