Imagine you are reading a story to a child; the story goes something like this:

There is one person at work who is really, really smart. They can figure out how to do things quickly, they come up with answers much faster and better than anyone else.

Now imagine telling this story:

There is one person at work who is really, really nice. They like to help others with their problems, they are friendly to everyone.

At the end of the story, you show pictures of adult males and females to the child and ask them which person they think was being described.

What gender do you think they would pick for each story?

This exact experiment was carried out alongside a series of others as part of a recent study published in the journal Science. The scientists found that a child’s perception of brilliance goes through dramatic changes between ages 5 and 7.

After the story, the five year olds associated brilliance with their own gender at roughly equal levels. Just one year later, the 6 year old girls were significantly less likely than the boys to associate brilliance with their own gender. By the age of 7, when given a choice of toys to play with, the majority of the girls chose not to play with games labelled for ‘really, really smart children’.