Gender differences in intellectual risk taking

Gender differences in intellectual risk taking


There is a great deal of evidence that shows that boys are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors than are girls, especially in school (Forman & Kochanska, 2001; Serbin, 1990).  When we think of risk-taking, we may think of trying new things, seeking out excitement, having a strong sense of adventure, or even getting into trouble.  However, have you ever wondered what the academic ramifications are of taking intellectual risks?

Taking intellectual risks can mean asking questions, looking at a problem in a new way, or challenging the ideas of others (think Albert Einstein).  Taking these risks means you aren’t afraid to go against the rules or make a mistake, a critical set of skills for thinking and learning.  Some researchers argue that differences in gender performance in math are due to the different ways that girls and boys are socialized to either follow the rules or take intellectual risks (i.e. Villalobos, 2009).

Since intellectual risk-taking is so important to learning, how do we foster these skills in both boys AND girls?

For more reading, check out:

Forman, D. & Kochanska, G. (2001). Viewing imitation as child responsiveness: A link between
teaching and discipline domains of socialization. Developmental Psychology, 37, 198-206.
Serbin, L.A. (1990). The socialization of sex-differentiated skills and academic performance: A
meditational model. Sex Roles, 23, 613-28.
Villalobos, A. (2009). The importance of breaking set: Socialized cognitive strategies and the gender
discrepancy in mathematics. Theory and Research in Education, 7(10), 27-43.