Monday, November 15, 2010

What Men Think Women Know

I've written extensively about the relationship between what people know and what people think they know -- that is, actual knowledge versus perceived knowledge.  And, fascinated as I am with research methodology, I've also blogged about studies that consistently find men do better on tests of political knowledge than women (lots of reasons for this, some methodological, some cultural).

And now, a new study comes along that kinda combines the two.

Published in a recent Political Research Quarterly, the study finds that both men and women perceive women to be less knowledgeable about politics -- regardless of the actual knowledge each person has.

Here's an interesting bit, written in socialsciencespeak:
Though Huckfeldt (2001) asserts people can judge the expertise level of those with whom they discuss politics accurately, the perception effects we find here suggest otherwise; there is distortion within the judgment of expertise according to one’s gender. We suspect that even though discussion continues to take place at comparable levels between men and women main respondents and men or women discussants, the assessment that women know less about politics, even if that is not truly the case, may affect the dynamics of discussion within the dyad.

In other words, men assume women are not knowledgeable about politics without actually assessing what they know about politics.  The study goes on to discuss a number of potential consequences, all of them important.  A useful study if you're interested not only in political knowledge, but perceptions of knowledge and gender differences.

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