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Romance vs. STEM

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State University of New York at Buffalo professor Lora Park recently completed a series of research projects, the results of which suggest that when college-age women think about romance, they become less interested in studying science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

However, college-age men can be interested in romance without any impact on their engagement in STEM. Further study of these results could help confront the gender gap in STEM fields, according to Park.

In one experiment, participants were shown images related to love or images that related to intelligence goals. Women who were exposed to the romantic images had less positive feelings about STEM fields when surveyed later, while men who were exposed to the same images had the same feelings about STEM as before the test.

"This is about the cumulative impact of romantic images and scripts for women's lives" that women are exposed to from very young ages, Park says. The key is to let women "think about their future possible self" not in ways that are dictated by "the script" they have picked up over the years, but by their potential, according to Park.

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