How do construals of science and implicit (less conscious) attitudes and stereotypes about science contribute to the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields? The proposed work draws on findings showing that 1. Beliefs that science is a solitary endeavor seem to impede women's entrance into STEM fields;2. Women with stronger associations between male and mathematics are less likely to plan to continue in math and perform worse on achievement measures than women with weaker such associations;and 3. Implicit attitudes and stereotypes are not impervious to change. It explores how changing the nature of how people construe science may affect implicit science attitudes and stereotypes and STEM pursuit. In turn, these data will shed light on how changes in implicit cognitions can translate into greater participation by women in STEM fields. Using correlational, experimental, and longitudinal approaches, the proposed work uses measures of implicit cognitions to address the following questions. 1. How do people implicitly construe science? The first two proposed studies examine whether people implicitly view science as more of a solitary than collaborative activity. 2. Can portraying science as collaborative change these construals? If so, what are the consequences on women's implicit science stereotypes and attitudes, and STEM pursuit? In the final three studies, I predict that portraying science as a collaborative, joint enterprise will attenuate the robust tendency for people to associate science with male, will lead to more positive implicit evaluations of science, and will increase women's plans to pursue STEM. 3. What are the consequences of changing implicit attitudes and stereotypes? This work integrates two independent but well-established literatures: Implicit cognitions predict behavior, and they are malleable. I predict that changes i implicit cognitions as a result of these interventions will translate into change in science engagement via the following two mechanisms. First, changes in implicit stereotypes, attitudes, and construal's of science will lead to changes in plans to continue in science. Second, changes in implicit attitudes will attenuate implicit stereotypes'effects, such that attitudinal changes provide a buffer against implicit stereotypes.
By focusing on how people perceive the process of science (as either solitary or collaborative), these studies take a new approach to understanding the gender gap in science and mathematics. Consequently, they have the potential to transform pedagogical strategies for engaging students in science and mathematics, and, ultimately, to increase the capability and capacity of the American scientific workforce. Additionally, the focus on less conscious forms of thought and behavior may elucidate novel underlying processes and consequences of changing implicit cognitions, that in turn, can be translated into interventions into behavioral change in a wide range of domains.