15 March 2015

Are Boys Good at Chess?

That title makes about as much sense as the provocative headline on a Scientific American article, Are Girls Bad at Chess? [ScientificAmerican.com, April 2014], subtitled 'Of course not -- but stereotypes can have a real effect on performance.'

For the boys, we can confidently say, 'Some are good and some are mediocre, but most don't have a clue how to play'. For the girls, in its lead paragraph the SciAm piece informs,

One of the most talked about findings in psychology today is "stereotype threat" – a phenomenon in which a person experiences anxiety because of the fear of confirming a negative stereotype. Research has shown that stereotype threat can lead people to perform worse than expected. For example, women make more mistakes on a math test after being reminded of the stereotype that men are better at math.

That sounds like what used to be called a 'self fulfilling prophecy'. Perhaps it's the real danger behind Chess Stereotypes.

As for the question, 'Are People Bad at Chess?', most chess engines, if they could talk, would say, 'Yes, they're very bad'. And people still continue playing.

No comments: