What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

To Improve Girls' Science Scores, Show Them Women Scientists

May 26, 2010, 8:20 AM

Standardized tests are supposed to measure innate abilities. The subject of your last conversation, the lead story on the news last night, the pictures on the wall at the test site—this trivia is presumed to have zero impact on your score in geometry or chemistry. Trouble is, it's increasingly clear that this presumption is simply false. Case in point: This study, published in last month's Journal of Social Psychology, which erased the usual gender gap in high-school chemistry tests. All it took was a change in the illustrations in a textbook.

Jessica J. Good, Julie A. Woodzicka and Lylan C. Wingfield of Rutgers University gave a short chemistry exam to local 9th and 10th graders—29 male and 52 female. The students read three pages of a chemistry text and then took the test on the material. All the texts were the same, but they were illustrated differently. One third of the students saw pictures in which everyone was a man. For another, there were only women in the illustrations. And a third group had a text with pictures of both male and female chemists.

Girls who read the text with all-female pictures scored a great deal better than girls who got other versions. In fact, girls who saw only women chemists in their text scored better than boys. Boys did best with the all-male images, though not by much. And mixed-gender images didn't alter the usual gender gap (as far as I can tell; it's a little hard to discern from the abstract, and the paper is behind the journal's price-gouging paywall).

It's not clear if there is a non-depressing intervention suggested by this—to get girls' scores higher, do we have to depress boys'?—but I think there's a more fundamental point: Given how susceptible people are to cues from their immediate surroundings, we can't assume that ability is a fixed and measurable quantity. We're a social species, ever-responding to social perceptions. Even sitting quietly with a pencil and a geometry problem is a social act, as variable and shifty as a conversation. Until we understand the moment-to-moment effects of other people on the mind, we can't be sure what our tests are measuring.

Good, J., Woodzicka, J., & Wingfield, L. (2010). The Effects of Gender Stereotypic and Counter-Stereotypic Textbook Images on Science Performance The Journal of Social Psychology, 150 (2), 132-147 DOI: 10.1080/00224540903366552


To Improve Girls' Science S...

Newsletter: Share: