Understanding how chemistry helps can help : an experimental investigation of increasing women's motivation to pursue chemistry research

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


What social factors play a role in women's interest in pursuing a scientific research career? Goal congruity theory posits that people pursue careers that fulfill important goals and values. Women may avoid pursuing chemistry, for example, because women tend to highly endorse communal goals (working with and helping others) and chemistry is viewed as unlikely to afford communal goals. Experiment 1 tested whether chemistry research is stereotyped as non-communal in nature. People rated an identical research task framed as either a "psychology" or "chemistry" task or no information was given. Unfortunately, the subtle manipulation of task frame failed to influence participants' ratings of communal and agentic affordances of the task. Nevertheless, exploratory analyses of data that did not rely on the manipulation found that people who personally endorsed agentic goals reported more belongingness in science, and women who personally endorsed agentic goals reported more interest in scientific research. This project also tested if self-generating the communal and agentic applications of a science task increases motivation to pursue chemistry research, and if such connections are especially successful in eliciting research motivation among women (Experiment 2). The hypotheses were not testable because analysis of the manipulation check revealed that fewer than 51% of participants successfully self-generated condition appropriate items. Discussion centers on exploratory results and future directions.




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