For Teenage Girls, Swimsuit Season Never Ends

How do you get a young woman to bomb a math test? Have her take it while wearing a bathing suit.

That’s what researchers in a classic study from 1998 found when they put female and male undergraduates in dressing rooms with a mirror and either swimsuits or sweaters in a range of sizes. The students were instructed to try on the assigned clothing and wear it for a while before filling out a sham evaluation of the apparel.

While they waited, the participants were asked by the researchers to use the time efficiently by completing a math test, supposedly for colleagues “in the department of education.” The students were alone in the dressing rooms, yet the women in bathing suits scored far lower on the math test than the women in sweaters. The men performed the same regardless of what they wore.

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