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Male Psych Researchers Forget Women in Their Field

Written by: UT AUSTIN
Published on: May 20, 2024

Gender Inequality

Photo Credit:  PATARA -

When asked to name experts in their field, male psychology researchers are more likely to think of other men—no matter that most psychologists in and out of the academy are women.

This difference in memory accessibility could be a significant contributor to the gender citation gap, a phenomenon in which women researcher’s work is less likely than men’s to be cited in scientific papers, according to new research.

For their new paper, three University of Texas at Austin professors asked psychology researchers in R1 universities—those that support the highest level of research—to spontaneously recall both experts and rising stars in their field. They then provided the study participants with a list of names of both male and female researchers and asked which names they recognized.

After comparing those lists to each other and to a set of baselines, the research team found that psychology faculty recalled female researchers less quickly and less frequently than male researchers. This disparity was especially prominent among male researchers and people who received their PhD less recently, the researchers say.

More tellingly, male researchers were able to recognize the names of prominent women researchers, indicating that memory accessibility, not general awareness, is likely behind the gender citation gap. That gap has serious implications for women researchers’ careers, affecting promotion, tenure status, and prestige and resulting in inequitable career outcomes.

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