The Effect of Pluralistic Ignorance on Women's Interest in the STEM Fields_

Abigail Lynne Muldoon


Although women earn 50% of all bachelor’s degrees in the United States, they earn less than 20% of computer science and engineering degrees. There is much research focusing on the lack of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields,but research has yet to investigate the role of pluralistic ignorance in women’s avoidance of these fields. Pluralistic ignorance occurs when individuals privately reject a norm, but publicly support it because they assume the majority of other people support the norm. This project examines relationships between one’s views and the stereotypes they believe their friends hold regarding computer programmers and interest in computer programming. It was predicted that participants would engage in pluralistic ignorance, which would affect interest in computer programming. Additionally, it was predicted that women wouldengage in pluralistic ignorance to a greater degree than men, or alternatively, that men and women would engage in the same level of pluralistic ignorance, but this would have a greater impact on women’s interest in computer programming. Significant trends were found for women perceiving that their friends hold more stereotypical views than men, and between men’s perceptions of their friends’ stereotypes and their interest. No relationship was found between women’s views and women’s interest in computer programming.


women, science, technology, mathematics, engineering, psychology, gender

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