Malleability in communal goals and beliefs influences attraction to STEM careers: Evidence for a goal congruity perspective

  • Diekman A
  • Clark E
  • Johnston A
 et al. 
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The goal congruity perspective posits that 2 distinct social cognitions predict attraction to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) fields. First, individuals may particularly value communal goals (e.g., working with or helping others), due to either chronic individual differences or the salience of these goals in particular contexts. Second, individuals hold beliefs about the activities that facilitate or impede these goals, or goal affordance stereotypes. Women's tendency to endorse communal goals more highly than do men, along with consensual stereotypes that STEM careers impede communal goals, intersect to produce disinterest in STEM careers. We provide evidence for the foundational predictions that gender differences emerge primarily on communal rather than agentic goals (Studies 1a and 3) and that goal affordance stereotypes reflect beliefs that STEM careers are relatively dissociated from communal goals (Studies 1b and 1c). Most critically, we provide causal evidence that activated communal goals decrease interest in STEM fields (Study 2) and that the potential for a STEM career to afford communal goals elicits greater positivity (Study 3). These studies thus provide a novel demonstration that understanding communal goals and goal affordance stereotypes can lend insight into attitudes toward STEM pursuits.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Communion
  • Gender
  • Goals
  • Science
  • Sex differences

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  • Amanda B. Diekman

  • Emily K. Clark

  • Amanda M. Johnston

  • Elizabeth R. Brown

  • Mia Steinberg

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