The Loh Down On Science

Little Heathers

Girls are NOT less competitive than boys, but use different tactics to get ahead.

Are girls really less competitive than boys?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with The Loh Down on Science

saying not even! We just use different tactics to win.

Joyce Benenson and her colleagues at Boston's Emmanuel College tested that theory with eighty-seven four-year-olds.

Kids were divided into same-sex teams of three, and left alone in a room with one "highly prized puppet"--yep, that's the scientific term. The scientists then observed the kids interacting.

What did they see?

Boys tended to use direct methods--grabbing, demanding, chasing.

But girls? They used more subtle strategies Negotiations, rivalry, alliances made and broken.

The behavior is called "relational aggression"-- things like excluding one girl, whispering behind her back and even hiding from her. Ouch.

Why the back-biting behavior? Scientists say it's because females in the animal world have more to lose by risking individual aggression. They have everything to GAIN by teaming up to undermine a rival--even if it means sharing the spoils.

In short, cheerleading is lot more dangerous than it looks! I've been on the BOTTOM of that pom-pom pyramid and let me tell you--oh my God!--it is NOT fun.


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