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Cats who rule the mouse

BOYS may now be the weaker sex as far as schoolwork is concerned but their traditional macho attitudes resurface when placed in front of a computer, writes Susannah Kirkman.

An Open University study has confirmed that it is boys who take control of the "mouse" if they are asked to work at a computer with a girl.

Researchers who gave a computer assignment to 48 13 and 14-year-olds found that girls working in mixed pairs said less, made fewer suggestions and made more supportive comments than girls in same-gender pairs. Conversely, the boys in mixed pairs said more, disagreed more and controlled the mouse ore than boys in same-gender pairs.

The boys' domineering behaviour was only confined to computer work, however. When a similar task was set using paper, there was no difference between the mixed and same-gender pairs.

These findings confirm earlier research which suggests that girls are at a disadvantage when working at a computer in mixed-gender groups.

"Gender, Pair Composition and Computer Paper Presentations of an English Language Task", by Teresa Keogh, Peter Barnes, Richard Joiner and Karen Littleton, The Open University, Milton Keynes. Educational Psychology, Vol. 20, No 1, 2000.

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