Beastie boys

25th September 1998 at 01:00
Surveys, studies and reports examined by Reva Klein

"Aah...that's cute!" says a typical girl on a zoo visit. But boys are more likely to name the species and count its body parts.

Sue Dale Tunnicliffe's research into gender differences supports the "folklore" that the sexes interact with the world differently. In her observations of 141 primary school classes on trips to the zoo and natural history museums, she found that girls generated "oh" and "aah" responses.

Looking at an exhibit of dogs, all-girl groups referred to their "cuteness" and cuddliness. The boys, however, seemed to want to show that they knew the right names. When it came to the robotic exhibits of dinosaurs, however, both groups responded more emotively.

Sue Dale Tunnicliffe says that teachers should challenge the stereotypical responses by encouraging boys to reflect on emotional aspects of exhibits and by helping girls to name the specimens.

Boys and girls talking about animals as exhibits, by Sue Dale Tunnicliffe, Homerton College, Cambridge

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