As long ago as 1705, the philosopher Mary Astell observed that women who made great achievements in male domains were said by men to have “acted above their Sex. By which one must suppose they wou’d have their Readers understand, That they were not Women who did those Great Actions, but that they were Men in Petticoats!”15
In one study, for example, a group of French high school students was asked to rate the truth of stereotypes about gender difference in talent in math and the arts before rating their own abilities in these domains. So, for these students, gender stereotypes were very salient as they rated their own ability. Next, they were asked to report their scores in math and the arts on a very important national standardized test taken about two years earlier. Unlike students in a control condition, those in the stereotype-salient group altered the memory of their own objective achievements to fit the well-known...
group of women and men went through exactly the same procedure but with one vital difference: they were offered money for doing well. Specifically, they earned $2 for every correct answer. This financial incentive leveled the performance of women and men, showing that when it literally “pays to understand” male insensitivity is curiously easily overcome.
The text, complete with bogus references, then went on to explain that contrary to popular opinion “non-traditional men who are more in touch with their feminine side” are regarded as more sexually desirable and interesting by women, not to mention more likely to leave bars and clubs in the company of one. Men who read this passage performed better on the empathic accuracy task than did control men (to whom the test was presented in a nothing-to-do-with-gender fashion) or men who had been told that the experiment was investigating their alleged intuitive inferiority.