Young girls who embrace the role of a successful female scientist, like Marie Curie, persist longer at a challenging science game, a new study shows.

The research suggests science role-playing may help tighten the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and careers for women simply by improving their identity as scientists.

Frustrated by the gender gap in STEM, in which some fields employ at least three times more men than women, Reut Shachnai, a graduate student at Cornell University, wanted to do something about it.

Shachnai, who is now continuing her studies at Yale University, says the idea to help foster young girls’ interest in science came to her during a lecture in a class she was taking on “Psychology of Imagination.”

“We read a paper on how children pretending to be a superhero did better at self-control tasks (the so-called ‘Batman effect’),” says Tamar Kushnir, who taught the class and is now a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and a fellow author of the new paper. “Reut wondered if this would also work to encourage girls to persist in science.”

The researchers devised an experiment to test if assuming the role of a successful scientist would improve girls’ persistence in a “sink or float” science game.

Read the full article about the value of imitating role models at Futurity.