You might've heard feminists use the word "mansplaining" to describe men who unrightfully deem themselves the ultimate authority on a topic — especially the authority over women, even when a woman might actually know more about the topic than the man. This word is often used to describe everyday conversations, but a new study has found the academic equivalent: male academics cite themselves more in published papers than women do. Yes, you heard me right: They cite themselves. As Jezebel put it, men are apparently their own favorite experts.
To be fair, it's common for academics to refer to previous research they've conducted, especially since many studies are conducted to add to the body of research on the same topic. Indeed, the analysis of 1.5 million papers by Stanford, University of Washington, and New York University researchers found that both men and women cited their own research frequently. In total, about 10 percent of the citations were of the authors' own work.
What's significant, though, is that the number of citations differed based on gender. Over the last two decades, men have cited themselves 70 percent more than women have.
This difference has far-reaching consequences, the authors point out, since academics are often evaluated for jobs based on how many citations they have. Women are less likely than men to be offered tenure, and they speculate that this citation gap could have something to do with that.
So, basically, the more important people think they are, the more important they're considered in the academic community — and men seem to think they're more important. You see where I'm going with this, right? One man considered a "prominent scholar" had an impressive 7,000 citations — but they're not as impressive when you learn that over a fifth of them were his own doing.
A number of studies have shown that men tend to have higher levels of confidence than women in most areas of life, and one study in Science found that women and people of color are less likely to enter fields said to require a lot of intelligence.
Academic men especially are known for their confidence in their intelligence, hence the Tumblr "Academic Men Explain Things To Me," and this confidence seems to be helping their careers. This new study suggests that the confidence gap between men and women, particularly in male-dominated academic fields, can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Where do we go from here, then? The authors suggests that in hiring decisions, universities should either disregard citations or at least be aware that if men seem to have more, this may not be as meaningful as previously thought. And for academics themselves, especially women, these results show that a little self-promotion can go along way. Their male colleagues, after all, probably don't feel bad about it.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy