A recent study by psychologists at Yale University found that adults, when they received their child's finger prick, thought it was less painful than if it were a girl. .
Participants felt that the child felt more pain when he was described as a boy.
"Explicit gender stereotypes – for example, that boys are more stoic or girls more emotional – can skew the assessment of children's pain by adults," the authors concluded.
The lead author of Yale's study, Brian Earp, notably pointed out that the phenomena illustrated in this study apply primarily to observers. While men were likely to better assess the pain perception of boys and girls, the women in the study felt that the boys' pain was more acute than that of the girls.
Earp said it was like they thought: "For a boy to be able to express so much pain, he must really suffer."
He suggested that researchers could do similar research with babies to see if gender stereotypes begin even earlier.
In her 2018 book, "Doing Harm," Maya Dusenbery discovered that sexism affects how women's cases are treated in the health system. She says that Yale's study of sexist prejudices "really fits what we see in adult pain perceptions, and it's remarkable that these stereotypes start so young."
Dusenbery said, "Women are more likely to seek care for pain more easily, which does not mean you should take it less seriously when they do."
She added, "What is happening in the real world is that women are perceived as exaggerated pain rather than being more specific in the description."