Gender differences in children's reactions to success and failure with computers

Lori J. Nelson, Joel Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


This study examined an attributional style explanation for gender differences in computer use and attitudes. A total of 127 Grade 5 subjects filled out questionnaires assessing computer experience. Surprisingly, there were no gender differences in liking for computers. However, consistent with previous research, boys thought that they had more ability with computers, boys used computers more frequently, and more boys had computers at home. Subjects were then randomly assigned to use either a "failure" computer program, a "success" program, or no program. Results showed that boys provided unstable attributions for failure with the computer (e.g., bad disk, lack of effort) more often than girls did, whereas girls provided unstable attributions for success (e.g., easy program, effort) with the computer more often than boys did. Both boys and girls who made stable attributions for success or unstable attributions for failure were more enthusiastic about using computers in the future, indicating that gender differences in attitudes toward computer use can be explained by gender differences in attributions for performance. The data also suggest that gender differences in relaxation and expectations for improvement were due to gender differences in stability of attributions, frequency of previous computer use, and perceived competence with computers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-267
Number of pages21
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • General Psychology


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