Less than two weeks into college, Emily Adams got a phone call about a psychology study that could earn her $400. The caller told her he worked for an Oregon professor and asked her a series of questions in a voice she describes as "kind of passive and breathy" that had her reacting to the idea that women are smarter than men in increasingly convoluted scenarios involving suppressed feelings and black holes.

An hour and a half into the session, Adams decided to end the call. "[He asked me to] envision his brain and what I see in his brain and try to like conquer his brain... and I was like 'Uh, what the heck is this?' That was the point that I was just like, you know what, I don't feel comfortable with this and I hung up," she recalls.

The next morning, Adams found herself thinking that "wow,...

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