University of Tasmania
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Gender stereotypes : a social cognitive approach

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posted on 2023-05-27, 07:44 authored by Barber, Sandra
A social cognitive approach to stereotype research, utilizing the theory and methods of cognitive psychology while emphasizing the fundamentally social nature of the phenomena in question, was used to investigate gender stereotypes. Stereotypes of femininity and masculinity were conceptualized as schemata, following the work of Bern (1981) and Markus & Crane (1982), and some anomalies in the previous research were addressed. Markus and her colleagues focussed on gender self schemata, and seemed to establish that sex typed individuals are either feminine schematic or masculine schematic; while Bern confounded self schemata and role schemata, and argued for a generalized gender schema for both self and other relevant information. One of the aims of the current investigation was to assess the structure of gender role schemata. Particular reference was made to negative sex typed traits and how important they are to stereotypes of femininity and masculinity. The cognitive methodology used was a lexical decision task in which pairs of words were presented sequentially, and subjects were required to respond to the second one, deciding whether it was a real word or not. On the basis of research showing that subjects respond significantly faster to words when they follow a word with which they are highly semantically associated (eg. Meyer & Schvaneveldt, 1976; Dannenbring & Briand, 1982), the priming effect was proposed as measure of associative strength. This application had been used in stereotype research only once before, by Gaertner & Mclaughlin (1983) in their investigation of racial stereotypes. Three categories of prime words were used - feminine, masculine and neutral; followed by feminine positive, feminine negative, masculine positive, masculine negative and neutral target words (and matched nonwords). Neutral prime-target trials were included in order to validate the methodology. The results suggested that the lexical decision task could be used as a nonreactive measure of associative strength in stereotype research, but care must be taken to avoid certain methodological problems, especially the excessive repetition of prime words. It was found that for feminine and masculine target words subjects' response time did not differ whether the preceding prime was gender appropriate or inappropriate, providing tentative support for a generalized gender role schema, although further research could clarify this issue. In contrast, for feminine and masculine negative target words, reaction times were significantly faster to words when they followed gender incongruent primes than congruent ones. The differential response would seem to be indicative of an inhibitory mechanism, and is inconsistent with the notion of a generalized gender schema.


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Thesis (M.Psych.)--University of Tasmania, 1995. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 61-67)

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