Sex Roles

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 501–518

Sex stereotypes and implicit personality theory. I. A personality description approach to the assessment of sex stereotypes

  • Richard D. Ashmore
  • Mary Lou Tumia

DOI: 10.1007/BF00287882

Cite this article as:
Ashmore, R.D. & Tumia, M.L. Sex Roles (1980) 6: 501. doi:10.1007/BF00287882


It was proposed that sex stereotypes be phrased in terms of the person perception construct, “implicit personality theory,” as the structured sets of inferential relations that link personal attributes to the social categories female and male. The utility of this formulation was assessed by having 31 college students use a set of 66 personality traits to describe other people. A measure of trait co-occurrence was derived from these data and was used as input to Kruskal's multidimensional scaling program. A two-dimensional configuration was interpreted in terms of two orthogonal properties, Social Desirability and Potency. An Indirect Female-Male property (based on the proportion of times each trait was used to describe a male) was strongly related to the configuration and was closely aligned with the Potency vector. Thus, stereotypes of females and males were associated with the Potency dimension of person perception, with females seen as “soft” and males as “hard.” The directly rated sex property Male-Female was also located near the Potency vector, but was not strongly related to the configuration. This lack of fit may have been due to social desirability responding. The results support the utility of formulating sex stereotypes in terms of implicit personality theory and suggest the need to distinguish direct and indirect assessments of stereotypes.

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard D. Ashmore
    • 1
  • Mary Lou Tumia
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Livingston CollegeRutgers UniversityNew Brunswick

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