, Volume 31, Issue 11-12, pp 653-682

Prototypes and dimensions of masculinity and femininity

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Abstract

Researchers have criticized existing measures of masculinity and femininity, largely on the basis of their unidimensional nature. The purpose of the present research was twofold: first, to determine the features most central to the categories of masculinity and femininity (prototypes), and second, to identify the dimensions of masculinity and femininity. Instead of relying upon a priori notions of the features that constitute masculinity and femininity, lay conceptions of masculinity and femininity were obtained from college students and their parents. Approximately half of the subjects who participated in this research were Caucasian. To distinguish gender role from gender, subjects were asked to describe one of six stimulus persons: masculine male, masculine female, masculine person, feminine male, feminine female, feminine person. Contrary to previous claims, subjects were able to articulate their conceptions of masculinity and femininity, physical features did not dominate their descriptions, and a number of personality traits named did correspond to conventional inventories. These features were rated by a second group of subjects in terms of how well they described the same set of six stimulus persons. Factor analyses revealed what could be described as lay conceptions of the dimensions of masculinity and femininity. The utility of these dimensions for future research is discussed.

The author is grateful to Phillip Shaver, Michael Scheier, and the anonymous reviewers for comments on a previous draft of the manuscript.