Sex Roles

, Volume 54, Issue 7–8, pp 447–458 | Cite as

The Content and Function of Gender Self-stereotypes: An Exploratory Investigation

  • Debra L. Oswald
  • Kara Lindstedt
Original Paper


We drew on gender identity theory (Spence, 1993) and social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986) to examine the structure and content of college students’ gender self-stereotypes and how their selective self-stereotyping relate to academic self-schema, personal self-esteem, and collective self-esteem. Although students were aware of the gender stereotypes and perceived them to be true “in general,” when asked, which traits were self-descriptive, participants engaged in selective self-stereotyping. Participants tended to report that positive stereotypes were more self-descriptive than group-descriptive, whereas negative stereotypes were more group-descriptive than self-descriptive. The tendency to selectively self-stereotype personality and physical traits was associated with increased personal and collective self-esteem. Selective self-stereotyping in cognitive domains was associated with academic self-schemas for men. The results provide an interesting perspective into the structure, content, and function of gender self-stereotypes. Results are discussed in terms of their theoretical and practical implications.


Gender Self-stereotyping Social identity theory 



The authors thank Angela Pirlott for her assistance in coding the data.


  1. Ashmore, R. D. (1990). Sex, gender, and the individual. In L. Pervin (Ed.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp. 486–526). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  2. Athenstaedt, U. (2003). On the content and structure of the gender role self-concept: Including gender-stereotypical behaviors in addition to traits. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 27, 309–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bem, S. L. (1981). Gender schema theory: A cognitive account of sex typing. Psychological Review, 88, 354–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bem, S. L. (1993). The lenses of gender. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Biernat, M., Vescio, T. K., & Green, M. L. (1996). Selective self-stereotyping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 1194–1209.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Calogero, R. M. (2004). A test of obj edification theory: The effects of the male gaze on appearance concerns in college women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 28, 16–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cejka, M. A., & Eagly, A. H. (1999). Gender stereotypic images of occupations correspond to the sex segregation of employment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 413–423.Google Scholar
  8. Chiu, C., Hong, Y., Ching-man, L., Fu, Y., Yuk-yue, J., & Lee, V. (1998). Stereotyping and self-presentation: Effects of gender stereotype activation. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 1, 81–96.Google Scholar
  9. Deaux, K., & LaFrance, M. (1998). Gender. In D. Gilbert, S. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (pp. 788–827). Boston: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  10. Deaux, K., & Lewis, L. L. (1984). Structure of gender stereotypes: Interrelationships among components and gender label. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 991–1004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Diekman, A. B., & Eagly, A. H. (2000). Stereotypes as dynamic constructs: Women and men of the past, present, and future. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 1171–1188.Google Scholar
  12. Fiske, S. T., & Stevens, L. E. (1993). What's so special about sex? Gender stereotypes and discrimination. In S. Oskamp & M. Costanzo (Eds.), Gender issues in contemporary society (pp. 173–196). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  13. Frable, D. (1989). Sex typing and gender ideology: Two facets of the individual's gender psychology that go together. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 95–108.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frable, D. (1997). Gender, racial, ethnic, sexual, and class identities. Annual Review of Psychology, 48, 139–162.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Franzoi, S. (1995). The body-as-object versus the body-as-process: Gender differences and gender considerations. Sex Roles, 33, 417–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. (1997). Objedification theory: Toward understanding women's lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heatherton, T., & Polivy, J. (1991). Development and validation of a scale for measuring state self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 895–910.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hogg, M. A., & Abrams, D. (1990). Social motivation, self-esteem, and social identity. In D. Abrams & M. A. Hogg (Eds.), Social identity theory: Constructive and critical advances (pp. 28–47). London: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
  19. Jenkins, S. S., & Aube, J. (2002). Gender differences and gender-related constructs in dating aggression. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1106–1118.Google Scholar
  20. Katz, J., Joiner, T. E., & Kwon, P. (2002). Membership in a devalued social group and emotional well-being: Developing a model of personal self-esteem, collective self-esteem, and group socialization. Sex Roles, 47, 419–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Koestner, R., & Aube, J. (1995). A multifactorial approach to the study of gender characteristics. Journal of Personality, 63, 681–710.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Levy, B. R. (1996). Improving memory in old age through implicit self-stereotyping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 1092–1107.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Levy, B. R. (2003). Mind matters: Cognitive and physical effects of aging self-stereotypes. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 58B, 203–211.Google Scholar
  24. Luthanen, R., & Crocker, J. (1992). A collective self-esteem scale: Self-evaluation of one's social identity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 18, 302–318.Google Scholar
  25. Markus, H., Crane, M., Bernstein, S., & Siladi, M. (1982). Self schemas and gender. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42, 338–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Muehlenkamp, J., & Saris-Baglama, R. (2002). Self-objectification and its psychological outcomes for college women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26, 371–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Oswald, D. L., & Harvey, R. D. (2003). Q-method study of women's experiences and attitudes with math. Sex Roles, 49, 133–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Prentice, D. A., & Carranza, E. (2002). What women and men should be, shouldn't be, are allowed to be, and don't have to be: The contents of prescriptive gender stereotypes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26, 269–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pronin, E., Steele, C. M., & Ross, L. (2004). Identity bifurcation in response to stereotype threat: Women and mathematics. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 152–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schmader, T., Johns, M., & Barquissau, M. (2004). The costs of accepting gender differences: The role of stereotype endorsement in women's experience in math domain. Sex Roles, 50, 835–850.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Slater, A., & Tiggemann, M. (2002). A test of objedification theory in adolescent girls. Sex Roles, 46, 343–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Spence, J. T. (1993). Gender-related traits and gender ideology: Evidence for a multifactorial theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 624–635.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Spence, J. T., & Buckner, C. (1995). Masculinity and femininity: Defining the undefinable. In P. Kalbfleisch & M. Cody (Eds.), Gender, power and communication in human relationships (pp. 105–140). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  34. Spence, J. T., & Hall, S. K. (1996). Children's gender-related self-perceptions, activity preferences, and occupational stereotypes: A test of three models of gender constructs. Sex Roles, 35, 659–691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Spence, J. T., & Helrnreich, R. L. (1978). Masculinity and femininity: Their psychological dimensions, correlates, and antecedents. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  36. Spence, J. T., & Sawin, L. L. (1985). Images of masculinity and femininity: A reconceptualization. In V. O’Leary, R. Unger, & B. Wallston (Eds.), Women, gender, and social psychology (pp. 35–66). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  37. Spencer, S. J., Steele, C. M., & Quinn, D. M. (1999). Stereotype threat and women's math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 4–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Strelan, P., Mehaffey, S., & Tiggemann, M. (2003). Self-objedification and esteem in young women: The mediating role of reasons for exercise. Sex Roles, 48, 89–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Swim, J. K. (1994). Perceived versus meta-analytic effect sizes: An assessment of the accuracy of gender stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 21–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tajfel, H. (1981). Human groups as social categories. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations (2nd edn., pp. 7–24). Chicago: Nelson-Hall.Google Scholar
  42. Turner, J. C., Hogg, M. A., Oakes, P. J., Reicher, S. D., & Wetherell, M. S. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory. Cambridge: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  43. Twenge, J. M. (1999). Mapping gender: The multifactorial approach and the organization of gender-related attributes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23, 485–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMarquette UniversityMilwaukeeUSA

Personalised recommendations