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.
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The raters were blind to participants’ gender. Thus, it was possible for a man to make a feminine-stereotypic statement and vice versa. However, it was rare for people to list stereotypes that were inconsistent with their gender. This is not surprising given the instructions for the task were to list stereotypes about one's own gender. Because of the small sample size these stereotype-inconsistent data were not analyzed further.
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The authors thank Angela Pirlott for her assistance in coding the data.
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Oswald, D.L., Lindstedt, K. The Content and Function of Gender Self-stereotypes: An Exploratory Investigation. Sex Roles 54, 447–458 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-006-9026-y
- Social identity theory