Something Old, Something New: Evidence of Self-Accommodation to Gendered Social Change
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Two studies examined how individuals adapt the self to social trends—in particular, when the social roles of the gender ingroup change, do people readily leave behind traditional roles in favor of nontraditional roles? We hypothesized that self-relevant cognitions and behaviors would accommodate to societal change, and we found that this accommodation took the shape of greater acceptance of nontraditional roles alongside continued acceptance of traditional roles. Experiment 1 included 112 undergraduates from the Midwestern U.S. who learned about social change or social stability by reading articles ostensibly published in a newspaper. Individuals who learned about social change for their gender ingroup, relative to those learning about social stability, projected greater personal success in careers, particularly for gender-nontraditional careers. Experiment 2 examined behavioral responses to social change in a sample of 198 female undergraduates from the Midwestern U.S. Participants learned about social change or social stability and then chose to view either a website focused on physical appearance (i.e., traditional choice) or leadership (i.e., nontraditional choice). Behavioral responses to social change reflected accommodation to the anticipated social structure: Individuals who learned about social change chose to view information about nontraditional rather than traditional roles. These studies provide initial experimental evidence investigating how individuals adapt the self to the social structure.
KeywordsSocial change Gender roles Social roles Career decisions Gender stereotypes
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