Janet Taylor Spence: Innovator in the Study of Gender

Abstract

Janet Spence’s contributions moved gender researchers beyond a simple understanding of psychological gender in terms of individual differences in masculinity and femininity. In early work, she constructed the Personal Attributes Questionnaire, or PAQ, consisting of a masculine and a feminine scale, which she interpreted as assessing the core of psychological masculinity and femininity. Spence subsequently recognized that the masculine, or instrumental, scale reliably predicts only self-assertive, dominant behaviors and that the feminine, or expressive, scale reliably predicts only other-oriented, relational behaviors. Moreover, as her work developed, Spence came to understand this self-ascribed instrumentality and expressiveness, not as gender identity, but as two of the several types of psychological attributes that may become associated with individuals’ self-categorization as male or female. She then defined gender identity as the basic, existential sense of being male or female, which generally corresponds to one’s biological sex. Building on her ideas, we argue that gender identity instead encompasses both the sex categorization of oneself, usually as male or female, and self-assessments on gender-stereotypic instrumental and expressive attributes. These two levels of gender identity are linked by people’s self-stereotyping to the extent that they value their group membership as male or female.

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Acknowledgements

An earlier version of this article was presented at a symposium in honor of Janet Spence at the annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science in Chicago, May 2015.

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Correspondence to Alice H. Eagly.

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Alice H. Eagly and Wendy Wood have complied with the ethical standards as specified by the American Psychological Association and Sex Roles.

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Eagly, A.H., Wood, W. Janet Taylor Spence: Innovator in the Study of Gender. Sex Roles 77, 725–733 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-017-0835-y

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Keywords

  • Sex and gender attitudes
  • Masculinity
  • Femininity
  • Gender identity
  • Instrumentality
  • Expressiveness
  • Biography