Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Gender Schema Theory

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_208-1



Gender schemas are cognitive structures that organize information about gender.


Scientists have long sought to explain gender differences in a number of phenomena – for instance, in relationships, interests, activity level, and communication styles. Cognitive approaches, including gender schema theory, have been proposed to address the development of such gender differences by explaining the cognitive processes underlying gender typing.

As discussed here, gender consists of the individual identification with and societal roles assigned to male and female groups, which differs from sex, the biological components of humans such as reproductive systems and secondary sex characteristics. Thus, gender typing (i.e., matching a gendered prototype) is the process by which individuals become differentiated by gender in their behaviors, preferences, and cognitions. Although biological predispositions and consistent socialization...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access


  1. Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 155–162.  https://doi.org/10.1037/h0036215.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bem, S. L. (1981). Gender schema theory: A cognitive account of sex typing. Psychological Review, 88, 354–364.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.88.4.354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bem, S. L. (1983). Gender schema theory and its implications for child development: Raising gender-aschematic children in a gender-schematic society. Signs, 8, 598–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bem, S. L. (1993). The lenses of gender: Transforming the debate on sexual inequality. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Martin, C. L. (1991). The role of cognition in understanding gender effects. In W. R. Hayne (Ed.), Advances in child development and behavior (Vol. 23, pp. 113–149). San Diego: Academic.Google Scholar
  6. Martin, C. L., & Dinella, L. (2012). Congruence between gender stereotypes and activity preferences in self-identified tomboys and non-tomboys. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 599–610.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-011-9786-5.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Martin, C. L., & Halverson, C. F. (1981). A schematic processing model of sex typing and stereotyping in children. Child Development, 52, 1119–1134.  https://doi.org/10.2307/1129498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Martin, C. L., & Halverson, C. F. (1983). The effects of sex-typing schemas on young children’s memory. Child Development, 54, 563–574.  https://doi.org/10.2307/1130043.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Martin, C. L., Eisenbud, L., & Rose, H. (1995). Children’s gender-based reasoning about toys. Child Development, 66, 1453–1471.  https://doi.org/10.2307/1131657.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Martin, C. L., Ruble, D. N., & Szkrybalo, J. (2002). Cognitive theories of early gender development. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 903–933.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.128.6.903.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Olson, K. R., Key, A. C., & Eaton, N. R. (2015). Gender cognition in transgender children. Psychological Science, 26, 467–474.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797614568156.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Tara DeLecce
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA