This study investigated sex stereotypes as natural language categories. Ten years ago, sex stereotypes were found to have a core-peripheral structure similar to that of the nonevaluative categories studies by Rosch (1973). Changes and stability in these conceptions were studied by having 56 female and 56 male undergraduate students rate 217 adjectives on Likert scales according to how well each adjective represented their own view of typical Men or Women. Mean ratings were analyzed to reveal a structure of core, peripheral, and nonmembers for Men and for Women. As was the case ten years ago, core traits reflected dimensions of “niceness-nurturance” for Women and “potency-strength” for Men. Female students also viewed Women as “competent,” while male students also viewed Women as “socially effective.” Adjectives that constituted the core for one category were generally placed in the periphery for the other category. As compared to ten years ago, the peripheries of the categories were expanded and showed a greater degree of overlap. College students' conceptions of Men and Women are best characterized as overlapping rather than as bipolar opposites. The formation of sex stereotype categories was discussed in terms of cognitive and social learning processes.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Armstron, S. L., Gleitman, L. R., & Gleitman, H. (1983). What some concepts might not be. Cognition, 13, 263–308.
Ashmore, R. D. (1981). Sex stereotypes and implicit personality theory. In D. L. Hamilton (Ed.), Cognitive processes in stereotyping and intergroup behavior. Hillsdale, NJ: LEA.
Ashmore, R. D., & Del Boca, F. K. (1981). Conceptual approaches to stereotypes and stereotyping. In D. L. Hamilton (Ed.), Cognitive processes in stereotyping and intergroup behaviour. Hillsdale, NJ: LEA.
Bem, S. L. (1976). Probing the promise of andrognyn. In A. G. Kaplan & J. P. Bean (Eds.), Beyond sex role stereotypes. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
Best, D. L., Williams, J. E., Cloud, J. M., Davis, S. W., Robertson, L. S., Edwards, J. R., Giles, H., & Fowles, J. (1977). Development of sex-trait stereotypes among young children in the United States, England and Ireland. Child Development, 48, 1375–1384.
Edwards, J. R., & Williams, J. E. (1980). Sex-trait stereotypes among young children and young adults: Canadian findings and cross national comparisons. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 12, 210–220.
Gough, H. G., & Heilbrun, A. B. (1965). The Adjective Check List Manual, Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
Kohlberg, L. (1966). A cognitive-developmental analysis of children's sex-role concepts and attitudes. In E. E. Maccoby (Ed.), The development of sex differences. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Locksley, A. R., & Colten, M. E. (1979). Psychological androgyny: A case of mistaken identity? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1017–1031.
Miller, S. A. (1987). Developmental research methods. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Rosch, E. (1973). On the internal structure of perceptual and semantic categorisation. In T. E. Moore (Ed.), Cognitive development and the acquisition of language. New York: Academic Press.
Rosenkrantz, P., Vogel, S., Bee, H., Broverman, I., & Broverman, D. M. (1968). Sex-role stereotypes and self-concepts in college students. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 32, 287–295.
Ruble, T. L. (1983). Sex stereotypes: Issues of change in the 1970s. Sex Roles, 9, 397–402.
Safarjan, P. T. (1980). Sex stereotypes as natural language categories. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Rutgers University.
Shaver, P., Schwartz, J., Kirson, D., & O'Connor, C. (1987). Emotion knowledge: Further exploration of a prototype approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1061–1086.
Spence, J. T., Helmreich, R., & Stapp, J. (1974). The personal attributes questionnaire: A measure of sex role stereotypes and masculinity-femininity. JSAS Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 4, 43. (MS no. 617)
Taylor, D. M., Watson, G., & Wong-Rieger, D. (1984). Social categorisation, justice, and socioeconomic status. The Journal of Social Psychology, 125, 89–109.
Uyeda, K. M., & Mander, G. (1980). Prototypically norms for 28 semantic categories. Behaviour Research Methods and Instrumentation, 12, 587–595.
Werner, P. D., & La Russa, G. W. (1985). Persistence and change in sex-role stereotypes. Sex Roles, 12, 1089–1100.
Williams, J. E., & Bennett, S. M. (1975). The definition of sex stereotypes via the adjective check list. Sex Roles, 1, 327–337.
Williams, J. E., & best, D. L. (1977). Sex stereotypes and trait favourability on the adjective check list. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 37, 101–110.
This paper is based on a master's thesis completed by the second author under the direction of the first author.
About this article
Cite this article
De Lisi, R., Soundranayagam, L. The conceptual structure of sex role stereotypes in college students. Sex Roles 23, 593–611 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00289250
- College Student
- Natural Language
- Social Learning
- Female Student
- Male Student