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The conceptual structure of sex role stereotypes in college students

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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.

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This paper is based on a master's thesis completed by the second author under the direction of the first author.

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De Lisi, R., Soundranayagam, L. The conceptual structure of sex role stereotypes in college students. Sex Roles 23, 593–611 (1990).

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  • College Student
  • Natural Language
  • Social Learning
  • Female Student
  • Male Student