Spontaneous Gender-Stereotypical Categorization of Trait Labels and Job Labels

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Do people spontaneously categorize stereotypically masculine and stereotypically feminine trait and job labels according to gender even when the task at hand has nothing to do with gender? The present experiment provided a methodologically stringent test of such spontaneous gender-stereotypical categorization using a modification of a semantic priming task. Participants made name/no name judgments for targets that included nonsensical letter strings as well as male and female first names. Half of the first names in each gender category were selected to indicate members of participants’ own generation (Younger Generation names) and the other half were selected to indicate members of an older generation (Older Generation names). Each target was preceded by a prime (trait label or a job label) that was either stereotypically masculine, stereotypically feminine, or neutral. Participants’ processing goals were manipulated by adding a secondary task that either did or did not require semantic processing of primes. The results provided evidence of spontaneous gender-stereotypical categorization of trait labels and job labels, particularly when Older Generation names were used as targets. The effects occurred regardless of the processing goals.


University of Iowa

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Current Research in Social Psychology

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