On the self-perpetuating nature of stereotypes about women and men

Berna J. Skrypnek, Mark Snyder

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83 Scopus citations


An experiment was conducted to investigate an interpersonal process that contributes to the perpetuation of stereotyped beliefs about women and men. Male-female pairs of unacquainted individuals interacted to negotiate a division of labor on a series of work-like tasks (that differed in their sex-role connotations) in a situation that permitted control over the information that male perceivers received about the apparent sex of female targets. The perceivers' beliefs about the sex of their targets initiated a chain of events that resulted in targets providing behavioral confirmation for perceivers' beliefs about their sex. Targets believed by perceivers to be male chose tasks relatively masculine in nature, and targets believed by perceivers to be female chose tasks relatively feminine in nature. Although this behavioral confirmation effect was initially elicited as reactions to overtures made by perceivers, it persevered so that eventually targets came to initiate behaviors "appropriate" to the sex with which they had been labeled by perceivers. The specific roles of perceivers and targets in the behavioral confirmation process are examined. Implications of these findings for the perpetuation of stereotyped beliefs about the sexes are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-291
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1982

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research and the preparation of this manuscript were supported in part by a Canada Council Doctoral Fellowship and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship to Bema Skrypnek and in part by National Science Foundation Grant BNS 77-11346, “From Belief to Reality: Cognitive, Behavioral, and Interpersonal Consequences of Social Perception” to Mark Snyder. Portions of this manuscript were prepared while Mark Snyder was a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. We thank Cheryl Wainio and Alma Woolf for their assistance in the conduct of this research. Requests for reprints should be sent to Mark Snyder, Laboratory for Research in Social Relations, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455.


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