A gender stereotype is a set of beliefs about the characteristics of men and women.
According to the cognitive approach to gender stereotypes, people tend to exaggerate
the differences between the sexes when they are actually relatively small. Nonetheless,
these stereotypes guide the way we process information and influence our cognitive processes.A gender stereotype contributes to us having different schemas
for male and female behavior,it can lead us to interpreting things as male or female,
and tends to make us see the male experience as normative while we look for reasons that
the female deviates from that norm. We also remember gender-consistent information better
than gender-inconsistent information as with the experiment measuring ERP responses to
"The doctor prepared himself for the operation" versus "the doctor prepared herself for
the operation".A much larger effect was noticed when the pronoun disagreed with the
expectation formed by a gender stereotype.
One phenomenon associated with gender stereotypes and our cognitive processes is Claude Steel's hypothesis of stereotype threat. This hypothesis proposes that negative group stereotypes cause anxiety and can hurt test performance. In a research study conducted atNew York University, women with high ability in math outperformed their male counterparts on a math test when the test was described as free from gender differences. Another group took the same test under normal testing conditions with no additional description of the test and only performed just as well as the men. In a seperate study under this same condition, the women performed significantly worse than the men. While some claim the effect of this stereotype anxiety is relatively small, it is worth considering when we talk about congnitive differences between men and women. Another issue to be mindful of with this topic is when and how these stereotypes are acquired. Several studies have been done with toddlers asking them to asess toys as being for boys, for girls, or for boys and girls and have shown that environmentalfactors (like parents) can give a child percieved social constraints that lead to gender stereotyping
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