ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (7): 793-802.

• Reports of Empirical Studies •

### Influence of soft and hard tactical experiences on gender role cognition

Zhongyi YI,Wendeng YANG(),Haosheng YE()

1. Education School of Guangzhou University, Guangzhou 510006, China
• Received:2017-12-04 Published:2018-07-15 Online:2018-05-29

Abstract:

Previous studies mainly considered gender roles from the perspective of bio-determinism or social constructivism. The two sides stand at the ends of “nature” and “culture,” respectively. The former focuses on physiology, and the latter highlights the role of parenting, social conditions, and social relationships and disregards the link between nature and culture. The results of previous research have revealed limitations in the cognition of individuals regarding the formation and acquisition of gender classification and gender roles. Embodied cognition emphasizes the dependence of cognition on the body, which is embedded in the environment, and the influences of the body and environment are considered. The present study explored the gender role from the perspective of embodied cognition to compensate for the deficiencies of previous studies.

Previous studies mainly considered gender roles from the perspective of bio-determinism or social constructivism. The two sides stand at the ends of “nature” and “culture,” respectively. The former focuses on physiology, and the latter highlights the role of parenting, social conditions, and social relationships and disregards the link between nature and culture. The results of previous research have revealed limitations in the cognition of individuals regarding the formation and acquisition of gender classification and gender roles. Embodied cognition emphasizes the dependence of cognition on the body, which is embedded in the environment, and the influences of the body and environment are considered. The present study explored the gender role from the perspective of embodied cognition to compensate for the deficiencies of previous studies.

Three experiments were conducted with E-prime. In Experiment 1, the effect of soft and hard tactile experiences on gender classification in the Chinese culture was investigated through a behavioral experiment method. In the beginning of the experiment, subjects were asked for a full long-term contact with a specific ball (soft or hard). Afterward, the participants were asked to determine the gender of ambiguous face images with their right hands while squeezing a specific ball with their left hands. We found that the subjects who squeezed the soft ball were likely to judge the ambiguous faces as female, and the subjects who squeezed the hard ball were likely to judge the ambiguous faces as male. By assessing these automatic associations of gender roles with hard or soft tactile experience, we designed an Implicit Association Test in Experiment 2 to explore the implicit effect of the “soft woman and hard man” bias. Our results revealed significant implicit deviations in the concept of gender roles in the Chinese culture. A significant difference was observed between compatible tasks in which feminine role expressions were associated with “soft” while masculine role expressions were associated with “hard” and incompatible tasks in which feminine role expressions were associated with “hard” while masculine role expressions were associated with “soft.” In Experiment 3, we explored the influence of the conceptual processing of gender role expressions on soft and hard perceptions of objects through concept priming and perceptual judgment tasks. The participants were asked to memorize the male role expressions or female characterization expressions and evaluate the degree of hardness and softness from 1 (soft) to 10 (hard). The expressions were then recalled. The results showed that compared with the subjects in the group of masculine role expressions, those in the group of feminine role expressions judged a sofa as softer.

We conclude that gender classification and gender impression representation can be characterized by soft and hard metaphors. The concept of “soft woman and hard man” in the gender role is unconscious. Our conceptualization and categorization of gender roles depend on the metaphorical expansion of the basic concepts of “soft” and “hard.” In addition, the processing of the concepts of gender characterization among the study subjects activated the modal information of the proprioception (soft and hard) channel in the brain memory and caused the simulation of the physical state. It then affected the perception of the degree of softness and hardness of the sofa, thereby proving the existence of an embodied effect in cognitive judgment.

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