ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2024, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (6): 939-950.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2024.00939

• Regular Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Have gender stereotypes changed or not changed? Evidence from contents, methods, and consequences

WANG Zhen, GUAN Jian   

  1. Department of Social Psychology, School of Sociology, Nankai University, Tianjin 300071, China
  • Received:2023-09-21 Online:2024-06-15 Published:2024-04-07

Abstract: Stereotypes have been defined as beliefs about the characteristics, attributes, and behaviors of people classified into social categories. Stereotypes are traditionally perceived as resistant to change. However, they may be changed under contexts of the impacts of societal changes on human culture and psychology. Given that gender stereotypes are expected to be more unshakable than other stereotypes (e.g., race stereotypes), it implies that there is a potential for changing other stereotypes, provided that gender stereotypes can be changed. Therefore, this article reviewed changes in gender stereotypes from their contents, methods, and consequences.
According to the social role theory, gender stereotypes are built on social roles. Therefore, gender stereotypes are expected to change with the changes in the roles of men and women. Considerable studies have found that gender stereotypes have changed. Specifically, some studies have shown that women are perceived to increase their masculine characteristics (e.g., agency) over time, while men are not perceived to increase feminine characteristics (e.g., communion). Differently, others have indicated that both women and men are perceived to increase in counterstereotypical traits over time. However, in contrast to these findings depicting changes in gender stereotypes, several studies did not find significant changes, and they believed that gender stereotypes persist over time. One of the possible reasons for these conflicting findings is that different methods have been used in previous studies.
The research methods of gender stereotype changes can be divided into traditional methods and new techniques. The traditional methods usually involve the past-present-future rating paradigm, cross-sequential design, and cross-temporal meta-analysis. Word embedding, as a new technique, has become increasingly important in recent years. All research methods have their relative advantages and disadvantages.
The consequences of gender stereotype changes can be categorized into positive and negative outcomes. In terms of positive outcomes, gender stereotype changes increase the possibility of men being involved in more household labor, which may result in better relationship quality for the couple. Besides, the new male role in parental care for children generates many benefits, such as better academic performance, higher levels of self-esteem, and fewer behavioral problems in children. Additionally, gender stereotype changes can promote women’s economic independence and reduce the gender gap. However, there are also negative outcomes with the changes in gender stereotypes. Specifically, these changes intensify low fertility rates and birth rates. Notably, even if gender stereotypes towards targets become more and more positive over time, targets may not treat the stereotypes as compliments. On the contrary, they may perceive the stereotypes as a form of gender prejudice, eventually impairing interpersonal and intergroup relationships.
Further research on gender stereotype changes can be discussed from the following aspects: first, it is important for researchers to conduct studies with diverse research methods in the future. Second, future research should pay attention to not treating gender stereotypes as a single construct. Instead, they should be investigated through the perspective of classification (e.g., descriptive and prescriptive gender stereotypes). Third, given that stereotypical gender characteristics seem to interact with each other to build gender stereotypes, future research should examine gender stereotype changes by treating gender stereotypes as a complex system from a network approach. Last, we should not ignore cultural impacts on gender stereotype changes. Given that China has undergone more unprecedented societal transformations than Western countries over the past decades, the social roles in China have undergone tremendous changes. Therefore, it is indispensable to investigate gender stereotype changes in China. Furthermore, not only the gender stereotype changes, future studies need to explore changes in stereotypes about other categories, such as race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, classes, and religion.

Key words: societal changes, gender stereotype changes, social role theory, agency, communion

CLC Number: