Experiments with People: Revelations from Social Psychology

By Robert P. Abelson; Kurt P. Frey et al. | Go to book overview

26
Ackmians Are From
Mars, Orinthians Are
Prom Venus: Gender
Stereotypes as Role
Rationalizations

“Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then. ”

—Katharine Hepburn (1907–2003), U. S. actress


BACKGROUND

Imagine taking part in an experiment on how children play. You are introduced to an 18-month-old infant—'Joey”—and asked to play with him for a few minutes. What would you do? Give him a noisy rattle or plastic hammer to play with? Bounce him on your knee, or playfully toss him a foot or two into the air? But what if you were introduced to ‘Janie’ instead? Would you give her a female doll and accessories to play with? Handle her more gently, and talk to her more softly? Experimental research confirms that this is what people tend to do (Smith & Lloyd, 1978). Consider also the following experiment. Participants watched a videotape of a 9-month-old baby. Some were told that it was a boy, others that it was a girl. When asked why the baby burst into tears over a jack-in-the-box, the participants in the first group often said that it was because he was angry, while participants in the second group said that it was because she was afraid (Condry & Condry, 1976). What about your reactions to boys versus girls? Does something different come to mind when you hear “It's a boy!” versus “It's a

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