In the mid- 1970s a consensus about psychological sex differences began to emerge in the writings of research psychologists. A central tenet of this consensus held that sex differences are usually either unproven or nonexistent, even for those attributes that are popularly believed to be more characteristic of one sex than the other. It was also claimed that those few sex differences that had been adequately documented in the psychological literature are quite small in magnitude and therefore relatively unimportant in natural settings.
While this assessment of sex differences was evolving, a research literature also grew up concerning popular beliefs about women and men. This research on gender stereotypes (see Ashmore, Del Boca, & Wohlers, 1986) forced psychologists to confront the fact that non-psychologists believe that women and men are different. Faced with evidence of widespread gender stereotyping, sex-difference investigators of the 1970s were often cast in the role of crusaders against the misguided societal stereotypes that portrayed women and men as differing in their skills, personalities, and social behaviors.
In the first half of the 1980s, the assertion that sex differences are minor and perhaps even better termed sex similarities has been reiterated by a growing number of psychologists (e.g., Belle, 1985; Deaux, 1984; Hyde, 1981; O'Leary & Hansen, 1985; Wallston & Grady, 1985), some of whom suggested that it is puzzling and surprising that gender stereotypes have persisted among the general public in the face of an apparent absence of research support for sex differences in the psychological literature. The major response to this seeming disparity between scientific evidence and popular beliefs has been an increased emphasis on biases and rigidities in