Developmental Science

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Volume 13 Issue 2 (March 2010), Pages 265-406

The development of spontaneous gender stereotyping in childhood: relations to stereotype knowledge and stereotype flexibility (pages 298-306)


The development of spontaneous gender stereotyping in children was investigated using the newly developed Action Interference Paradigm (AIP). This task consists of assigning gender‐stereotypical toys as quickly as possible to boys and girls in either a stereotype‐congruent or a stereotype‐incongruent manner. A pilot study with 38 children (mean age 5.1 years) provided evidence for spontaneous gender stereotyping in the AIP, which was reflected in higher latencies for stereotype‐incongruent compared with stereotype‐congruent toy assignments. The main study, with 66 children (aged 5, 8 and 11 years), compared the development of spontaneous stereotyping with established measures of stereotype flexibility and stereotype knowledge. Stereotype flexibility showed a strong increase from age 5 to 11. In contrast, stereotype knowledge and spontaneous stereotyping remained stable at high levels. The results provide evidence for a dissociation between stereotype flexibility and spontaneous stereotyping, suggesting that spontaneous stereotyping may be more closely related to stereotype knowledge than to stereotype flexibility.

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