Gender stereotypes stem from the distribution of women and men into social roles

Alice H. Eagly*, Valerie J. Steffen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1068 Scopus citations


According to stereotypic beliefs about the sexes, women are more communal (selfless and concerned with others) and less agentic (self-assertive and motivated to master) than men. These beliefs were hypothesized to stem from perceivers' observations of women and men in differing social roles: (a) Women are more likely than men to hold positions of lower status and authority, and (b) women are more likely than men to be homemakers and are less likely to be employed in the paid work force. In 5 experiments, 3,839 women and 850 men, most of whom were university students, each read a description of 1 man or woman and then rated that stimulus person on certain attributes. Exps I and II failed to support the hypothesis that observed sex differences in status underlie belief in female communal qualities and male agentic qualities. Exp III supported the hypothesis that observed sex differences in distribution into homemaker and employee occupational roles account for these beliefs. In this experiment, Ss perceived the average woman and man stereotypically. Female and male homemakers were perceived as high in communion and low in agency. Female and male employees were perceived as low in communion and high in agency, although female employees were perceived as even more agentic than their male counterparts. Exps IV and V examined perceptions that might account for the belief that employed women are especially agentic; freedom of choice about being employed accounted for it reasonably well. (58 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-754
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1984


  • gender stereotypes, college students
  • social roles &

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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