Does gender knowledge influence the way children behave and think? Some theorists believe it does; others question the validity of the notion. The goals of this paper are (a) to review the arguments and the evidence about whether gender knowledge provides a "cognitive underpinning" for action and thought, and (b) to propose new directions for studying gender knowledge that may increase its predictive value. In the first section of the paper, the criticisms of the cognitive underpinning argument are evaluated as they apply in two different gender knowledge domains-knowledge of gender as a category (e.g., constancy) and knowledge of stereotypic gender attributes (e.g., girls play with dolls). In the second section of the paper, several proposals are made to increase our understanding of the role of gender knowledge. The first proposal is that researchers need to reconsider how gender cognitions change with age. As a step in that direction, a new model of gender stereotypes is presented. The second proposal is that researchers need to consider other types of gender knowledge, particularly the kinds of in-depth knowledge that children acquire about how behaviors are enacted. Until we consider additional avenues for investigating gender knowledge, it is premature to conclude that it lacks predictive value.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health