The role of cognition in understanding gender effects.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Cognitive approaches, such as schematic processing theory, have been heuristic in a number of ways for bettering our understanding of how and why gender effects are so apparent in childhood. First, they provide a new and different perspective. Rather than concentrating on discovering all the instances of gendered information in our worlds and then assuming that this overwhelming amount of information accounts for children's behavior and thinking, cognitive theorists studying gender have reversed the emphasis. That is, we assume that thinking processes influence the world of information that is available to children. Furthermore, the nature of that world of information is then seen to influence behavioral choices. Second, cognitive approaches have been heuristic in providing some understanding of the mismatches that occur between available information and children's gender cognitions. More broadly stated, such approaches have been useful for discovering the reasons that gender cognitions are inaccurate--why some information is misperceived, misremembered, and selectively learned. Third, cognitive approaches have been useful for elaborating the development of children's gender knowledge. Finally, cognitive approaches have been useful for illustrating how cognition may influence behavior. If we go beyond gender for a moment, we see that cognitive approaches can also be useful for our understanding of the broader realm of all types of stereotypes. For instance, they are helpful in understanding the early origins of stereotypes. Why do children and adults develop stereotypes? Given the overwhelming amount of information we must deal with every day, how do we ever notice real but usually minor co-occurrences of group membership and attributes? Furthermore, why do stereotypes contain information that is not grounded in reality? To begin to answer these questions, we need to move cognitive approaches to a higher order of generality, that is, away from the specifics of gender and on to the broader case of concept formation about social groups. When cognitive notions are used in this way, children and adults appear to form higher order schemas concerning the nature of social groups. One such schema is the "if they differ in one way, they differ in other ways" schema. Another such schema represents the flip side: "If they are in the same group, they are the same in many other ways." Exposure to information about groups surely must lead to the formation of these higher order schemas. Once formed, they surely must influence how new information about specific groups is acquired by increasing perceivers' vigilance in noticing and creating supportive information.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-149
Number of pages37
JournalAdvances in Child Development and Behavior
Volume23
StatePublished - 1991

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Cognition
Concept Formation
Child Behavior
Child Development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

Cite this

The role of cognition in understanding gender effects. / Martin, Carol.

In: Advances in Child Development and Behavior, Vol. 23, 1991, p. 113-149.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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