Fitting into the stereotype: How gender-stereotyped perceptions of prototypic peers relate to liking for school subjects

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Author: Ursula Kessels


The goal of the study was twofold: (1) to examine the relationship between the gender-stereotyped perceptions of prototypic peers excelling in different school subjects and the personal liking for these subjects; (2) to examine whether the popularity of adolescents depends on their gender-role congruent achievement at school. Participants were n=198 8th and 9th graders. Prototypical male and female peers preferring physics were conceived of as possessing more masculine and fewer feminine traits compared to prototypes favouring music. The distance between self-image and description of prototype varied according to sex and the favourite school subject the prototypic peer was associated with. Students preferred physics/music to the extent that they conceived of themselves as similar to the physics/music prototype. Analysis of variance on presumed popularity of male and female peers excelling in physical science or music showed that boys appear to sanction gender role nonconformity (disliking girls with the favourite subject physics and boys with the favourite subject music), while girls are perceived as liking peers who favour physics less than peers who favour music, regardless of their sex. Female participants excelling in physical science did report feeling unpopular with boys, whereas male participants excelling in music did not.

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