Children’s inferences about gender ambiguous people

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Andrea C. Yuly (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Janet Boseovski

Abstract: Little research has investigated children’s perceptions of gender ambiguous individuals who are not part of a binary gender category. Five- to 8-year-olds were tested to determine whether appearance or conceptual information (i.e., occupation information, trait information) was prioritized when grouping a gender ambiguous target with other people. Children heard two stories with verbalized or no verbalized gender information. The target shared conceptual qualities with a character of stereotypical gender appearance (conceptual match) and appearance qualities with a character of gender ambiguous appearance (appearance match). Participants were asked which character the target should be friends with and which character’s novel activity preference the target shared. Results indicated that the inclusion of verbalized gender information did not systematically change children’s response patterns. However, older children prioritized trait information over appearance information, while younger children valued trait and appearance information equally. For the occupation story, children did not overwhelmingly prioritize occupation information, indicating that they might not regard occupation information as much as trait information when making predictions about gender ambiguous people. Implications include a better understanding of children’s beliefs about individuals who exist outside of strict social categories, which can inform ways to combat negativity and promote acceptance of people who deviate from group-based expectations.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Gender, Gender ambiguity, Social cognition
Social perception
Perception in children
Gender-nonconforming people

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