Influence of Sex Stereotypes on Children's Exploration and Memory. A Competence Versus Performance Distinction

Marilyn R. Bradbard, Carol Lynn Martin, Richard C. Endsley, Charles F. Halverson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The first goal of this study was to investigate the extent to which sex stereotypes impose competence (e.g., not knowing about objects) versus performance limitations (e.g., not performing for lack of reward). The second goal was to investigate the effects of sex stereotypes on exploration. Fifty-six 4-to 9-year old children tactually explored novel objects labeled for their own sex more than similar objects labeled for the other sex and 1 week later also remembered more detailed information about own-sex than other-sex objects. Furthermore, regardless of labeling condition, children recalled the sex-typed label applied by the experimenter to each object. Also, as expected from Martin and Halverson's schematic processing model, an incentive to remember did not improve recall in any labeling condition. Finally, the sex-typed labeling effects on exploration occurred primarily among the older children, whereas the effects on recall appeared among the younger and older boys and the younger girls. The results suggest that sex stereotypes restrict children's behavior by limiting their competence rather than their performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-486
Number of pages6
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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