The Science of Gender Differences

The 27-28th June was Amanda at the Future Sex conference in Surrey where she presented the results from her master thesis.

The Science of Gender Differences: Gender Essentialism as System Justification

Gender lay theory is a lay person theory which is used as a framework for interpreting information related to gender categorization. The present study investigated how individuals’ gender lay theory is affected by exposure to scientifically framed explanations for gender differences between women and men. It also investigated if gender essentialism functions as a system justifying mechanism by decreasing discrimination attribution, a situational rather than dispositional attribution, in response to a discriminatory situation. The 413 Swedish speaking participants were recruited from web forums and exposed to either a biologically focused (N = 133), or a social-constructivist focused (N = 125) scientifically framed text explaining gender differences, or not exposed to any text (N = 155). Compared to the control group, only exposure to social-constructivist gender discourse impacted gender lay theory by increasing endorsement of a gender as a socially constructed category. The group exposed to the biological text did not differ from the control group, indicating that an essentialist view of gender is the population norm. Discrimination attribution was indirectly affected by exposure to social-constructivist explanations for gender differences through gender lay theory, by increasing endorsement of a social gender lay theory which predicted a higher degree of discrimination attribution. These results point to a connection between exposure to scientific gender discourse, gender essentialism, and a situational attribution in response to a discriminatory situation. This study expands previous research in this field by showing that this connection also applies to an individual rather than general situation of gender discrimination.