Optimally distinct gendered others: Varying domains of acceptable deviations from uniform stereotypicality

Open Access
Author:
Thomas, Margaret A.
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
August 12, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Theresa K Vescio, Dissertation Advisor
  • Theresa K Vescio, Committee Chair
  • Reginald Adams Jr., Committee Chair
  • Melvin Michael Mark, Committee Member
  • Susan Mc Hale, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • gender
  • person perception
  • optimal distinctiveness
  • stereotypicality
Abstract:
This work examined the possibility that people prefer interactions with others who are optimally distinct, or good group members with a non-stereotypic characteristic, over those who are uniformly stereotypic and counter-stereotypic. Studies 1-3 (in Chapter 2) indicated that optimally distinct men, but stereotypic women were preferred, while Study 4 showed the opposite pattern. Studies 5 and 6 (in Chapter 3) were designed to investigate whether preferred patterns of optimal distinctiveness in men and women take different forms, but instead found general stereotypicality effects. Finally, Study 7 (Chapter 4) reconciled inconsistencies across the Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 studies, again finding support for the prediction that optimally distinct others are preferred over those who are uniformly stereotypic and counter-stereotypic. The findings are considered in terms of two different models – one that is based on a consideration of the masculinity versus femininity of targets’ appearance and behaviors and a second that is based on a consideration of the agency and communalism of targets’ behavior. Implications of the theory and research are discussed, as are future research directions.