Gendered Memory Bias in a Gender Diverse Population

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Schaefer, Catherine
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
October 23, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Lynn Susan Liben, Thesis Advisor
  • Margaret Louise Signorella, Thesis Advisor
  • Dawn Paula Witherspoon, Committee Member
  • Lorah D Dorn, Committee Member
  • Gender diversity
  • Transgender
  • Gender Development
  • Memory
Constructive models of gender development posit that a child considers the relationship between their own gender and the gendered connotations of a stimulus before choosing whether to interact with the stimulus. If the item is gender concordant, the child will engage with it, and it will become part of the child’s “own-gender” schematic representation. If it is discordant, the item will be ignored or forgotten, and become part of a less detailed “other-gender” schema. This process has been described by two concurrently acting pathways: the Attitudinal Pathway and the Personal Pathway (Liben & Bigler, 2002). In the attitudinal pathway model, gendered beliefs guide engagement with a stimulus. Conversely, interests serve to shape gendered beliefs in the personal pathway. Research based on this model has only been conducted in cisgender samples, meaning that gender socialization and affective gender identity are culturally aligned. The current study investigates gender schematic processing in a gender diverse sample, with participants whose gender identities vary in alignment with their gender assignments at birth. Forty-nine youth between the ages of 9 and 14 (Mage= 11.41 years, SD= 1.79; 26.5% cisgender boys, 30.6% cisgender girls, 10.2% transgender boys, 14.3% transgender girls, 18.4% genderqueer individuals) were administered a memory task with gendered and neutral items. Activity preferences, stereotype endorsement, gender expression history, cisgender or transgender status, and affective gender identity were also measured. It was hypothesized that the masculine and feminine valences of these variables would predict recall for masculine and feminine items from the memory task, demonstrating the process of gender schematic thinking that results in a gendered memory bias. Data showed that age was the only significant predictor for items recalled. Ceiling effects existed in measurement of stereotype endorsement, and measurement of gender expression history proved to be problematic. A gender bias in memory was not found in any identity group. Findings are discussed in relation to constructive theories of gender development, and suggestions are made for improvement of gendered variable measurement in a gender diverse population.