Why is schema theory the most important gendered issue facing young adults today? Does the definition of the word “gender” question whether one is male or female, or does it derive from something much deeper than that? Think back to childhood and try to recall some of the most popular toys. Most likely, females were given a baby doll, and males, an action figure of some sort. From early childhood all the way to late adulthood, Americans are taught the differences between a man and a woman by these small gestures. The theory and concepts surrounding gender vary by culture, but as Americans, most experience some of the same influences. Because of the beliefs and expectations from society, the idea of schema theory imprisons young minds by causing men and women to look at themselves in a stereotypical light, preventing them from moving beyond the beliefs established by others. Unlike biological and physical differences, schematic influences are constantly changing and developing with time.
In a collection of essays titled “Perspectives on Gender” two authors identified gender schema theory as “a theory which proposes that people have implicit cognitive structures that provide them with expectancies when processing information. Gender schema theory argues that people are socialized (e.g., through parents, teachers, peers, toys, and the popular media) into believing that gender differences are significant and worth maintaining” (Knight & Giuliano 332). In most American families, children are brought up believing simple stereotypes such as girls have long hair and bake delicious pies, and boys have less hair and work with tools. Subconsciously displaying or conveying these differences is the backbone of gender schema and what feeds this sociological and psychological theory of difference.
According to Wikipedia, Gender schema theory was formally introduced by Sandra Bem in 1981 as “a cognitive theory to explain how individuals become gendered in society, and how sex-linked characteristics are maintained and transmitted to other members of a culture.” (Wikipedia par. 1) Bem's theory was undoubtedly informed by the cognitive revolution of the 1970s and 1980s and came at a time when the psychology of gender was drastically picking up interest as more and more women were entering academic fields. (Wikipedia par. 6) According to this theory, children adjust their behavior to fit in with the gender norms and expectations of their culture.
“The emotional characteristics that each sex displays are believed to be genetically endowed” (Egendorf 17). According to the Opposing Viewpoints Series on “Male/Female Roles” people have accepted the idea that the differences between men and women have been biologically determined for centuries. Careful research has shown that male and femaleness are rooted in the brain and not in the environment (Egendorf 18). Consider the emotional differences between men and women and how they...