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What is the gender schema theory?

Schema-a schema is a mental representation of an aspect of the world. Stereotype is a word often used instead of schema. For example if I asked you to write down all the words you would associate with an athletic person the words you write are your schemas. Unlike a stereotype though a schema also involves expectations. 

The gender schema theory was created by Martin. and Halverton. They state that children learn schemas related to gender through the media, parents and other children. Once the child has the schema it organises information that is presented to them e.g. They learn the appropriate toys to play with based on gender. 

Martin and Halverton also talked about ingroups and outgroups in their theory. An ingroup refers to a group which someone identifies with, so for example if you're a girl you'll identify with the ingroup of girls. Whereas an outgroup is a group that for some reason isn't accepted e.g. If you re a girl the out group would be boys. Once the child has identified with their ingroup they then begin to negatively evaluate the outgroup and positively evaluate the ingroup. So this leads to the child wanting to be more like their ingroup and less like their outgroup, so a young girl would want to wear pink and play with dolls to be more like the girl ingroup and play less sport to not be like the outgroup of boys. 

An important aspect of this theory is resilience of gender beliefs which can explain why children's gender beliefs are so strong. Children ignore information that doesn't fit their gender schemas, for example of they saw a video of a man being a nurse they would ignore that information so their schema doesn't change.

Rebecca A. A Level Psychology tutor

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