Influence of gender constancy and social power on sex-linked modeling

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1984 Dec;47(6):1292-302. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.47.6.1292.


Competing predictions derived from cognitive-developmental theory and social learning theory concerning sex-linked modeling were tested. In cognitive-developmental theory, gender constancy is considered a necessary prerequisite for the emulation of same-sex models, whereas according to social learning theory, sex-role development is promoted through a vast system of social influences with modeling serving as a major conveyor of sex role information. In accord with social learning theory, even children at a lower level of gender conception emulated same-sex models in preference to opposite-sex ones. Level of gender constancy was associated with higher emulation of both male and female models rather than operating as a selective determinant of modeling. This finding corroborates modeling as a basic mechanism in the sex-typing process. In a second experiment we explored the limits of same-sex modeling by pitting social power against the force of collective modeling of different patterns of behavior by male and female models. Social power over activities and rewarding resources produced cross-sex modeling in boys, but not in girls. This unexpected pattern of cross-sex modeling is explained by the differential sex-typing pressures that exist for boys and girls and socialization experiences that heighten the attractiveness of social power for boys.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Identification, Psychological*
  • Imitative Behavior*
  • Male
  • Psychological Theory
  • Social Dominance*