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Abstract

Does sex typing influence one's direct perception of gender from physical body cues? To answer this question, a study was conducted in which 47 female and 39 male subjects, after filling out the Bem Sex Role Inventory, viewed 24 body outlines varying in waist and shoulder width. Subjects were asked to indicate whether each body was female or male, or whether they were uncertain about its gender. Subjects also selected what they judged to be the most attractive and most typical female and male bodies from among the 24 body outlines. Finally, the actual shoulder, waist, and hip widths of 66 subjects were measured as a normative comparison to subjects' judgments of “typical” and “attractive” body proportions. Analyses indicated that sex-typed subjects used the “uncertain” rating less than did non-sex-typed subjects, and that males used that rating less than females did. Thus, sex-typed subjects and males showed a stronger tendency to classify stimuli by gender. Sex-typed subjects also tended to nominate more physically divergent male and female bodies as attractive than did non-sex-typed subjects; however, there were no effects of assessed masculinity or femininity on nominations of typical male and female bodies. In addition, the data provide evidence that subjects judged there to be greater physical differences between the sexes than actually exist. The results are discussed in terms of recent research on gender schemas and prototypes in person perception.