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Investigating Preschoolers’ Categorical Thinking About Gender Through Imitation, Attention, and the Use of Self-Categories

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concerning this article should be addressed to Diana M. Grace, Department of Psychology, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia. Electronic mail may be sent to diana.grace@anu.edu.au.

Abstract

Whereas traditional theories of gender development have focused on individualistic paths, recent analyses have argued for a more social categorical approach to children’s understanding of gender. Using a modeling paradigm based on K. Bussey and A. Bandura (1984), 3 experiments (N = 62, N = 32, and N = 64) examined preschoolers’ (M age = 52.9 months) imitation of, and memory for, behaviors of same-sex and opposite-sex children and adults. In all experiments, children’s imitation of models varied according to the emphasis given to the particular category of models, despite equal attention being paid to both categories. It is suggested that the categorical nature of gender, or age, informs children’s choice of imitative behaviors.

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