The Gendered Nature of Competence: Specific and General Aspects of Self-Knowledge in Social Contexts1


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    Several contributions to the research project are acknowledged. First and foremost is the cooperation of staff and students of the participating schools. Wise advice and support for the research by Jacqueline Goodnow, George Cooney. and Rod Macdonald are greatly appreciated. Data management by Sue Higson and Dale Kreibig, and detailed comments on the manuscript by Ian Fisher. Alison O'Neill, and Katherine Coote. and the constructive criticisms from anonymous reviewers are also appreciated.

2 Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to L. J. Bornholt, School of Educational Psychology, Building A35, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.


A sense of academic competence combines at least 2 forms of gender stereotyping: an illusory glow about performance on specific tasks. and traditional gender stereotyping about general perceptions of natural talent. Flexible categorization in terms of generality and content suggests a multifaceted model of aspects of self-knowledge about Mathematics and English (ASK-ME). This paper demonstrates the flexibility of the ASK-ME model for adolescents (N= 1,360) in 2 social contexts (coed and single-gender schools). The forms of gender stereotyping combine so that where traditional gender stereotyping was reduced at single-gender schools, an illusory glow had more influence. One outcome was that boys in single-gender settings expressed enhanced perceptions of performance in mathematics and language. Results highlight the importance of generality and content in understanding the gendered nature of academic self-concepts in social contexts. Implications are for differential influences on the plans and choices adolescents make about work and study.