How do gender stereotypes shape prototypes across development? In the current pre-registered study with children ages 3- to 10-years-old and adults (N = 257), participants made judgements about which members of gender categories (boys and girls) and animal categories (for comparison) were the most representative and informative about their kinds, using simplified scales of five category members varying on a stereotypical feature (e.g., girls wearing more or less pink). Young children chose boys and girls with extreme stereotypical features (e.g., the girl in head-to-toe pink) as both representative and informative of their categories and this tendency declined with age, similar to developmental patterns in prototypes of animal categories. Controlling for age, children whose parents reported more conservative social-political views also held more extreme gender (but not animal) prototypes. Thus, stereotypes play a central role in children's gender prototypes, especially young children and those living in socially-conservative households. Research Highlights: Stereotypes play a central role in children's gender prototypes, especially young children and those in socially-conservative households. Children ages 3–10 and adults chose which girls, boys, and animals were most representative and informative. Younger children chose category members with more extreme stereotypical features (e.g., the girl in head-to-toe pink) than older children and adults. Children with more conservative parents also held more extreme gender prototypes.
- conceptual development
- social cognition
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience