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What is gender schema theory?

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Gender schema theory explains how members of a society become gendered and how sex-linked characteristics are maintained and transmitted to other members of a culture. Information associated with gender is mostly transmuted through society by networks of information that allow for some information to be more easily assimilated than others, but the theory argues that there are differences in the degree to which people hold these networks and the differences are manifested via the degree to which individuals are sex-typed.

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The theory argues that core gender identity is dependent on the sex typing that an individual undergoes. Typing is generally influenced by everyday activities throughout a person's life, such as school and various forms of media. The earliest evidence of gender schema came from memory and cognitive tests, in which sex-typed individuals were able to more easily remember traits associated with their sex.

Despite the theory's early evidence after its formal introduction in 1981, gender schema theory has not had a lasting impact. While the theory does provide a base for understanding how gender stereotypes are maintained in society, modern gender psychology relies more heavily on the broader sociological theories that came after the cognitive revolution of the 1970s and 1980s.

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