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EFFECTS OF GENDER ROLE ON THE JUDGMENT OF MASCULINE SIGNS

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Masculinity is a multi-dimensional, fairly pliable construct that some scholars approach from a biological perspective, others approach from a social constructionist perspective, and others approach from a unifying perspective. Part of the environment that informs the meaning of masculinity to a given culture is the mass media. This study takes the constructivist theoretical perspective, which attempts to explain the activation of schemata. The schematic process for this study concerns how people perceive, process, and judge masculine signs. This study seeks to explain gender role orientation’s influences on the development of schemata for masculinity as evidenced by differences in assessments of differing masculine images. Participants (N = 747) rated their own sex role orientation and then assessed the sex role orientation and evaluated the masculine imagery. The results of this experiment reveal that gender role has a limited effect on schematic development for masculinity. Though gender role affects how we perceive our world, the extent to which it influences that perception is smaller than expected. Directions for future research are also offered.
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EFFECTS OF GENDER ROLE
ON THE JUDGMENT OF MASCULINE SIGNS







A Dissertation







Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of
Louisiana State University and
Agricultural and Mechanical College
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy

in
The Department of Communication Studies













By
Joseph C Mitchell
B.S., Illinois State University, 1993
M.A., Indiana State University, 1997
May 2005












































Copyright 2005
Joseph Charles Mitchell
All rights reserved.

ii



To my mother, who is with me even now.

iii



Acknowledgments
Dad, step-mom, and family thank you all for providing such desperately needed
support!
Joey and Jessie: you are the most wonderful, most bright, most perfectly perfect
people I have ever met. I am so glad you are in my life.
Dr. Renee Edwards: without your expert guidance and never ending support this
dissertation would not have been possible. For watching my back when the “bullets”
were flying and for being a calming presence when things got seemingly out of
control…thank you!
Dr. Loretta Pecchioni: your help was always available and was greatly
appreciated when called upon. Your invitation to join the Communication Studies
department changed my life. My “life-span” will never be the same. Thank you!
Dr. Trish Suchy: your expertise and enthusiasm inspired me more than you know!
Your creative input energized me.
Dr. Denis Wu: thank you for your expert input on this dissertation. Your help and
encouragement made this experience a lot easier than it could have been.
Dr. Rick Blackwood: thank you for taking the time to serve as my Dean’s
Representative. For the thankless job, thank you!
Dr. Bob Lafayette (our pinch hitter): Thanks for stepping in at the last minute and
for giving such spirited input into the final product of this study.
To all of my good friends near and far, the tangled web we weave caught me
when I fell! Thank God for good friends!


iv



Table of Contents
Acknowledgements………………………………………………………………………iv
Abstract…………………………………………………………………………………...vi
Chapter 1: Introduction…….……………………………………………………………...1
Chapter 2: Literature Review……………………………………………………………...4
Masculinity:
Definitions and Explorations………………………………………..4

Masculinity and Gender in Communication………………………………………8

Perceptions and Judgments of Masculinity……………………………………....14

Schema and Schema Activation………………………………………………….20

Masculinity in the Mass Media…………………………………………………..25
Conclusion……………………………………………………………………….27
Chapter 3: Rationale, Hypotheses, and Research Questions…………………………….29
Chapter 4: Methods and Procedures……………………………………………………..34
Participants………………………………………………………………………34
Masculinity
Scales……………………………………………………………….36

Perceived Masculinity Questionnaire……………………………………………39

Bem Sex Role Inventory…………………………………………………………40
Independent
Variables…………………………………………………………...42
Gender Orientation………………………………………………………42
Expectation for the Masculine Sign……………………………………...43
The Stimulus……………………………………………………………..44
Dependent Variables……………………………………………………………..44
Perception of Masculinity………………………………………………..44
Attitude towards Masculine Sign………………………………………...45
Procedure………………………………………………………………………...46
Chapter 5: Results………………………………………………………………………..48
Chapter 6: Discussion……………………………………………………………………60
Chapter 7: Conclusion…………………………………………………………………....73
References………………………………………………………………………………..74
Appendix 1: Scale for Demographic Information and Self-Report Modified BSRI…….79
Appendix 2: Scale for Other-Report Modified BSRI……………………………………83
Appendix 3: Scale for Judgments of Masculine Sign……………………………………85
Vita……………………………………………………………………………………….86

v



Abstract
Masculinity is a multi-dimensional, fairly pliable construct that some scholars
approach from a biological perspective, others approach from a social constructionist
perspective, and others approach from a unifying perspective. Part of the environment
that informs the meaning of masculinity to a given culture is the mass media. This study
takes the constructivist theoretical perspective, which attempts to explain the activation of
schemata. The schematic process for this study concerns how people perceive, process,
and judge masculine signs. This study seeks to explain gender role orientation’s
influences on the development of schemata for masculinity as evidenced by differences in
assessments of differing masculine images. Participants (N = 747) rated their own sex
role orientation and then assessed the sex role orientation and evaluated the masculine
imagery. The results of this experiment reveal that gender role has a limited effect on
schematic development for masculinity. Though gender role affects how we perceive our
world, the extent to which it influences that perception is smaller than expected.
Directions for future research are also offered.

vi



Chapter 1: Introduction
Masculinity is a multi-dimensional, fairly pliable construct that scholars study in a
wide variety of fields and contexts. Some researchers approach the study of masculinity
from a biological perspective whereas others claim masculinity to be a social construction
taught and reinforced by significant others and external sources available in a given
culture. Still other researchers approach gender and masculinity from a unifying
perspective, that there are biological and cultural sources that constantly inform people
about the nature and nurture of gendered behavior (Fagot & Leinbach, 1994).
The following study seeks to explain to what extent gender role orientation
influences people’s perceptions of masculine imagery. As evidenced through cognitive
organizational processes (schemata), people are exposed to and are asked to assess
traditional and nontraditional signs of masculinity. Through the constructivist theoretical
perspective that attempts to explain the activation of masculine schemata, people perceive
and process signs of masculinity and compare them to what they understand to be true
about masculinity and the culture of gender that supports or challenges it. This study is
concerned with the idea that gender role is a filter for perception. Instead of there being
one general definition of masculinity, there may be several definitions. These definitions
may differ in that people’s perceptions of signs of masculinity are positive or negative
and more or less masculine.
One source of influence on people’s development of masculine schemata is the
mass media. The mass media reinforce and expand upon what people learn and know
about masculinity through its many channels. Advertising is a common area of influence
in United States’ culture since its presence is so pervasive in the mass media; people

1



encounter advertising almost every day. Because of advertising’s role in reinforcing, or
even challenging gender role information, it is appropriate to study schematic perceptions
of masculinity through advertisements.
Throughout this study, there are several terms that are used often enough that it is
important to define these terms here. A pair of such terms is traditional masculinity and
nontraditional masculinity. Traditional masculinity refers to a masculinity that adheres to
generally accepted notions of what masculine behavior should be. For example,
traditionally masculine men should be strong, athletic, confident, etc. Nontraditional
masculinity is a masculinity that in some way diverts from traditional masculinity. For
example, nontraditionally masculine men might be nurturing, perhaps passive, and
expressive. It is difficult to nail down definitions such as these as they are pliable
concepts. Meanings reside in the domain of the receiver of messages, so what makes a
man traditionally masculine or nontraditionally masculine must be left up to the
perceptions of the receiver.
Another concept frequently discussed is gender role orientation. Sometimes
interchangeably referred to as sex role orientation, gender role orientation describes
behaviors exhibited by people that can be categorized into masculine, feminine, and
androgynous regions. Bem (1974) conceptualized masculine gender role orientation to be
a man or a woman who tends to behave practically, assertively, or even aggressively.
Feminine gender role orientation is defined as a man or a woman who tends to behave
with affection, compassion, and gentleness. A third category describes androgynous
gender role orientation as a man or a woman who can be practical, assertive, and
aggressive, while simultaneously behaving affectionately, compassionately, and gently.

2



Bem also conceptualizes androgynous gender role orientation as a successful, more
flexible way of performing gender, whereas masculine and feminine gender role
orientations tend to be limiting.
Other commonly used terms are judgment and assessment of androgyny. For the
purposes of this study, judgment refers to attitudes one holds in reaction to masculine
imagery. These attitudes are positive or negative and result from the schematic process
when being exposed to masculine imagery. Assessment of androgyny refers to people’s
discernment of masculine imagery as being more masculine or more feminine in relation
to androgyny, with androgyny being a sort of middle ground between masculine and
feminine.
The following study presents a discussion of literature, rationales for hypotheses
and research questions, a description of methods and procedures, an explanation of the
statistical results of the methods and procedures, and a discussion of the results and their
implications about the effects of gender role orientation on the judgment and assessment
of androgyny of masculine signs and imagery.


3



Chapter Two: Literature Review
People live their lives within gendered cultures. The importance of gender and the
roles applied to the performance of gender in a given culture influence how messages are
perceived and, therefore, how one perceives those messages. The following chapter
includes a discussion of definitions concerning masculinity, masculinity and gender,
perceptions and judgments of masculinity, a discussion of schema theory, and
masculinity as presented in the mass media.
Masculinity: Definitions and Explorations
Chesebro and Fuse (2001) defined masculinity within a communication
framework stating that it is “the study of the discourses and the effects of the discourses
generated by men, unifying men, and revealing the identity and characteristics men
ascribe to themselves, others, and their environment” (p. 203). Women were not included
in this definition and the researchers did not explain why. Later in their article, they
defined masculinity again as “a social and symbolic concept, decisively shaped and
affected by specific historical and cultural factors, that ultimately provides a framework
and perspective by which men perceive and understand themselves, others and their
environment” (p. 206). This additional definition of masculinity leaves room for women
as part of the historical and cultural factors that help masculinity to evolve as it does over
time. Looking at several arguments concerning the locus of the realm of masculinity,
Chesebro and Fuse concluded that masculinity is a communication issue as a product of
human interaction and not a product of “divinely inspired, innate, or biological” sources
(p. 209). While these factors may provide some information about the nature of

4

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