My research focuses on gender and gender-related individual differences -- in common-sense terms, "masculinity" and "femininity." My approach to measuring masculinity and femininity is termed gender diagnosticity, and it is based on the assumption that behaviors that show gender differences in a given population can serve as measures of masculinity and femininity within the sexes. For example, occupational preference ratings that show gender differences in a given population can be used to assess masculinity and femininity within the sexes. (For details, see the following articles listed in my Vita: Lippa, 1991, 1995, 1998; Lippa & Connelly, 1990; see also the 2nd edition of my book, Gender, Nature, and Nurture, available spring 2005.)
Other measures of masculinity and femininity have included bipolar masculinity-femininity (M-F) scales and scales of masculine instrumentality (i.e., dominance, agency) and feminine expressiveness (i.e., nurturance, communion). Bipolar M-F scales were used extensively in research on M-F conducted from the 1930s to 1970s. Two-dimensional measures of masculinity and femininity (scales that assess instrumental and expressive traits) were dominant from the 1970s to 1990s, and are still used by some researchers today.
In addition to comparing competing conceptions of masculinity and femininity, my research also investigates the relation between measures of masculinity and femininity and various criteria, including social behaviors, personality traits, cognitive abilities, and sexual traits and attitudes. For example, my research has addressed the following questions:
|Are masculinity and femininity related to cognitive abilities (e.g., general intelligence, visual-spatial ability, verbal fluency, interpersonal perceptiveness)?|
|Are masculinity and femininity related to psychological adjustment, and are different kinds of masculinity and femininity associated with different kinds of adjustment and maladjustment?|
|Are masculinity and femininity related to nonverbal behaviors? For example, can people accurately judge how masculine or feminine an individual is based on his or her appearance and demeanor?|
|How do lay people conceptualize and judge M-F in themselves and others?|
|Are masculinity and femininity related to sexual orientation and to other aspects of sexual behavior?|
|Are masculinity and femininity related to transsexualism, and which measures of masculinity and femininity best distinguish transsexual from non-transsexual individuals?|
|Are masculinity and femininity related to prejudice, and if so, to what kinds of prejudice?|
|Do individual differences in masculinity and femininity have both genetic and environmental components?|
| Are masculinity and femininity related to
physical health and mortality?
Here are some empirical answers to these research questions:
|Masculinity and femininity are related to cognitive abilities -- for example, boys who are masculine and girls who are feminine tend to score somewhat lower on scholastic ability tests (see the 1998 chapter listed in my Vita).|
|Masculinity and femininity are related to psychological adjustment, but these associations depend on how you measure masculinity and femininity and on what you mean by "adjustment" (see my 1995 article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology).|
|Masculinity and femininity, particularly as measured by gender diagnosticity measures, can be accurately judged from an individual's appearance and nonverbal cues (1998 Journal of Research in Personality article). Indeed, masculinity-femininity proves to be a trait that is as readily judged as extraversion, which is thought to be the most readily and accurately judged of all personality traits.|
|Masculinity and femininity (again as measured by gender diagnosticity measures) are related to sexual orientation. Gay men are interested in more feminine occupations and hobbies than heterosexual men are, and lesbian women are interested in more masculine occupations and hobbies than heterosexual women are (Lippa, 2000, Journal of Personality; Lippa, 2002, Archives of Sexual Behavior). A new chapter I have written on sexual orientation and personality will appear in the 2005 Annual Review of Sex Research.|
|Gender-related interests distinguish transsexual and non-transsexual individuals much more strongly than instrumentality and expressiveness do (see my 2001 article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior).|
|Masculinity in men is related to specific kinds of prejudice, such as prejudice toward gays and lesbians and negative attitudes toward women and women's rights (see Lippa, 1995). There is also a relation between men's masculinity and their social dominance orientation -- the degree to which they believe that the social world is hierarchical, with "superior" and "inferior" groups (see Lippa & Arad, 1999).|
|Within each sex, gender-related interests show greater heritability than masculine instrumentality and feminine expressiveness do (see Lippa and Hershberger's 1999 article in the Journal of Personality, which describes a behavior genetic analysis of some classic twin data). Consistent with behavior genetic findings for other personality traits, the environmental effects for gender-related interests, masculine instrumentality, and feminine expressiveness tend to be unique to individuals and not shared within families. This means that environmental effects have the effect of making same-sex siblings dissimilar on masculinity and femininity.|
|There is a link between masculinity and mortality (Lippa, Martin, & Friedman, 2000). An analysis of data from Lewis Terman classic Stanford University longitudinal study of gifted individuals showed that men and women who are more masculine (again, as measured by gender diagnosticity measures) tend to be more likely to die at any given age than less masculine individuals. In short, masculinity is hazardous to your health!|
|There is a strong relationship between gender diagnosticity measures (interest-based measures of M-F) and the People-Things dimension of vocational interests (Lippa, 1998, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology). Women and feminine individuals tend to be more interested in people-oriented occupations (examples are "teacher," "social worker," "manager"), whereas men and masculine individuals tend to be more interested in thing-oriented occupations ("engineer," "farmer," "mechanic"). Gender differences in people-orientation versus thing-orientation are quite large.|
|When lay people rate how masculine or feminine they are, their self-ratings are more influenced by their gender-related interests than by their level of instrumental traits (e.g., how dominant they are) or their level of expressive traits (how warm and nurturant they are). Gender-related interests are also highly salient when lay people judge their friends' M-F. That is, lay people judge their friends' M-F more based on their friends' gender-related interests than on their friends' levels of instrumental or expressiveness traits. In addition, lay people attend more to instrumental traits when judging men's M-F, and they attend more to expressive traits when judging women's M-F.|
To summarize, much of my recent research shows that masculinity and femininity -- particularly as assessed by gender-related interests -- are related to a host of socially significant behaviors and outcomes -- including cognitive abilities, psychological adjustment and maladjustment, prejudice, health and mortality, sexual orientation, and transsexual versus non-transsexual status. The individual difference dimension assessed by gender-related interests proves to be largely independent of the "Big Five" personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience), which are thought by many psychologists to provide a fairly comprehensive taxonomy of personality traits. All of my research suggests that gender-related interests, as assessed by gender diagnosticity measures, constitute an important and consequential sixth factor of human personality.
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