What is beautiful is sex-typed: a developmental examination



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Stereotypes about attractiveness and gender seem to implicate each other in various ways. Previous research has found that adults rate highly attractive targets as being more sex-typed than less attractive targets. This phenomenon has been identified as the “beauty-is-sex-typed” stereotype and has been examined only in adults and with a limited number of sex-typed attributes. The studies reported here extend previous research and provide important developmental data by having adults (Experiment 1) and 7-9-year-old children (Experiment 2) rate more and less attractive target faces for the likelihood of having feminine, masculine, and gender-neutral attributes. Attributes used in ratings included items from three different gender stereotype domains (i.e., traits, activities, and occupations) in order to provide a more complete examination of the beauty-issex-typed stereotype than has been assessed previously. Results showed that both adults and children subscribe to the beauty-is-sex-typed stereotype, but for female targets only: All participants rated high attractive females significantly higher than low attractive females on having feminine traits, activities, and occupations. Additionally, children but not adults rated attractive females higher than unattractive females on gender-neutral attributes. In contrast, all participants rated males, regardless of attractiveness, as equally masculine and gender-neutral in attributes. Children’s results did not appear to depend on the cognitive skill of multiple classification even though expressing a beauty-is-sex-typed stereotype conceptually requires noticing both a target’s gender and attractiveness. Secondary results included that all participants showed stronger cross-sex-typed stereotypes for activities and occupations than traits. Taken together, these results have important implications for the development of both attractiveness stereotyping and gender stereotyping. Even in young children, attractiveness stereotypes consist of both sex-relevant (“beauty is good”) and sex-irrelevant (“beauty is sex-typed”) components, and these components include traits, activities, and occupations. Moreover, gender stereotypes of female targets, at least for adults and children in middle childhood, seem to depend on the attractiveness of the targets.