The extent to which people use exemplars and prototypes when asked to employ a gender stereotype scale to rate characteristics of targets varying in age, race, and gender is explored in this study. The sample consisted of 324 graduate and undergraduate students ranging in age from 19 to 68 with a mean of 29 years, 74% were women and 81% were white. The Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI) was used to rate an individual from 1 of the 12 target groups categorized by race, gender, and age. Subjects assigned a target group that was not categorized by race were asked to specify the race or ethnicity of the person(s) they had in mind when taking the BSRI. Results showed that respondents are more likely to call a personally known exemplar to mind than a generalized prototype when asked to describe a person of young, middle or old age on a widely used rating scale. Respondents are most likely to use prototypes in describing men and women in their late twenties. Results also showed that when the race of a target is unspecified, white respondents almost invariably assume that the target is white. A table showing the percentages for the identity and image that students had in mind when rating persons of various ages is provided. (SR)
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association (100th, Washington, DC, August 14-18, 1992).