Androgyny and measuring androgyny including the Bem Sex Role Inventory

Androgyny

Androgyny, Description, AO1:

What is it?

Displaying a balance of similarly high levels of masculine and feminine characteristics in one’s personality.

  • Within Psychology, androgyny refers to a personality type that is characterised by a balance of masculine and feminine traits, attitudes or behaviours.
  • E.g. this could be a man or woman who is competitive and aggressive at work, but a caring and sensitive parent (e.g. David Beckham).

 

Measuring androgyny – Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI)

In the early 1970’s the view that individuals were either exclusively masculine or feminine was being challenged. Dr Sandra Bem developed the androgynous hypothesis, which saw androgyny as a positive and desirable condition, as part of this hypothesis she developed the BSRI.

BSRI Self-report method consisting of 60 items rated on a 7-point scale,

  • 20 items were stereotypically masculine; acts as a leader, aggressive, dominant
  • 20 were stereotypically feminine; affectionate, gentle, warm
  • 20 were gender-neutral filler items; adaptable, happy, helpful. Respondents rated themselves on each characteristic (1 = ‘never true of me’, 7 = ‘always true of me’). Scores were then calculated, see results below:

 

  • High masculine & low feminine = Masculine
  • High feminine & low masculine = Feminine
  • High masculine & high feminine = Androgynous
  • Low feminine & low masculine = Undifferentiated

 

Measuring Androgyny – Evaluation, AO3:

Strengths:

(1) Point: The BSRI has good test-retest reliability. Evidence: For example, it produces consistent results when used on different occasions with the same participants Elaboration: This is a strength because it demonstrates that the BSRI is an effective and reliable way of assessing levels of androgyny, masculinity and femininity.

 

Weaknesses:

(1) Point: It is suggested that the BSRI feeds a very reductionist view of gender identity. Evidence: For example, Golombok & Fivush have claimed that gender identity is a much more global concept than suggested by the BSRI, and further suggest that in order to understand gender identity more fully, broader issues, such as the person’s interests and perception of abilities should be considered. Elaboration: This is a weakness because it suggests that the BSRI does not provide an accurate depiction of an individual’s level of androgyny, which brings into the questions the validity of using this type of measuring system to learn more about an individual’s gender identity.

 

(2) Point: A weakness of the BSRI is that it is a self-report method. Example: For example, participants were expected to rate themselves on certain characteristics (e.g. whether or not they were happy, adaptable etc…). Participants could give incorrect answers to these questions – e.g. they may over or under estimate these characteristics because they see them as socially desirable and may feel that they will be judged by researchers for not responding in a certain way. Elaboration: This is a weakness because, if participants are giving socially desirable/incorrect answers, this questionnaire can be criticised for not measuring what it intend to which means that study has low validity.

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