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Bem Sex Role Inventory

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Bem Sex Role Inventory

Gender is a construct that has changed and come under much scrutiny in the most recent years. It differs from sex in the sense that, gender is determined primarily by ones own culture and the societal rules laid down upon them. A family raising a child often dictate what the child plays with, what it watches, and primarily, what type of gender-specific content they familiarise themselves with.

That's not to say that gender doesn't have some innate qualities to it. Still, we need to explore gender from a psychological perspective.

Bem Sex Role Inventory Balance of gender identity StudySmarterBalance of gender identity, Flaticon

This article is about androgyny and the Bem sex-role inventory. We will explain the term androgynous, the Bem Sex Role Inventory, discuss the history of the Bem sex-role inventory, and analyze the validity and criticism of the Bem sex-role inventory.

What is androgyny?

Androgyny means to have an equal amount of female and male characteristics.

The term is made up of two Greek words: andro, meaning male, and gyny, meaning female. Sandra Bem was the first to advocate for psychological androgyny, claiming that a person can have both masculine and feminine characteristics. According to Bem, androgyny is a psychologically beneficial trait because it allows people to avoid rigid sex-role assumptions. They are seen as adaptable.

Androgyny can have an undifferentiated type, where they are low on both feminine and masculine traits. Sex-typed is when both sex and gender match up.

What is the Bem sex role of inventory?

In 1974, Bem created the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI) to challenge the belief that if an individual did not behave as expected of their gender, it was a sign of poor mental health. Bem believed individuals who are androgynous were best suited to their environment; i.e., those who embodied both genders had the healthiest psychological state.

The BSRI was created to measure masculinity and femininity. The test had statements of opinion, which participants rated on a seven-point scale of how much they agreed with it. The questionnaire has two subscales, each with sixty questions. One question set tests for 20 masculine traits, another for 20 feminine traits, and 20 neutral items. The questions are to test how feminine or masculine you are.

If you score above average on both scales, you are considered androgynous. All traits are positively valued traits.

Bem surveyed 100 undergraduate students at Stanford who were given 200 traits that they found socially desirable for each sex. They then had to narrow down the list to 40 traits they found desirable and 20 neutral traits.

Bem Sex Role Inventory Masculine and feminine characteristics BSRI StudySmarterA list of masculine and feminine traits, StudySmarter Originals (Made in Canva)

What is the history of the Bem sex role of inventory?

In psychology, countless research studies have been done on gender roles and societal expectations. The BSRI was first published in 1974 and offers four different kinds of classifications: androgynous, masculine, feminine, and undifferentiated (which was added in 1981). Participants were asked to rate themselves on a Likert scale. On this scale, one indicates 'almost never true' and seven 'almost always true'.

Originally Likert used the t-ratio difference to calculate the scores, but in 1981 the average score was used. Those who scored above the average for both female and male characteristics were considered androgynous; those who scored above average for gender-specific roles had gender-specific characteristics, i.e., masculine or feminine characteristics.

Individuals below the average score were undifferentiated, which was added in 1981.

  • However, because this is a self-report questionnaire, the accuracy with which participants score themselves determines how valid the assessment is. Extreme masculine and feminine scores result in an androgynous score, whereas extremely low masculine and feminine scores result in an undifferentiated score.

It's been suggested that extreme low and high self-rating inclinations could be linked to individuals' perceptions of themselves. Individuals with a high perception of themselves were likely to score higher on the scale. Individuals with a low perception of themselves were likely to score low on the scale.

The BSRI evaluation

There are various criticisms of the BSRI we need to consider for your exam.

The validity of the BSRI

According to Bem, the BSRI has a lot of empirical support. BSRI has also shown a high level of test-retest reliability. A partial replication of the approach employed by Bem (1974) to validate the instrument's masculine and feminine adjectives was carried out. Bem's criteria were used to validate all but two of the adjectives.

Criticism of the BSRI

Each scoring technique's level of dependability is debatable. When the old t-ratio rating was compared to the newly endorsed median split technique, 42.3% of participants were categorized differently. Because the median split technique relies more largely on the samples' data, a participant can be classified differently depending on the population of subjects studied. For instance, if some soldiers took the test, the result would be different to if it was conducted on a group of University undergraduates.

The BSRI may also oversimplify the gender associated traits.

Bem Sex Role Inventory BSRI test results StudySmarterA woman questioning her identify after taking the BSRI, with gender identity symbols, StudySmarter Originals (Made in Canva)

In a study conducted by Adams and Sherer (1985), 101 undergraduate students were compared using the BSRI. They found that those who scored highly on masculine traits, both male and female, displayed high levels of assertiveness and self-efficacy. According to Bem, this is a trait primarily associated with androgynous people, NOT masculine identifying people. Yet they were best adjusted to assertiveness and self-efficacy despite Bem's suggestions, contradicting Bem's statement.

We also have to consider the society itself, as oftentimes a culture dictates what traits are desirable, and what traits are not. Consider an individualistic society, where competitiveness and self-efficacy are encouraged, typically in a male-dominated culture, compared to a collectivist society, where social cohesion is encouraged, and competitiveness is often discouraged. This could affect what traits are shown, and androgynous people should supposedly be the best suited for a completely equal society.


Bem Sex Role Inventory - Key takeaways

  • In the 1970s, Bem created the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI) to challenge the belief that if an individual did not behave as expected of their gender, it was a sign of poor mental health. Bem believed individuals who are androgynous were best suited to their environment; i.e., those who embodied both genders had the healthiest psychological state.
  • The BSRI test was done when there were rigid gender roles. These gendered roles were strictly defined by what society considered stereotypical roles for men and women.
  • The BSRI sought to disprove this notion using empirical evidence that gender roles could be fluid and that both sexes could embody the opposite gender traits. In fact, this was the healthier state.
  • Androgyny means to have an equal amount of female and male characteristics.
  • It has been suggested that the most creative people are androgynous as they can draw on both their feminine and masculine sides.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bem Sex Role Inventory

Sandra Bern created the BSRI in 1974 to investigate the effects of being a strongly sex-typed individual and to provide constructs. The concept of androgyny has substance. Previous research had proposed that highly sex-typed people hid their "inexplicable patterns of conduct" to maintain a consistent relationship with their environment.

Yes. Bem conducted an analysis and compiled information of desirable and undesirable sex-associated traits to develop the BSRI, by collecting data from undergraduates at the University of Stanford. 

Yes, in the sense that it has a high level of test-retest reliability.

The BSRI is scored using a 60 trait personality test in which participants are asked to rate themselves on a 7 point scale (from 'never/almost never true' to 'always/almost always true'.)

Final Bem Sex Role Inventory Quiz

Question

What do we mean by gender?

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Answer

Gender refers to the psychological and cultural differences between males and females, that is their psychosocial status. This includes attitudes, behaviours and social roles that we associate with being either 'male' or 'female'. These are often stereotypical.

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Question

What do we mean by androgyny?

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Answer

Androgyny means to have an equal amount of female and male characteristics.

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Question

Who created the Sex-Role Inventory?

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Answer

Sandra Bem

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Question

What are the four different kinds of classifications?

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Answer

Androgynous, masculine, feminine, and undifferentiated.

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Question

What is the undifferentiated type?

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Answer

This is where the person is low on both feminine and masculine traits 

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Question

What is sex-typed?

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Answer

Sex-typed is when both sex and gender match up. 

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Question

According to Bem, what is a beneficial trait of androgyny?

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Answer

According to Bem, androgyny is a psychologically beneficial trait because it allows people to avoid rigid sex-role assumptions. They are seen as adaptable. 

Show question

Question

When was the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI) created?

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Answer

1974

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Question

Are all traits positively or negatively valued in the BSRI?

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Answer

Positively valued.

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Question

How many traits are measured in the BSRI?

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Answer

60 traits - 20 masculine, 20 feminine, and 20 neutral. 

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Question

What scale is used in the BSRI?

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Answer

A Likert scale - specifically, a 7-point scale.

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Question

What will a high and equal score of both masculine and feminine traits give a result of?

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Answer

Androgyny.

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Question

Is the BSRI a reliable test?

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Answer

Yes, to some extent, as it has a high level of test-retest reliability.

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Question

Is the BSRI's scoring technique dependable?

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Answer

This is debatable.  When the old t-ratio rating was compared to the newly endorsed median split technique, 42.3% of participants were categorized differently. 

Show question

Question

The BSRI may oversimplify gender traits, true or false?

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Answer

True.

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