Karen J. Prager, Ph.D., A.B.P.P.

Professor of Psychology and  Program Head for Gender Studies

Diplomate in Family Psychology

The University of Texas at Dallas

More Information About Dr. Prager's work


Research on Intimacy

Processes in Couple Relationships 

Teaching and Professional Practice

Selected Papers and Publications


For Students:



How can we understand

Gender-related patterns of thinking, feeling,

and behaving? 3 theories

Dimension for Comparison

Social Learning Theory

Social Interaction Theory

Social Constructionist Theory

Do these patterns stem from biological or environmental factors? Acquired over time or elicited within the situation?

A. Biological? No.

B. Acquired over time? Yes, patterns of behavior (personality traits) acquired via principles of learning

1. operant conditioning

2. observation and imitation

C. Elicited within situations? Yes.

Via stimulus control of behavior

A. Biological? No.

B. Acquired over time?

1. Gender schemas are acquired over time. Gender schemas then direct behavior.

How? Self-fulfilling prophecy:

Stereotypic gender schemas

Affect discriminatory behavior towards others Which affects others’ behavior in expected direction.

2. Behaviors reflect different status of women vs. men.

C. Elicited within situations? Yes, via self-fulfilling prophecy, cue & reinforcement.

A. Biological? No.

B. Acquired over time? Yes. Ideas (or gender schemas) are acquired over time.

Behavioral patterns are acquired over time via constant practice. They become habit.

C. Elicited within situations? Less so. Focus is on acquiring ideas, and gendered behavioral performances ("doing gender") which are then practiced across situations. Gender schemas Selection of situations performance of gendered activities & experiencing gendered emotions (e.g., hard issues & soft spots).

Where do we learn them?

1. From differential reinforcement by family members, peers

2. From imitation of same-sex models

3. From the "generalized same-sex model" (Perry & Bussy)

1. Gender schemas come from ideas in the society/culture about women & men. Self-schemas then come from gender schemas.

2. We learn them every day through in social interaction, through self-fulfilling prophecy which is a cycle.

Gender schemas come from ideas in the society/culture about women & men. Deliberately taught to seem like "common sense."

Synthetic a priori knowledge: learned, but not based upon direct experience.

Gendered behavioral performances derive from gender schemas.

How do gender schemas affect these patterns?

Gender schematicity is an individual characteristic that modifies gender learning.

Information about gender acquired over time by everyone.

More gender schematic = gender information is more salient.

More gender schematicity = more responsive to differential reinforcement, more gender-differentiated behavior.

1. Expectancy confirmation: Gender stereotypes affect how we treat others, and others behave according to how we treat them. In this way they "confirm" our expectations.

Individual personality plays a lesser role.

2. Differential status of women & men: Status determines power base, influence, which in turn affects behavior. Status of social roles constrain or permit behavior.

3. Gender schemas (& stereotypes) are guides to behavior in ambiguous situations.

Gender schema script; "doing gender" performance.

3. Gender schema

Selection of situations Engaging in gendered activities.