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Is gender based on biology, or does our environment have an influence as well? Further, how do ideas about gender and its origins relate to people’s attitudes toward others, such as transgender individuals?
These are the very questions Bobby Ho-Hong Ching and Jason Teng Xu recently explored. To do so, they asked students to read one of three articles.
The first was intended to reinforce the idea that gender has a biological basis. It presented a study purporting to find that women and men are simply wired differently, thereby explaining gender differences in personality and behaviors.
Students assigned to the second group read an article that offered a different view of gender. Here, the scientists noted that biological differences between women and men are not fixed, but instead, affected by their surroundings.
For the third group, students read about a research study unrelated to gender and its biological influence. This served as a control.
After reading the article and completing an unrelated task, participants responded to a questionnaire, where they noted their attitudes toward and stereotypes of transgender individuals.
The researchers found that students who read about the biological basis for gender were more likely to express prejudice toward transgender persons. They were also likely to reject ideas of equal rights for this group. On the other hand, students who read the other articles were unlikely to endorse such beliefs.
These findings suggest that when people adopt a biological view of gender, it is hard to accept the idea of that one’s gender identity can differ from their sex assigned at birth. The dissonance results in bias and prejudice. Importantly, findings also suggest that ideas about gender can be altered via research evidence, and with this change, prejudice against transgender persons might decrease, too.