Research article

The Primacy of Nurturance and Dominance/Assertiveness: Unidimensional Measures of the Big Two Mask Gender Differences in Subdimensions



Agency and Communion, the Big Two of social perception, appear to have unique subdimensions, but they have differed across studies and not all may be relevant for understanding gender stereotypes. Across two sets of studies (Total N = 1,648), we examined self- and group gender stereotypes using Abele and colleagues’ (2021) conceptualization of agency as a vertical dimension that conveys information about social status and communion as a horizontal dimension that conveys information about approaching groups and individuals. Group stereotype analyses suggested that the vertical dimension comprised assertiveness/dominance and ability subdimensions, whereas the horizontal dimension was unidimensional. In contrast, self-stereotype analyses suggested that the vertical dimension comprised assertiveness/dominance and independence subdimensions and the horizontal dimension comprised a single nurturance subdimension—a unique morality subdimension did not emerge. As expected, women were perceived and rated themselves as higher on the horizontal dimension (group stereotypes), more nurturing (self-stereotypes), and less assertive/dominant (both group and self-stereotypes) than men. Gender differences in nurturance and assertiveness/dominance were stronger, as expected, among individuals whose gender was salient. We discuss implications for examining gender stereotypes and the potential consequences of misspecifying the Big Two as unidimensional.


gender stereotypesbifactor modelingagencycommunionsocial role theory
  • Year: 2022
  • Volume: 35 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 16
  • DOI: 10.5334/irsp.690
  • Submitted on 1 Feb 2022
  • Accepted on 14 Jul 2022
  • Published on 3 Oct 2022
  • Peer Reviewed