Gender schema theory (GST) is a cognitive theory developed to explain the role of gender in organizing meaning, both for self and for others. GST was first proposed by psychologist Sandra Lipsitz Bem in 1981. Bem’s formulations built on the more general developmental process through which children learn to incorporate content- specific information into more abstract cognitive structures that are used to process and organize what the person perceives. Observing that all societies make distinctions between male and female, Bem was interested in how children learn to use the content around them related to gender both to evaluate people and situations and to assimilate new information.

Key terms for this theory are schema and schema theory. A schema is a network of cognitive organizations that guides how an individual  perceives self, others, and situations. As such, a schema is a systematic framework for interpretive activity. In short, it is a mental representation of a broad range of attributes, traits, and behaviors that are associated with women or men in a particular culture. Once a schema is established, only minimal cues are necessary to elicit the more elaborate set of meanings associated with the schema. Schema theory proposes that perception and the assignment of meaning by people result from the interaction of incoming information and perceptual cues with the perceiving person’s existing schema.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.654

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Gayes Mahestu
Edwina Ayu Kustiawan