Gender is a multifaceted concept: Evidence that specific life experiences differentially shape the concept of gender
Mazzuca C., Majid A., Lugli L., Nicoletti R., Borghi AM.
Gender has been the focus of linguistic and psychological studies, but little is known about its conceptual representation. We investigate whether the conceptual structure of gender - as expressed in participants' free-listing responses - varies according to gender-related experiences in line with research on conceptual flexibility. Specifically, we tested groups that varied by gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender-normativity. We found that different people stressed distinct aspects of the concept. For example, normative individuals mainly relied on a bigenderist conception (e.g., male/female; man/woman), while non-normative individuals produced more aspects related to social context (e.g., queer, fluidity, construction). At a broader level, our results support the idea that gender is a multifaceted and flexible concept, constituted by social, biological, cultural, and linguistic components. Importantly, the meaning of gender is not exhausted by the classical dichotomy opposing sex, a biological fact, with gender as its cultural counterpart. Instead, both aspects are differentially salient depending on specific life experiences.