The Psychology of Sex and Gender - Jennifer Katherine Bosson, Joseph Alan Vandello, Camille E. Buckner 2022


Achievement motivation:

An individual’s need to meet goals and accomplish tasks.

Affirmative action:

Active efforts to combat discrimination by increasing opportunities for protected groups.


A dimension reflecting traits such as competence, assertiveness, and competitiveness.


Describes people who feel internally ungendered.


Behavior intended to cause psychological or physical harm to a person or nonhuman animal.

Aggressive pornography:

Sexually explicit material that is meant to arouse and that contains acts of physical or verbal aggression, degradation, or humiliation.


A variant form of a gene.

Alliance formation hypothesis:

The hypothesis that same-sex sexual activity is adaptive because it promotes emotional bonds and facilitates survival and resource sharing between pairs of friends.


Individuals who publicly support and promote the rights of disadvantaged group members but who are not themselves part of the disadvantaged group.

Ambivalent sexism theory:

A theory proposing that gender relations are characterized by both negative attitudes toward women (hostile sexism) and seemingly positive attitudes toward women (benevolent sexism).


A cultural ideology that defines men and their experiences as universal and treats women and their experiences as deviations from the male norm.


Possession of high levels of both stereotypically male-typed and female-typed traits.


The branch of medicine that studies male health, with a particular focus on the sexual/reproductive organs and the urinary system.

Arranged marriage:

Marriage in which third parties, such as parents or relatives, select potential marriage partners, with both partners having the right to refuse.


Signifies having a lack of desire for sex or sexual partners.

Attachment theory:

A theory that describes the processes by which adults and infants become attached and develop strong emotional bonds.

Attributional ambiguity:

Difficulty in attributing negative treatment to group-based discrimination when other possible explanations for the treatment are present.

Audience problem:

The tendency for observers to assume that platonic friends are romantically involved; especially likely to occur in cross-sex friendships.

Autism spectrum disorder:

A developmental disorder typically characterized by sensory sensitivities, repetitive behaviors, and difficulties with speech, nonverbal communication, and interacting with others.

Autonomous (love) marriage:

Marriage in which individuals select their own partners.

Benevolent sexism:

Subjectively positive but patronizing attitudes toward women who conform to traditional gender role norms.

Between-group variance:

The difference between the average values for each group in a study.

Big Five personality dimensions:

Five primary dimensions that underlie differences in personality (extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience).

Binge drinking:

Consuming four or more alcoholic drinks within 1—2 hours for women and five or more drinks within 1—2 hours for men.

Biobehavioral model:

A model proposing that prolonged sex segregation combined with proximity, intimacy, and touch can lead people to develop novel sexual desires.

Biosocial constructionist theory:

A theory that explains how biological differences between women and men lead to sex-based labor divisions in society, which then shape the development of role-relevant skills and gender stereotypes.


Typically signifies being attracted to women and men.

Body mass index (BMI):

A person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters.


Aggression (direct or indirect) that is repeated over time and in which the perpetrator holds more power than the victim.

Callous-unemotional (CU) traits:

A personality factor consisting of low levels of empathy, guilt, and warmth.

Cesarean section (C-section) procedure:

The use of surgery to deliver a baby through the mother’s lower abdomen.

Child marriage:

Arranged marriages of girls to much older men.

Child-free by choice:

The status of an individual or couple who decides not to have children.

Chosen families:

The friend circles of LGBTQ+ individuals that stand in for biological families and consist largely of individuals who understand the unique challenges of being LGBTQ+.


The organized units of genes inside the cells of all living organisms. Somatic cells in the human body have 23 pairs of chromosomes, and reproductive cells have 23 unpaired chromosomes.


Describes people who experience a match between their sex assigned at birth and their psychological gender identity.


The process by which bilingual and multilingual individuals switch back and forth between languages and their different cultural meaning systems.

Cognitive abilities:

Mental skills, such as paying attention, reasoning, remembering, solving problems, speaking, and interpreting speech.

Cognitive theories:

Theories proposing that children learn gender by progressing through a series of increasingly sophisticated cognitive stages, and that the emergence of sex-typed cognitions causes children to learn sex-typed behaviors and preferences.

Collective action:

Behavior enacted on behalf of a group with the goal of improving conditions for the entire group.

Collectivistic cultures:

Cultures (often found in South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East) that value fitting in and group solidarity and prioritize group goals and needs over individual goals and needs.


A dimension reflecting traits such as warmth, connectedness, and kindness.

Companionate love:

A later stage of love characterized by calm feelings of warmth and emotional closeness.

Comparable worth:

The practice of paying people of different sexes equally for doing work of equal value (in terms of training, skills, and responsibilities), even if the work differs in kind.

Consensual nonmonogamy (CNM):

A general category of relationship arrangements in which all partners agree that it is acceptable to pursue sexual and/or romantic relationships with others.

Constructivist-ecological perspective:

A model asserting that gender development occurs through a dynamic and reciprocal interaction between children and their surrounding contexts.

Cross-sex 'margin-top:0cm;margin-right:0cm;margin-bottom:0cm; margin-left:41.0pt;line-height:15.0pt;text-autospace:none'>Behavior that is strongly associated with a sex group other than one’s own.

Cross-sex friendships:

Friendships with people who do not share one’s sex.

Cultural ideologies:

Overarching sets of beliefs and assumptions about groups that justify unequal social hierarchies.


Aggression committed via the Internet, mobile phones, or other types of electronic or digital technologies.


An effect size statistic that expresses the magnitude and direction of a difference between group means in standardized units.

Dating scripts:

Stereotyped, cognitive representations of the sequences of events that take place during dates.

Decoding accuracy:

The ability to read the nonverbal communications of others correctly.

Degendering theory:

The theory that gender becomes a less central aspect of the self as people age.

Demand—withdraw pattern:

An interpersonal relationship pattern in which one couple member criticizes or demands, and the other partner responds by withdrawing emotionally or physically.


Branch-like structures of neurons that receive neural messages from other neurons.

Dependent variable:

An outcome variable; in an experiment, the dependent variable is the one hypothesized to change as a result of manipulation of an independent variable.

Differences of sex development (DSDs):

Conditions present at birth in which sex development varies from the norm in terms of chromosomes, gonads, or anatomy.

Different cultures approach:

The belief that boys and girls are socialized to use language so differently that they may as well come from different “cultures,” which leads to miscommunication.


A form of a word used to indicate a smaller, less powerful, or more familiar version (e.g., booklet, duckling, mommy, and daddy).

Direct aggression:

Overt verbal or physical behaviors aimed directly at another person, with the intention to harm.

Direction accuracy:

Accuracy regarding the direction of a sex difference.

Discrepancy accuracy:

Accuracy regarding the specific size (and direction) of a sex difference.

Display rules:

Culture-specific norms that regulate how, when, and whether individuals should express particular emotions.


A neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of reward, positive arousal, and intentional control of voluntary movement.

Double jeopardy hypothesis:

The hypothesis that individuals who belong to two or more subordinate groups face more discrimination than individuals who belong to only one subordinate group.

Double standard of aging:

The idea that women’s social value declines with age as their beauty and sexual appeal fade, while men’s value increases with age as their life experience and social status increase.

Down syndrome:

A genetic disorder characterized by physical growth delays, mild to moderate intellectual impairment, and distinct physical features.

Dyadic power:

The power to choose intimate partners and relationships and to control the interactions and decisions that occur within those relationships.


A learning disability characterized by impairments in reading, including difficulties with word recognition and spelling.

Education debt:

The ongoing, cumulative lack of investment in the education of low-income and racial minority students that leads to different educational experiences and outcomes based on race and income.

Effect size:

A quantitative measure of the magnitude and direction of a difference between groups or of the strength of a relationship between variables.

Effortful control:

The capacity for persistence, focus, and impulse control.

Electroencephalogram (EEG):

A brain imaging technique that reads electrical activity in the brain with the use of sensors on the scalp.

Emerging adulthood:

In Western industrialized nations, the period of life between ages 18 and 25 when people transition to more adult roles and responsibilities.


A complex, internal, subjective reaction that includes physiological, psychological, and behavioral components. Basic emotions, such as joy, anger, and fear, are thought to be innate and universally expressed and recognized.

Emotional contagion:

The tendency for people to synchronize their emotions automatically with the emotions of others, without necessarily being aware of it happening.

Emotional intelligence:

The ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions and the emotions of others, and to use emotions to solve problems.


The tendency to feel the emotional state of another person and to see the world from another person’s vantage point. Empathy has both affective and cognitive components.

Encoding accuracy:

The ability to communicate nonverbally in a clear manner that others can interpret correctly.


The study of the biological mechanisms that guide whether or not certain genes get expressed.


A principle in which each individual is treated the same, regardless of background.


A principle in which each individual is treated fairly, by taking background into account.

Erectile dysfunction:

A condition characterized by loss of erectile function and difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection.


Sexually explicit nonaggressive material that is meant to arouse.


The belief that human differences arise from stable and integral (usually biological) qualities within individuals.

Essentialist beliefs:

Assumptions that observed sex differences reflect inherent, natural, biological differences between women and men.

Ethnic identity:

A psychological sense of connectedness to one’s racial or ethnic group.


A cultural ideology that defines one’s own culture as the universal standard, and judges other cultures as deviations from the norm.


A movement whose members seek to control the genetic quality of the human population by preventing the reproduction of those deemed genetically inferior.

Evolutionary psychology:

A theoretical approach that explains much of human thought and behavior in terms of genetically heritable adaptations that evolved because they helped ancestral humans survive and reproduce.

Ex post facto design:

A nonexperimental design in which groups of people who differ on a participant variable (e.g., sex) are compared on some dependent variable.


A type of research design in which a researcher systematically manipulates one or more independent variables to observe whether this causes changes in one or more dependent variables.

Externalizing disorders:

Antisocial, conduct, substance use, and impulsivity-related disorders, in which symptoms are directed outward, toward others.

Factor analysis:

A statistical procedure used to identify clusters of related scores or items.


Transgender individuals from Tonga, an archipelago nation in the South Pacific, who are assigned male at birth but assume a relatively feminine manner.

False rape allegations:

Accusations of rape that the accuser knows to be false.


A set of collectivistic social values that promote loyalty, support, and interdependence among family members.

Fecundity hypothesis:

The hypothesis that genes for same-sex sexuality get passed on genetically because the female relatives of gay men produce more than the typical number of offspring.

Female genital mutilation:

Removing or injuring the external genitalia of girls or young women for nonmedical reasons; also known as female genital cutting or female circumcision.

Feme covert:

The legal status of married women in British common law and American colonial law, whereby women transferred their identities and rights to their husband upon marriage.


Possession of physical and psychological attributes typically associated with women.


Movements for the social, political, and economic equality of women and men or, according to bell hooks, movements “to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.”

Feminization of poverty:

The global tendency for women to experience disproportionate rates of poverty.


Noncancerous tumors that form in the uterus, often leading to heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pain.

Flexible work arrangements:

Arrangements in which employees control the location or timing of their work (e.g., flexible schedules and telecommuting).

Food deserts:

Neighborhoods in which the lack of nearby grocery stores and easy public transportation limits residents’ regular access to fresh, healthy food.

Fraternal birth order effect:

The positive correlation between the number of older brothers a man has and his likelihood of identifying as gay.

Friends with benefits:

Arrangements in which two friends have occasional, casual sexual interactions without the expectation of a romantic relationship.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI):

A brain imaging technique that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to map brain activity.


Typically refers to a man who is attracted only (or primarily) to men.


The meanings that people give to the different sex categories. Gender includes broad sets of attributes and experiences (e.g., identities, traits, interests, roles, stereotypes, and socialization practices) commonly associated with sex.

Gender aschematic:

Lacking the tendency to use gender as a salient schema for understanding the world.

Gender binary:

The conceptualization of gender as consisting of two opposite and nonoverlapping categories, such as masculine or feminine.

Gender confirmation procedures:

Procedures (including hormone treatments, surgeries, speech therapies, and psychotherapies) that transgender individuals sometimes seek to bring their physical bodies into greater alignment with their psychological identities.

Gender constancy:

The recognition that sex is (largely) fixed and does not change as a result of external, superficial features.

Gender diagnosticity (GD) score:

The estimated probability that an individual is male or female given the individual’s gender-related interests. A GD score of .85 means that the individual has an 85% chance of being male and a 15% chance of being female.

Gender discrimination:

Unjust treatment based solely on one’s sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Gender dysphoria:

A disorder consisting of clinically significant distress due to the difference between a person’s psychological sense of gender and the gender that others assign them.

Gender fluid:

Describes people whose gender identity shifts or changes flexibly rather than remaining constant.

Gender identity:

Individuals’ psychological experience of their gender and how they identify their gender such as man, woman, nonbinary, or genderqueer. In cognitive-developmental theory, gender identity is the cognitive ability to identify the self as a boy or a girl and to label others according to sex.

Gender intensification hypothesis:

The hypothesis that gender role socialization pressures increase during adolescence, resulting in increases in adolescents’ gendered self-views.

Gender paradox of suicide:

A pattern in which girls and women more frequently exhibit nonfatal suicide behavior (suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and nonsuicidal self-injury), while boys and men more frequently die from suicide.

Gender prescriptions:

Traits that people believe women and men should have.

Gender proscriptions:

Traits that people believe women and men should not have.

Gender role ideology hypothesis:

The hypothesis that a couple’s beliefs about gender roles influence the manner in which they divide housework and childcare.

Gender schema:

A mental model about gender, based on prior learning and experience, that guides how people interpret, process, and remember new gender-relevant information.

Gender schematic:

Having a tendency to use gender as a salient schema for understanding the world.

Gender stability:

The understanding that sex remains (largely) invariant across time.

Gender stereotypes:

Shared beliefs about the traits, qualities, and tendencies associated with different sex categories.

Gender wage gap:

The difference in earnings between men and women, usually expressed as a ratio (or percentage) of women’s to men’s median yearly earnings for full-time, year-round work. A gap of 1.00 would reflect gender parity.

Gene-by-environment interaction:

When a genetic effect on a trait or behavior emerges only under certain environmental circumstances or when the environmental effect on a trait or behavior depends on a person’s genetic makeup.


The extent to which the findings of a study would apply beyond the sample in the original study to the larger population.


The tendency to assume that a new member of a category has the same qualities as other category members.

Generic beliefs:

Beliefs about categories as wholes, without reference to numbers or proportions.

Generic masculine:

The use of male-gendered terms to refer not only to men but to mixed-sex groups, to human beings in general, or to individuals whose sex is unknown or unspecified.


Basic units of heredity passed down from parents to offspring, consisting of specific sequences of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that carry instructions for the offspring’s characteristics.


The study of genes (the basic units of heredity) and how physical traits are inherited. Behavioral genetics is the study of how psychological traits are inherited.

Genital reconstructive surgery:

Surgery that alters the appearance, location, or function of genital tissue. People seek genital reconstructive surgery for a wide range of reasons; transgender individuals may seek such surgery to bring the appearance or function of their genitalia into greater alignment with their psychological gender identity.

Genital ridge:

The precursor to female or male gonads (ovaries or testes). It appears identical in genetic female and male embryos.

Genital tubercle:

The undifferentiated embryonic structure that becomes the clitoris or the penis.


Internal and external reproductive organs. For females, these include the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries (internal) and the labia and clitoris (external). For males, these include the seminal vesicles, vas deferens, and testes (internal) and penis and scrotum (external).

Glass ceiling:

Invisible barriers in the workplace that prevent women from rising to top corporate positions.

Glass cliff effect:

The tendency to place women and individuals from other marginalized groups into leadership positions under risky, precarious circumstances in which the likelihood of failure is high.

Glass escalator:

The tendency for some men to be fast-tracked to promotions and leadership positions in female-typed professions.


The sex organs (ovaries and testes) that produce sex cells (egg and sperm) and sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone).

Grammatical gender:

A type of classification system in certain languages, such as French and Hindi, in which most nouns are assigned a gender (masculine, feminine, and sometimes neutral).

Greater male variability hypothesis:

The prediction that men show more variability than women in their distributions of scores on cognitive performance measures, leading them to be overrepresented in the very bottom and very top of score distributions.

Gut-brain axis:

Bidirectional communications that take place between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract.


The branch of medicine that studies female health, with a particular focus on reproductive health.

Hegemonic masculinity:

A culturally idealized version of manhood that legitimizes men’s dominant position in societies.


A sex-linked, genetic blood clotting disorder, which can cause excessive bleeding.

Heritability estimate:

A statistic that specifies the proportion of total population variance in a given trait that is due to genetic differences among the people in the population. Heritability estimates (signified by h2) can range from 0% to 100%.


A cultural ideology that defines heterosexuality as universal and treats sexualities as deviations from the norm.


The assumption that “normal” sexuality is heterosexual.


Signifies being attracted only (or primarily) to persons of the other sex (in a binary, male—female system).

Highly active antiretroviral therapies (HAARTs):

Drug treatments, usually consisting of a combination of at least three drugs, that suppress HIV replication.

Homosocial perspective:

An approach proposing that men achieve friendship intimacy in the context of cohesive, hierarchical units that share goals and joint activities and contain opposing emotions (e.g., competition and affection).

Honor culture:

A culture in which individual and family honor is at the center of all social life and men are expected to defend their own and their family’s honor with violence if necessary.

Honor killing:

The murder of a (typically female) family member who is perceived to have brought shame or dishonor to the family.


Uncommitted sexual encounters.


Chemical substances in the body that regulate bodily functions such as digestion, growth, and reproduction.

Hostile sexism:

Negative, antagonistic attitudes toward women who violate traditional gender role norms.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV):

A virus that attacks the body’s immune system and makes it difficult for the body to fight diseases.


A testable prediction about the outcome of a study, stated in terms of the variables tested.

I3 theory:

The theory that partner violence depends on the interplay of three factors: provocation by a partner (instigation), forces that create a strong urge to aggress (impellance), and forces that decrease the likelihood of aggression (inhibition).

Implicit physician biases:

Automatic, nonconscious judgments and behaviors, based on stereotypes, that influence how physicians evaluate or treat patients.


A personality factor consisting of traits such as sensation-seeking, novelty-seeking, and risk-taking.

Independent variable:

A variable that is assumed to cause changes in a dependent variable; in an experiment, the independent variable is systematically manipulated by the researcher.

Indirect (relational) aggression:

Behaviors intended to harm another person’s social relationships or status, often performed when the target is not physically present.

Individualistic cultures:

Cultures (often found in Western Europe and North America) that value independence and self-reliance and prioritize individual goals and needs over group goals and needs.

In-group bias:

Favoritism for one’s own social group over other groups.

Intelligence (or general mental ability):

The general capacity to understand ideas, think abstractly, reason, solve problems, and learn.

Intelligence quotient (IQ):

A score representing an individual’s level of intelligence, as measured by a standardized intelligence test. IQ is calculated such that the average for an individual’s same-age peers is always set to 100.

Interaction effect:

A pattern in which the strength or direction of the association between an independent (or participant) variable and a dependent variable differs as a function of another independent (or participant) variable.

Internalized homophobia:

Self-directed antigay attitudes held by sexual minority individuals.

Internalized transphobia:

Self-directed transphobic attitudes held by transgender individuals.

Internalizing disorders:

Mental illnesses of mood, anxiety, and disordered eating, in which symptoms are directed inward, toward the self.

Intersectional invisibility hypothesis:

The prediction that people with multiple subordinate identities are noticed less than those with one subordinate identity.


An approach that examines how social categories (sex, gender, race, class, age, physical ability, sexual orientation), and the advantages and disadvantages associated with them, interact to shape people’s life experiences and opportunities.


Individuals for whom the biological components of sex (chromosomes, hormones, and internal and external genitalia) do not consistently fit either the typical male pattern or the typical female pattern.

Intersexual selection:

The process by which heritable features get passed down because they give an animal an advantage by increasing its attractiveness to other-sex mates.


A condition in which biological components of sex (chromosomes, hormones, genitals, and internal and external sex organs) do not consistently fit the typical female or typical male pattern.

Intimate partner violence:

Any behavior intended to cause physical harm to a romantic partner.

Intimate terrorism:

Intimate partner violence in which one partner (usually a man) repeatedly uses violence and fear to dominate and control the other.

Intrasexual selection:

The process by which heritable features get passed down because they give an animal a competitive advantage in contests against same-sex animals for access to mates.


Collective agricultural communities in Israel in which work and social roles reflect socialist principles, and community members pursue gender-egalitarian lifestyles.

Kin selection:

Helping behavior that is costly to the helper in the short term but beneficial in the long term because it increases the survival likelihood of the helper’s genetic relatives.

Laissez-faire leadership style:

A hands-off leadership style in which workers are allowed to complete responsibilities however they want, as long as the job gets done.

Latino paradox:

A phenomenon in which Latinx Americans in the United States have health outcomes as good as, if not better than, those of non-Latinx White people in the United States, despite tending to have a lower average income and less education.


A gender-neutral term referring to someone of Latin American heritage.


Refers to a woman who is attracted only (or primarily) to women.


An acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer.”

Life expectancy:

The average length of time a person is expected to live, based on year of birth.

Love (attachment):

Strong feelings of affection and attachment that go beyond mere warmth.

Machine learning:

A method of data analysis that trains computers how to detect patterns, and learn from data, with minimal human intervention.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):

An imaging procedure that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create high-resolution images of brain structures.

Male discrepancy stress:

Anxiety that boys and men feel about not living up to masculine expectations set by society.

Male gaze:

A mode of viewing others that is voyeuristic and sexual and that reflects men’s patriarchal power over women and other objectified individuals.


The tendency for some men to spread out and adopt an expansive posture while sitting, thus taking up more space.


Possession of physical and psychological attributes typically associated with men.

Mate preferences:

Qualities that people claim to desire in a potential sexual or romantic mate.

Maternal gatekeeping:

Behaviors and attitudes by women that discourage men’s involvement in domestic labor and childcare.

Maternal wall:

Gender bias in which working mothers—but not working fathers—are perceived as less competent at their jobs and make lower wages.


Describes a societal structure in which women/mothers occupy the leadership positions in the society and control how it operates.

Matrilineal society:

A society that traces descent through the mother’s kinship line and passes inheritance down from mothers to their offspring.

Matrilocal society:

A society in which husbands typically live near their wives’ families.

Maximalist approach:

A tendency to emphasize differences between members of different sex groups and view them as qualitatively different.


The process whereby normal, natural physical conditions and transitions are viewed as medical illnesses that require diagnoses and treatments.


The cessation of menstruation and fertility, accompanied by stable declines in estrogen levels, that usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.

Mental rotation ability:

The ability to rotate an object in one’s mind.


A quantitative technique that allows researchers to integrate research findings across a large collection of individual studies.


Common, everyday insults and indignities directed toward members of subordinate social groups.


The complex system of microbial microorganisms that lives inside the human body.

Milestone models of sexual identity development:

Models that identify the timing, sequence, and tone of different milestones that many sexual minority individuals experience.

Minimalist approach:

A tendency to emphasize similarities between members of different sex groups.


A period from birth to about 6 months in which boys experience surges in testosterone and girls experience surges in testosterone and estrogen.

Minority stress theory:

A theory that proposes that belonging to a stigmatized group can create stressors that are unique to the minority experience.

Mirror neurons:

Neurons that fire both when performing an action and when observing another individual perform the action.

Mixed-methods approach:

A research approach that combines both qualitative and quantitative methods within the same study or same program of research.

Modern sexism:

A socially acceptable form of sexism consisting of a denial that women still face gender discrimination, coupled with resentment toward women who seek social change.

Morbidity-mortality paradox:

A phenomenon in which women tend to have higher rates of morbidity (sickness and disability) than men, while men tend to experience mortality (death) earlier than women.

Motherhood mandate:

The societal expectation that women should have children and invest significant time and energy in raising them.

Motherhood penalty:

The wage penalty that some working women—but not working men—experience following the birth of a child.

Muscle dysmorphia:

A body image disorder characterized by an obsessive preoccupation with increasing one’s muscularity and maintaining low body fat.

Muscular dystrophy:

A set of sex-linked disorders characterized by increasing muscle loss and weakness.

Narrative approach to sexual identity development:

An approach that broadly considers how multiple sources of identity (e.g., race, culture, nationality) and pride interact to shape sexual identity development within specific contexts.

Natural selection:

The evolutionary process by which heritable features that increase the likelihood of an organism’s survival get passed down through genes.

Need to belong:

The fundamental need for a small number of close relationships that offer frequent, positive interactions.


Interpreting the findings from neuroscience research in ways that reinforce gender stereotypes without valid supporting evidence.


The tendency to experience high levels of negative emotions.

Nonbinary (or genderqueer):

Describes people who fall outside the sex and gender binaries and identify as neither man nor woman; an umbrella term capturing many forms of identity.


A neuropeptide that is associated with sympathetic arousal and the “fight-or-flight” response.


Having a body mass index over 30.

Objectification theory:

The theory stating that being socialized within a cultural context that objectifies the female body encourages girls and women to internalize an outsider’s perspective on themselves and engage in self-objectification.

Occupational feminization:

The entrance of women in large numbers into a previously male-dominated occupation.

Occupational masculinization:

The (relatively rare) entrance of men in large numbers into a previously female-dominated occupation.

Occupational segregation:

The segregation of occupations by sex, with certain occupations dominated primarily by men and others dominated primarily by women.

Old boys’ networks:

Informal, inner circles of men who exclude women from decision-making and use their influence to help other men.

Optimal sex:

The binary (male or female) sex perceived to be most advantageous to assign to a newborn whose genitalia appear atypical at birth.

Orgasm gap:

The tendency for women to have lower rates of orgasm than men during heterosexual sexual encounters.


Values at the extreme ends of a statistical distribution.


Having a body mass index between 25 and 30.


Working 50 or more hours per week in paid employment.


A neurotransmitter that facilitates bonding, connectedness, and coordination.

Pair-bonding system:

A system in which two adult members of a species remain bonded to one another for the purpose of producing and raising offspring.


Signifies being attracted to people of all sexes and gender identities.

Parent—child interaction:

A phenomenon in which a parent and child mutually influence one another and therefore jointly contribute to the child’s development.

Parental investment theory:

Theory proposing that the sex that invests more in parenting (usually female) will be more selective in its choice of mates and will prefer mates who have social status and resources.

Participant variable:

A naturally occurring feature of research participants (e.g., sex, personality, cultural background) that is measured in a study rather than manipulated.

Partner homogamy:

The tendency for people to bond and mate with others who are similar to them on demographic, personality, background, and physical attributes.

Passionate friendships:

Friendships characterized by intense longing for proximity, high levels of affection, and large amounts of physical touch (e.g., cuddling and hand-holding).

Passionate love:

An early stage of love characterized by arousal, urgent longing, and exhilaration.

Paternalistic chivalry:

The norm that dictates that men should be protective of women and treat them as if they are special and virtuous.


Describes a societal structure in which men/fathers occupy the leadership positions in the society and control how it operates.

Patrilineal society:

A society that traces descent through the father’s kinship line and passes inheritance down from fathers to their offspring.

Patrilocal society:

A society in which wives typically live near their husbands’ families.

Person-by-treatment design:

A quasi-experimental design involving at least one participant variable and at least one true independent variable with random assignment.

Personal-group discrimination discrepancy:

The tendency for individuals to think that their social groups experience more discrimination than they do personally.

Phase models of sexual identity development:

Models that posit distinct phases of emotional, psychological, social, and behavioral experiences that mark transitions in self-knowledge as people develop a sexual identity.


The discredited study of how the size and shape of the cranium (skull) relates to mental abilities and personal attributes.

Physical aggression:

Physical acts intended to injure or harm others.

Plasticity (or neuroplasticity):

The ability of the brain to reorganize and adapt physically throughout life in response to life experiences and environmental factors.

Point-light display:

A minimal animated figure represented by points of light, which is created by a computer that reads sensors attached to the joints of a moving person.

Political correctness:

The social norm—often viewed as taken to an extreme—that people should avoid language or acts that might offend, marginalize, or exclude members of socially disadvantaged groups.


A type of consensual nonmonogamy in which adults form emotional and romantic connections with more than one other adult partner, with the knowledge and consent of all parties.


Marriage between one wife and multiple husbands.


Marriage between one husband and multiple wives.


Experiencing more than one type of aggressive victimization.

Postpartum depression:

Depression following (or associated with) childbirth.


An orientation that views empirical investigation as a useful method for acquiring knowledge but recognizes its inherent biases and values.


The capacity to determine one’s own and other people’s outcomes.

Power distance:

The extent to which a culture has and accepts unequally distributed levels of status and power among its members.

Precarious manhood hypothesis:

Hypothesis that manhood, relative to womanhood, is a social status that is hard to earn and easy to lose and that requires continual validation in the form of public action.

Preferential looking:

A method for determining preferences among preverbal infants that involves showing them two different objects or stimuli and examining how much time they spend looking at each one.

Prefrontal cortex:

A brain region involved in impulse control, emotion regulation, and planning behaviors.

Premenstrual syndrome:

A diagnosable illness that some women experience before the onset of menstruation, characterized by aches and pains, bloating, anxiety, anger, and moodiness.


Automatic, unearned advantages associated with belonging to a dominant group.


The most typical cognitive representation of a category; with social groups, the prototype is the cultural default for representing the group.

Prove-it-again bias:

Gender bias in which stereotypes about women’s unsuitability for high-status positions result in women having to work harder than men to prove their competence.


Beliefs and practices that are presented as scientific despite lacking a factual basis and proper scientific scrutiny.

Psychological disorder (or mental illness):

A persistent disruption or disturbance of thought, emotion, or behavior that causes significant distress or impairment in functioning.


Any response following a behavior that decreases the likelihood of the behavior occurring again.

Qualitative methods:

Methods in which researchers collect in-depth, non-numerical information in order to understand participants’ subjective experiences within a specific context. Examples include case studies, interviews, and focus groups.

Quantitative methods:

Methods in which researchers convert variables of interest into numbers and use statistical analyses to test hypotheses. Examples include experimental, ex post facto, quasi-experimental, and correlational designs.


A design that mimics the appearance of a true experiment, but in which the researcher lacks control over one or more manipulations.

Queen bee syndrome:

A phenomenon in which women who hold authority positions in male-dominated professions distance themselves from other women and treat female employees more critically.

Random assignment:

A process of assigning participants to experimental conditions randomly, so that each person has an equal chance of ending up in each condition.

Rank-order accuracy:

Accuracy regarding the relative sizes of sex differences across different domains.


Nonconsensual penetration of the mouth, vagina, or anus by the penis, fingers, or objects.

Rape myths:

Widely held false beliefs about rape, rape victims, and rapists.


Any response following a behavior that increases the likelihood of the behavior occurring again.

Relational aggression:

Subtle aggression, usually committed when the target is not physically present, that is intended to harm the target’s social relationships or status.

Relative income hypothesis:

The hypothesis that the partner who contributes proportionally less to the household income will do more housework.

Reproductive justice:

The human right to personal bodily autonomy, parenthood choices, and safe communities in which to raise children.

Resource control:

Controlling the creation or distribution of essential and desirable goods, such as money, land, food, and other valued commodities.

Rett syndrome:

A neurological disorder linked to a mutation on the X chromosome and characterized by seizures, language impairments, and difficulty breathing, using the hands, and walking.

Reverse causation:

In correlational research, the possibility that the true cause-and-effect relationship between two variables is the reverse of what is initially assumed (also known as the directionality problem). Instead of x causing y, it is always possible that y causes x.

Risk networks:

Extended networks of individuals with whom people have sexual contact or engage in other risky practices (e.g., intravenous drug use) that can transmit disease.


Passively and persistently focusing attention on one’s negative mood, its causes, and its possible consequences.

Scientific method:

A process by which researchers conduct systematic studies in order to test hypotheses derived from theory.

Scientific positivism:

An orientation that emphasizes the scientific method and proposes that objective and value-free knowledge is attainable through empirical investigation.


The entire set of an individual’s beliefs, feelings, and knowledge about the self.

Self-fulfilling prophecy:

The interpersonal process in which a perceiver’s expectation about a target influences the target’s behavior in such a manner that the target’s behavior fulfills the perceiver’s expectation.


Defining the self in terms of how the body appears to others instead of what the body can do or how the body feels.


A term typically used to categorize people as male, female, or intersex.

Sex-based harassment (sexual harassment):

Behavior that derogates or humiliates an individual based on the individual’s sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Sex binary:

The conceptualization of sex as consisting of two opposite and nonoverlapping categories, such as male or female.

Sex differentiation:

The complex processes that unfold as sex-undifferentiated embryos transition into individuals with male, female, or intersex internal and external genitalia. Although much of sex differentiation occurs prenatally, further differentiation occurs during puberty.

Sex ratio:

The number of men per woman in a given population or locale.

Sex trafficking:

Forced, nonconsensual recruitment and retention of persons for sexual use and exploitation.

Sex typing:

In social learning theories, the processes by which individuals acquire gendered behavior patterns.


Negative attitudes toward individuals based solely on their sex, combined with institutional and cultural practices that support the unequal status of different sex categories.


A scientist who formally studies human sexuality.


Sending or receiving sexual texts, images, or videos via mobile devices.

Sexual assault:

Unwanted sexual contact without the explicit consent of the victim.

Sexual callousness model:

A model proposing that repeated exposure to pornography desensitizes and habituates viewers, leading to callous sexual attitudes toward women.

Sexual desire (lust):

A wish or urge to engage in sexual activities.

Sexual fluidity:

The tendency for people’s sexual orientation or sexual identity to change across time.

Sexual identity:

The label that people use to describe their sexual orientation and their emotional reactions toward this label.

Sexual minority:

Referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and other nonheterosexual sexual orientations.

Sexual orientation:

An enduring pattern of cognitive, motivational, and behavioral tendencies that shapes how people experience and express their sexuality; often framed as the sex or sexes toward whom an individual feels attraction.

Sexual peak:

The height of a person’s interest in, enjoyment of, or engagement in sexual activity over time.

Sexual selection:

The evolutionary process by which heritable features that increase the likelihood of successful mating get passed down through genes.


The capacity for sexual responses and experiences.

Situational couple violence:

Intimate partner violence that results when heated conflicts escalate; committed by men and women about equally.

Social comparisons:

Comparisons between the self and another person on a specific dimension.

Social dominance orientation (SDO):

The extent to which individuals believe that inequality among social groups is right and fair because some groups should have more status than others.

Social learning theories:

Theories proposing that children learn gendered beliefs, behavior, and preferences by observing and imitating models and by receiving reinforcement and punishment from others.

Social network:

The extended circle of people with whom individuals regularly interact.

Social role theory:

The theory that gender stereotypes stem from people’s observations of the social and occupational roles that women and men typically perform.

Socioeconomic dependence perspective:

The hypothesis that men use violence as a means of maintaining control over partners who are economically dependent on them and thus unlikely to leave.

Socioeconomic status (SES):

A measure of the income, education level, and occupational status of an individual or household.

Spatial location memory:

The ability to remember the location of objects in physical space.

Spatial relations:

The ability to perceive, understand, and remember relations between objects in three-dimensional space.

Spatial visualization:

The ability to represent and manipulate two- and three-dimensional objects mentally.

Stalled gender revolution:

A historical trend in the United States in which women made large gains in the workforce between the 1960s and 1980s, but their gains plateaued in the early 1990s before true gender parity was reached.

Standard deviation:

A measure of how far the scores in a distribution vary, on average, from the mean value of the distribution; the square root of variance.

Statistical beliefs:

Beliefs about categories that involve numbers or proportions.

Status incongruity hypothesis:

The assumption that gender role—violating women are viewed negatively because they are seen as too dominant, while gender role—violating men are viewed negatively because they are seen as too low in status. These perceptions violate the gender status hierarchy and make people uncomfortable.

Status inconsistency perspective:

The hypothesis that men engage in partner violence more often when they feel threatened by partners who have greater economic status and power than they do.

Stereotype content model:

Theory proposing that stereotypes about social groups fall along communion and agency dimensions and that groups may be seen as high or low on both dimensions.

Stereotype threat:

Anxiety individuals feel when concerned that their behavior or performance might confirm a negative group stereotype.

Sticky floor:

Barriers that keep low-wage workers, who are disproportionately likely to be women and members of other marginalized groups, from being promoted.

Street harassment:

Uninvited sexual attention or harassment from a stranger in a public space.

Strong Black woman schema:

A set of beliefs about Black women as being strong, resilient, and able to persevere despite oppression.

Structural power:

The power to shape societies and social systems.

Subjective well-being:

People’s feelings of both short-term positive emotions and long-term sense of satisfaction, meaning, and purpose in life.

System justification theory:

The theory proposing that people are motivated to justify the sociopolitical system that governs them (even if it treats them unfairly) because doing so reduces uncertainty.

Teddy bear effect:

The tendency for baby-faced (physically nonthreatening) Black men to have an advantage in seeking high-status positions because they do not activate stereotypes about Black men as aggressive.


Disposable DNA sequences at the ends of chromosome strands that protect the remaining genes on the chromosomes during cell division.

Think manager—think male effect:

An effect in which stereotypes of men and managers overlap more strongly than stereotypes of women and managers.

Third variable problem:

In correlational research, the possibility that an unmeasured third variable (z) is responsible for the relationship between two correlated variables (x and y).


Gender bias in which employed women are viewed as less likable if they are assertive and as less competent if they are warm.

Time availability theory:

The theory that the partner who spends less time in paid work will do more housework.

Tipping point theory:

The theory that genes for same-sex sexuality get passed on because the same-sex relatives of gay and lesbian people have personalities that increase their likelihood of engaging in reproductive sex.

Transdiagnostic approach:

An approach that views most psychological disorders as different manifestations of a few core, heritable, underlying dimensions.

Transformational leadership style:

A style of leading that involves active mentorship, inspiring trust in subordinates, and encouraging others to develop to their full potential.


Describes people whose psychological gender identity does not align with their assigned sex at birth.

Tug of war:

Gender bias in which women feel like they have to compete against one another for access to limited positions, promotions, and workplace rewards.

Unacknowledged rape:

An experience that meets the legal definition of rape but is not labeled as rape by the victim.

Unmitigated agency:

A tendency to focus on the self to the neglect of other people.

Unmitigated communion:

A tendency to focus on others to the neglect of the self.


A measure of how far the scores in a distribution vary, on average, from the mean of the distribution.

Verbal aggression:

Communications intended to harm others.

Verbal fluency:

The ability to generate words.

Verbal reasoning:

The ability to understand and analyze concepts, often tested with analogies or word problems.


Severe forms of physical aggression that have extreme harm as their goal.

Visceral fat:

A type of body fat stored near vital organs inside the abdominal cavity that is associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Visual dominance:

A pattern of eye contact in which a person looks at others when speaking and looks away when listening.

Visual-spatial abilities:

Cognitive skills that help individuals understand relationships between objects and navigate three-dimensional space.

Whorfian (linguistic relativity) hypothesis:

A hypothesis stating that the structure of language determines the nature of the speaker’s thoughts and worldviews.

Within-group variance:

A measure of how spread out the values are among people within the same group (or within the same condition of an experiment).

Women-are-wonderful effect:

The tendency for people to view stereotypes about women more favorably than they view stereotypes about men and, accordingly, to view (traditional, gender-conforming) women very positively.

Work flexibility stigma:

Negative evaluations that workers receive for pursuing flexible work arrangements.

Work—family conflict:

Tension between work and home life, in which time spent in each domain detracts from contributions to the other domain.

Work—life balance:

The manner in which people prioritize work and home life.

Work—life enrichment:

Feelings of enrichment between work and home life, in which a fulfilling job positively spills over into the home, and a satisfying home life positively spills over into work.