Abby Cunningham

The Influence of Gender Stereotypes on Perceptions of Gender Non-Binary Individuals

April 5, 2021   /  

Name: Abby Cunningham
Major: Psychology
Advisor: Dr. Amber Garcia

Previous research indicates that gender stereotypes can impact people’s perceptions of mental health. However, there are limited studies on gender non-binary individuals, gender stereotypes, or perceptions of mental health that may affect them. My I.S. examined how gender stereotypes surrounding men, women, and gender non-binary individuals may shape people’s perceptions of their mental health. It also examined reports of intergroup contact. Gender non-binary individuals were predicted to be viewed as the most mentally unhealthy, the least competent and warm, and of the lowest social status. It was also hypothesized that participants would have the least intergroup contact with gender non-binary individuals. Participants completed a survey in which they were provided with questions about a target gender group (men, women, or gender non-binary individuals) pertaining to gender stereotypes, mental health, and intergroup contact. Results indicate that there were no differences in perceptions of mental health for the target groups. Participants revealed the most intergroup contact with women than the other conditions, and the least intergroup contact with gender non-binary individuals. Gender non-binary individuals were rated to be of the lowest status but were not rated as the least competent or warm group. Further studies could investigate larger populations to reflect the wider community’s views and knowledge about non-binary individuals. This study may be beneficial in providing more information about non-binary identities, as well as outlining the importance of the development of mental health resources applicable to gender non-binary individuals and their experiences.

Abby will be online to field comments on April 16:
noon-2pm EDT (PST 9-11am, Africa/Europe: early evening)

42 thoughts on “The Influence of Gender Stereotypes on Perceptions of Gender Non-Binary Individuals”

  1. Abby, thanks for sharing this interesting and important work. I wondered if in addition to adding to the sparse resources to help gender non-binary individuals, if there is also a need to alter training for mental health professionals.

    1. Hi Dr. Stavnezer! I think that’s a great point, mental health professionals absolutely need to have proper training to understand non-binary individuals’ experiences in order for mental health resources to be beneficial. Thank you so much for your comment!

  2. Hi Abby,
    This is a great study! I agree that information and understanding are essential to shattering the often marginalizing stereotypes surrounding non-binary individuals. I hope your study is the first of many on an important topic.

    As I say every day, I am so proud of all your hard work at Wooster and how you have grown these past four years. Congratulations on a job well done! Much love, Dad

  3. Hi Abby,
    Excellent analysis on an extremely important subject matter! The impact of perceptions on the mental health on an already marginalized community is both telling and timely. You’re going to be a great psychologist!
    Congratulations on a job well done!🎉
    Aunt Liz❤️

    1. Thank you so much for watching my presentation Aunt Liz, I really appreciate it!

  4. Super-interesting, Abby, and great to have broader perpectives gathered and added to this important disucssion. Nice job!

  5. Abby! Congratulations! I am also interested in what Dr. Stav asked. What an interesting and very relevant project. Awesome job!

    1. Thanks Matt! I’m very interested in what she said too, I think it’s such an important point to make! If we are to create adequate mental health resources for non-binary individuals, mental health professionals must have proper training.

  6. Hi Abby,
    Appreciate your interest in the influences on perceptions of gender non-binary individuals and your thoughts about how understanding these perceptions might help us figure out how to lower stigma and increase acceptance and support.
    Glad to hear you are considering psychology as a career— you have a head start in a very important and rapidly changing area.
    Congratulations on your graduation!
    Leigh ( Emma’s Mom)

    1. Thank you so much for watching, I really appreciate it! Congratulations to Emma as well!!

  7. Interesting study, Abby! What can we do to increase exposure to outgroups and reduce negative stereotypes about people who identify and gender non-binary?

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I think increasing conversations about gender non-binary individuals and their identities can reduce stereotypes and prejudice individuals may have about them, as well as listening to non-binary individuals about their experiences. I also think that social media has been such a powerful tool to expose and educate people on non-binary identities, especially outgroups who may not understand what non-binary means. Overall, I hope that more information and education on non-binary identities will become available for individuals who may be ignorant or misinformed.

  8. Hi Abby-
    This is such an important study on perceptions of a marginalized group and I’m looking forward to seeing how you and the College of Wooster may expand on the study in the future. Also interested in the impact on training for mental health professionals as well.

    I’m interested to hear where the idea of this study came from and how the results have changed your personal perceptions.

    We are so proud of you and can’t wait to see what your future holds! We are always here for you with love and support!

    1. Thank you so much! I have always been interested in mental health, and I thought it would be interesting to look into how gender stereotypes impacted perceptions of mental health. I also have a lot of friends who are non-binary, and I have heard a lot about their experiences, and I think it’s so important for people to try to understand and empathize with their experiences. This study has definitely changed my perceptions of how other people view the gender spectrum. I thought it was interesting that a number of participants in my survey reported that they had no idea what non-binary meant, and some people even reported pretty negative descriptions of how they felt about non-binary people, which I wasn’t expecting. You can assume that all people are welcoming, but you never know if they may hold implicit biases or prejudice against marginalized groups. Love you!

      1. I watched Noah’s presentation on social media. You know I’ve had a love/hate relationship with many current platforms, but in many ways, the tool can be so powerful. It has opened you up to new opportunities and new friendships that you might not have been able to experience otherwise. I’m very proud of you for working to help educate on marginalized communities and for being so open, welcoming and inclusive!

    1. Thank you so much for everything Dr. Garcia! Working with you this year was incredible, I feel so lucky to have had you as an advisor!

  9. Well done, Abby! Do you have thoughts on how your survey would of turned out with different survey populations – such as the Wooster community vs a large city? Very interesting! Congratulation!

    1. Thank you so much! I actually wrote about this question in my IS and have thought about it a lot! Because the community at the college is very diverse and welcoming, most of my participants were educated on non-binary identities. However, I think that if my population were to be from a large city or wider communities, my results would be much different. Depending on how progressive the area is, individuals may hold more negative stereotypes toward non-binary individuals. My hypotheses predicted that participants would rate gender non-binary individuals to have the worst mental health, and the lowest warmth, competence, and status. Although these hypotheses weren’t supported by my results, I think if I used participants from the wider community, they might not be as educated about non-binary people, and these hypotheses could be supported.

  10. Hi Abby,

    Thanks for your important work. I wondered about the participants. Did you use Wooster students? so, If Might they be less likely to stereotype people based on gender identity?
    (from Matt’s grandmother)

    1. Thank you for your question, I wrote about this in my IS! My participants were Wooster students, and I definitely think that because the college is a diverse and inclusive place, participants were educated on or aware of non-binary identities, allowing for them to be less likely to hold negative stereotypes based on gender identity.

  11. Really great work on this project! It is such an important area. I’m curious about your thoughts about the lack of differences in perceptions of anxiety and depression based on the target gender identity. One part of me thinks this is encouraging as it might reflect a lack of stigma about those with non-binary identities. On the other hand, this might be reflect a blindspot about true mental health needs of gender non-binary individuals who – because of discrimination, bias, minority stress, etc. – may actually experience elevated rates of symptoms. Curious to hear your thoughts!

    1. Thank you so much for your question, I think this is very interesting to consider! I was very surprised when analyzing my results, as I thought that there would be more drastic differences in perceptions of mental health between the targets. I agree with both of your thoughts! Because my participants were students from the college, I think that there may be a lack of stigma from individuals on this campus. I also agree that there is a great need for adequate mental health resources for gender non-binary individuals. I discussed in my IS that non-binary individuals may feel deterred from seeking help for mental health and medical conditions because they are concerned that they will feel marginalized and not understood. This leads to individuals living with their mental illness without proper care or treatment. It is so important for more conversations to be had about how to create more mental health resources equipped to help gender non-binary individuals.

  12. Your presentation was really wonderful, this issue is close to my heart and it’s great to see it explored at the college. I had two questions for you: do you think this study would have been different if conducted outside the college community (I’m assuming it was just on the college, but I don’t really know), and do you know the artist for your picture used on the second to last slide? It’s gorgeous!

    Great job!

    1. Thank you for your question! My participants were Wooster students, and I think that using participants from the wider community would’ve drastically changed my results. We are lucky that the college is a very inclusive place, but that’s not necessarily the case in the wider community. I think that my results might’ve reflected more negative gender identity stereotypes if I used participants outside of the college. Also, I’m not sure who the artist is, but if you search gender non-binary in Google you should be able to find the picture!

  13. Great job Abby!!!! From a therapist’s perspective (particularly working with middle school students who identify in many different ways) I love this study!! I appreciate that you brought light to this topic as it has such far-reaching effects in real people’s lives. I have found The Trevor Project to be my go-to resource for educating myself. Glad I’ll be part of seeing where you go from here–see you soon! 👏👏👏👏👏

    1. Thank you so much Nancy, I’m so proud of Rachel too! I really appreciate that you commented, and I’m so happy that you are able to have a positive impact on students of differing identities!

  14. Stellar work Abby! This research is so important, and I’m so proud of all that you’ve accomplished. You deserve all the praise for finishing IS, and doing it so magnificently. It has been the highlight of my time here at Wooster to be your friend, and I can’t wait for so many more good times to come. Love you always ❤️

    1. Thank you so much Noah! I’m so grateful to have you, and I’m glad we could help each other through this process! I’m so proud of you too and I love you so much!!

  15. Abby,

    This is such important research for the field, you should be proud! Is there anything that surprised you in your findings?

    1. Thanks Laura! I thought the most interesting finding was that although it wasn’t a significant result, participants rated men as the most mentally unhealthy. I wasn’t expecting that at all!

  16. Abby!! This is such incredible work. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. A big congratulations to you!

  17. Congrats!! You absolutely killed I.S. and I was so lucky to have you beside me throughout this process and the entirety of college. You really are the best roommate and friend I’ve ever had and I’m so grateful to have you in my life. I love you so much and I’m so proud of all you’ve done!

    1. Thank you so much Rachel! I love you so much and I’m so grateful for you!!

  18. Wonderful job, Abby! It’s amazing to see how far you’ve come…from a smiling, happy little infant to an incredibly insightful, caring and wise (and smiling and happy!) young woman. I know your parents are so proud of you, as are we, and we wish you only the best as you pursue your chosen field. You will crush it!
    Much love and success to you from all of us,
    Uncle Mike, Aunt Jan, John and Caroline

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