Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Mark Pancer

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The works of self-categorization theorists (e.g., Conover, 1988, 1984; Turner et al., 1987) suggests that presenting individuals with social issues central to the interests of their social group, and individual differences in group identification, can accentuate the salience of one’s group membership. Further, they suggest that social group salience may affect individuals’ viewpoints on group central social issues, resulting in more extreme, black-and-white thinking. The present study was designed in order to investigate the extent to which social group salience and/or individual differences in group identification affect the complexity with which gender group members think about a gender-central social issue. Ninety-six participants who identified either weakly or strongly with their gender group indicated their thoughts about a scenario which did or did not involve sexual harassment. It was expected that those who were asked about sexual harassment would be less complex than those who were not, and that those who were asked about sexual harassment and were also high in gender group identity would be the least complex overall. Results indicated that those who considered a sexual harassment scenario (i.e., a gender central issue for both genders) engaged in significantly more black and white (less complex) thought when considering this issue that those who were given a scenario discussing another issue not related to harassment. As well, individual differences in group identity affected the complexity of males’, but not females’ responses; males who were high in gender identity and were given the sexual harassment scenario were less complex than those who were low in gender identity and were given the sexual harassment scenario. Results are discussed with reference to gender differences in gender identification, the tendency for group central social issues to accentuate group salience and the impact of group membership on reasoning.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season