Going beyond the binary in personality assessment

Laura Willman made a more inclusive measure to connect gender identity and personality traits

| Author: Hadlee Rinn | Media Contact: Kara Owens

Laura Willman, a doctoral student in the applied experimental psychology program, created a new measure connecting personality and gender. The two focus areas of Willman’s research are measuring gender identity in an inclusive way and looking at gender differences in personality traits.  

Willman’s new measure looks into multiple aspects of gender identity such as importance, positive feelings towards one’s gender, how often individuals feel masculine or feminine, and the pressure individuals feel to be masculine and feminine. Compared to other measures, Willman’s measure is shorter and employs participants to answer questions about masculinity and femininity, regardless of gender category. She also tries to gauge how participants feel about their own gender identity and focus less on assessing gender stereotypes.  

On other measures, Willman says, “Most measures of gender are really long or are made so that only men respond about masculinity and only women respond about femininity.” 

In her findings, Willman discovered more inclusive measures allow more information to be revealed about participants and can accurately predict personality traits. For example, men and women feel various levels of masculinity and femininity. Also, a measure of masculinity more precisely predicts aggression compared to a binary measure of gender. 

In the future, Willman “hopes to continue looking at different personality traits and keep finding ways to measure gender in a way that is accurate, inclusive and meaningful.” 

This story is brought to you by the  Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

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