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Capturing Stereotypes: Developing a Scale to Explore U.S. College Students’ Images of Science and Scientists

Mary Wyer, Jennifer Schneider, Sylvia Nassar-McMillan, Maria Oliver-Hoyo


The purpose of this study was to develop a contemporary measure of undergraduates' stereotypes of scientists that will make it possible to examine similarities and differences across time, place, culture, and demographics. The Stereotypes of Scientists (SOS) Scale is intended to be a catalyst for research that explores the degree to which college students' current stereotypes of scientists vary by their gender, ethnicity, country, education level, and academic major. The research was designed to identify the character and content of contemporary college students' images of scientists, both what they ‘do' in their day-to-day work and who they ‘are' as people. The majority of participants (n = 1,106) were college students. Fifty-seven possible items were generated from several sources. Results of exploratory factor analyses for the Stereotypes of Scientists (SOS) Scale indicate a twenty-two item, two-factor solution with the constructs of Professional Competencies (13 items) and Interpersonal Competencies (9 items). Further analyses of the SOS Scale found no effect of participants' gender on the construct validity or reliability of the scale. Thus, in the sample, women and men had similar responses to the items. A review of the items in the two factors suggests that students have complex, and sometimes contradictory, images of scientists, which resonate with but do not neatly reproduce an alignment between images of ‘scientists' and Western norms related to masculinity.


stereotypes; SOS scale; images of scientists; masculinity

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