The Bem Sex Role Inventory
The BSRI or Bem Sex Role Inventory is the product of Sandra Lipsitz Bem, who
began researching sex roles since the early '70's. The Bem test indicates the
degrees of absorption of cultural definitions of gender, as reflected in the
- Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal
of Counseling & Clinical Psychology, 42, 155-162.
- Bem Sex - Role Inventory. Bem, Sandra L. USA: Consulting Psychologists
Cynthia Connor and colleagues summarize Bem's findings in
an interesting article titled "Intrinsic Motivation and Role Adaptability
with Regards to Drama Students:"
The possession of both masculine and feminine characteristics has important
consequences for behavior (Bem, S. L., 1974). An expanded behavioral repertoire
gives androgynous individuals superior sex-role adaptability in comparison
to sex-typed individuals. The androgynous individual is able to adapt to a
variety of situations. Sex-typed people internalize societies sex-appropriate
behaviors as being desirable and exclude cross-sexed behaviors from their
behavioral repertoires. Sandra Bems pioneering research on the dimensions
of masculinity and femininity led to the development of the Bem Sex Role Inventory,
(1974). The Bem Sex Role Inventory measures masculinity and femininity as
two discriminable dimensions. The androgynous individual scores high on both
dimensions. Sex-typed individuals score high on one dimension and reject while
rejecting the characteristics of the other dimension. Androgynous people enact
their masculine and feminine on different occasions (Vonk, R. & Ashemore,
R. D., 1993). In describing their masculine, feminine and gender neutral attributes
sides, Androgynous subjects use more situational qualifiers to explain their
behavior. This supports Sandra Bems theory that androgyny is manifested
as situational flexibility (1975).
After continued research into androgyny, Bem developed a cognitive schema
theory of sex role behavior (Cook, E. P. 1985). Androgyny is a particular
way of processing information. Androgynous individuals do not use sex-role
related schemas to guide their information processing. Gender schematic individuals
divide the world into masculine and feminine. They use traditional sex-role
standards in their processing of information. Gender schema theory does not
emphasize the degree to which an individual is masculine or feminine, but
rather the extent to which they process new information along in terms of
sex roles (Hargreaves, D. J. & Colley, A. M., 1987).
This inventory (BSRI) provides independent assessments of masculinity and femininity
in terms of the respondent's self-reported possession of socially desirable,
stereotypically masculine and feminine personality characteristics. This
can also be seen as a measurement of the extent to which respondents spontaneously
sort self-relevant information into distinct masculine and feminine categories.
The self administering 60-item questionnaire measures masculinity, femininity,
androgyny, and undifferentiated, using the Masculinity and Femininity scales.
While Bem's theories are very interesting, the test itself for use in transsexuals
is problematic for several reasons:
Other Bem resources:
- Reliance on gender stereotypes which can be recognized as male or female
by the test taker.
- Self-reporting by the test taker based on the above can influence the
- While Bem asserts that androgynous takers will score high on both scales,
this may not be true for transsexuals. Many TS women are extraordinarily
invested in culturally defined sex-appropriate behaviors, and a baseline
has not been established for transsexuals.
and electronic copies of the test)