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Alice Eagly

James Padilla Emerita Chair of Arts and Sciences | Professor of Psychology Emerita

PhD, University of Michigan, Psychology, 1965

Alice Eagly is a social psychologist who has published widely on the psychology of gender and of attitudes, especially attitude change and attitude structure. In both of these areas, she has carried out primary research and meta-analyses of research literature. She is the author of Sex Differences in Social Behavior: A Social Role Interpretation, The Psychology of Attitudes with co-author Shelly Chaiken, and Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders with co-author Linda L. Carli. Eagly also is the author of numerous journal articles and chapters in her research specialties.

Previously, she taught at Michigan State University, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Purdue University. She has served as president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, the Midwestern Psychological Association, and the Society of Personality and Social Psychology, chair of the Board of Scientific Affairs of the American Psychological Association, and chair of the Executive Committee of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology. 

She has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association and the Gold Medal from the American Psychological Foundation Life Achievement in the Science of Psychology, Interamerican Psychologist Award for contributions to psychology as a science and profession in the Americas; and the Carolyn Wood Sherif Award for contributions to the psychology of women as scholar, mentor, teacher, and leader. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was also awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Erasmus University, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the University of Bern, and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

Current Research

Women and Leadership. Eagly's book on gender and leadership, Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders, was published in 2007 by Harvard Business School Press. Some of her findings appear in a 2007 article in Psychology of Women Quarterly, "Female leadership advantage and disadvantage: Resolving the contradictions" and a 2002 article in Psychological Review, "Role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders," co-authored with Steven Karau at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. In 2011, she published a meta-analysis on stereotypes of leaders in Psychological Bulletin that focuses on the extent to which leadership roles are perceived in feminine or masculine terms and on differences in these perceptions between nations and across time periods.

Stereotype Content. Another current project examines the content of stereotypes about social groups. This research tests the theory that stereotype content emerges from observations of the behaviors inherent in the social roles that are commonly occupied by members of social groups. A 2014 article with Anne Koenig of the University of San Diego reporting a test of this theory has appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and a 2019 article in Social Psychology  Quarterly. Eagly is currently working on a project on gender stereotypes across time and nations, based on stereotype data in nationally representative public opinion data.

Feminism and Psychology. Another emphasis of Eagly’s work is examining the relation between feminism and psychology, in particular the emergence of a large, diverse field of research pertaining to gender and women. With several colleagues, she published a 2012 article in the American Psychologist exploring the content and dissemination of this research. In a 2014 article with Stephanie Riger of the University of Illinois at Chicago, she has addressed relation between feminist methodological and epistemological critiques of psychology and contemporary psychological science. In a 2018 article in the Journal of Social Issues, Eagly has analyzed the impact of feminist ideology on research pertaining to sex and gender. She argues that this ideology has encouraged a focus on the external environment causing female disadvantage and a de-emphasis of other types of influences.

Science and Advocacy. Eagly has addressed the relations between scientific findings and advocacy on diversity issues. To illustrate the chasm that can develop between research findings and advocates' claims, Eagly analyzed two research areas in a 2016 article in the Journal of Social Issues: the effects of the gender diversity of corporate boards of directors on firms' financial performance, and the effects of the gender and racial diversity of workgroups on group performance. On both of these topics, social science myths have gained wide acceptance. Eagly recommends that social scientists should dispel these and other myths and act as honest brokers by communicating consensus scientific findings to advocates and policymakers in an effort to foster exploration of evidence-based policy options.

The Magnitude of Psychological Differences Between Women and Men. A forthcoming article in Perspectives in Psychological Science, co-authored with William Revelle also at Northwestern, demonstrates that larger and smaller sex/gender differences can reflect differing ways of organizing the same data.  For single psychological constructs, larger differences emerge from averaging multiple indicators that differ by sex/gender to produce scales of a construct’s overall typicality for women versus men. Sex/gender differences on such broad-gauge, thematic variables are large relative to differences on their component indicators. In addition, in psychological domains such as vocational interests that are composed of many variables, at least some of which differ by sex/gender, the multivariate distance between women and men is typically larger than the differences on the component variables. These analyses encourage recognition of the interdependence of sex/gender similarity and difference in psychological data.

Selected Publications

Henningsen, L., A. Eagly, and K. Jonas. Forthcoming. Where are the women deans? The importance of gender bias and self-selection processes for the deanship ambition of female and male professors. Journal of Applied Social Psychology (21 pp).

Eagly, A., and A. Koenig. 2021. The vicious cycle linking stereotypes and social roles. Current Directions in Psychological Science 30(4): 343–50.

Eagly, A., C. Nater, D. Miller, M. Kaufmann, and S. Sczesny. 2020. Gender stereotypes have changed: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of U.S. public opinion polls from 1946 to 2018. American Psychologist 75(3): 301–15.

Gustafsson Sendén, M., A. Eagly, and S. Sczesny. 2020. Of caring nurses and assertive police officers: Social role information overrides gender stereotypes in linguistic behavior. Social Psychological and Personality Science 11(6): 743–51.

Koenig, A., and A. Eagly. 2019. Typical roles and intergroup relations shape stereotypes: How understanding social structure clarifies the origins of stereotype content. Social Psychology Quarterly 82(2): 205–30.

Eagly, A. 2018. The shaping of science by ideology: How feminism inspired, led, and constrained scientific understanding of sex and gender. Journal of Social Issues 74(4): 871–88.

Bosak, J., A. Eagly, A. Diekman, and S. Sczesny. 2018. Women and men of the past, present, and future: Evidence of dynamic gender stereotypes in Ghana. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 49(1): 115–29.

Eagly, A. 2018. Some leaders come from nowhere: Their success is uneven. Journal of Social Issues 74(1): 184–96.

Miller, D., K. Nolla, A. Eagly, and D. Uttal. 2018. The development of children's gender‐science stereotypes: A meta‐analysis of 5 decades of us draw‐a‐scientist studies. Child Development 89(6): 1943–55.

Stockdale, M., and A. Eagly. 2018. Beyond representation of women in I-O to producing gender-inclusive knowledge. Industrial and Organizational Psychology 11(3): 448–55.