Date of Award

Spring 5-27-2022

Document Type

Thesis (Undergraduate)

Department or Program

Cognitive Science

First Advisor

Jonathan Phillips

Second Advisor

Mingwei Huang


In what ways are our expectations of others and their behaviors limited by the ways they are identified? Broadly, this project asks how identity traits are considered across judgments about which social roles people can assume. This work is an interdisciplinary project that exists within the fields of both Cognitive Science and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. As such, the first chapter explores the central issues of identity conception from the perspective of feminist theory, including a discussion of category destabilization, intersectionality, and knowledge production in the context of feminist science studies. 4 empirical studies were launched with methods informed by these theory considerations. Study 1 employs a qualitative approach to ask whether there are discernible default identity heuristics being employed for certain social roles. Study 2 develops this question further but switches the focus onto what other judgments, like statistical expectations or prescriptive ideals, might actually be predictive of default identity judgements. Similarly, study 3 considers more broadly whether the associations being made could be represented as a principle, or inherent, aspect of social roles. Finally, study 4 draws upon the work of all the previous studies to investigate how our notions of default identity traits could affect our ability to perceive certain traits as more or less possible. Ultimately, this work concludes by asserting that collectively these studies offer evidence that identity traits could meaningfully limit our scope of possibilities for certain people.