Date of Thesis

Spring 2024


From a young age, children incorporate gender and gender stereotypes into their understanding of the world. From around 8.5 years old, children report that some musical instruments are “for boys” and others “for girls” (Abeles & Porter, 1978). Previous studies suggest that these judgments are largely influenced by past exposure to particular gender-instrument pairings (e.g., “My brother plays the trumpet, so trumpet is for boys”). In the present study, we investigated whether physical (size) and musical (pitch, volume) attributes affected children’s gendered judgments of musical instruments. To avoid potential influence from children’s past experiences, we used fictional instruments. Participants were 60 children (31 girls, 29 boys), aged 8.5 to 11 years old (M = 9.36, SD = 0.73) from across the United States and Canada. On each trial, children saw (large or small) and heard (high or low, loud or soft) a fictional instrument onscreen. Their task was to select which of two characters (girl or boy) should play the instrument. Main effects were found for instrument volume (p = .026) and pitch (p = .002), with children being more likely to select boys for louder instruments and lower-pitched instruments. In contrast, no effect of size was observed (p = .919). Results suggest that specific attributes of instruments impact children’s gender stereotyping and that beliefs about which gender should play which instruments do not come solely from past exposure to specific gender-instrument pairings.


Developmental, gender stereotypes, musical instruments

Access Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts



Second Major

Russian Studies

First Advisor

Haley Kragness

Second Advisor

Chris Boyatzis