Who Came Up With Social Role Theory?

In the field of social psychology, theories play a crucial role in understanding human behavior and the dynamics of social interactions. One such theory that has gained significant attention is the Social Role Theory. But who came up with this influential theory?

The Origins of Social Role Theory

Social Role Theory was initially proposed by two prominent psychologists, Alice Eagly and Linda Carli, in their groundbreaking book titled “Women’s Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind.” Published in 1988, this book revolutionized the understanding of gender roles and how they shape individuals’ experiences and behaviors.

Eagly and Carli’s work built upon previous research by sociologists and psychologists who had explored gender differences in various domains. However, they took a unique approach by focusing on the concept of social roles and their impact on individuals’ behavior.

The Core Premise

At its core, Social Role Theory posits that society assigns different roles to individuals based on their gender or other social categories. These roles then influence behavior patterns and expectations for those individuals. The theory suggests that these socially constructed roles shape not only how individuals perceive themselves but also how others perceive and interact with them.

Exploring Gender Roles

Eagly and Carli’s research primarily focused on gender roles and provided insights into why men and women often exhibit different behaviors within society. They argued that these differences are not solely due to biological factors but are heavily influenced by societal expectations associated with specific roles.

To support their claims, Eagly and Carli conducted extensive studies across cultures, examining various aspects such as decision-making styles, leadership qualities, and communication styles. Their findings consistently demonstrated that societal norms associated with gender roles significantly impact individual behavior and expectations.

Continued Research and Impact

Since its inception, Social Role Theory has continued to be a prominent area of research within social psychology. Numerous studies have expanded upon Eagly and Carli’s work, exploring the influence of social roles beyond gender, such as roles based on race, age, or occupation.

The theory has also been applied in various fields, including organizational psychology, sociology, and gender studies. It has provided a framework for understanding how societal expectations shape individual behavior and has helped identify and challenge stereotypes and biases.


In summary, Social Role Theory was developed by Alice Eagly and Linda Carli in their book “Women’s Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind.” This theory highlights the importance of social roles in shaping individuals’ behaviors and experiences within society. It has had a significant impact on the field of social psychology and continues to be a valuable framework for understanding human behavior in various contexts.