Who Came Up With the Social Role Theory?


Martha Robinson

Who Came Up With the Social Role Theory?

The Social Role Theory is a sociological concept that seeks to explain how society assigns different roles to individuals based on their gender, age, and other social characteristics. This theory was first proposed by two influential sociologists: Alice Eagly and Linda Carli.

Alice Eagly

Alice Eagly is an American social psychologist and a prominent figure in the field of gender studies. She was born in 1938 and has made significant contributions to understanding the social dynamics of gender roles. Eagly’s research focuses on the impact of stereotypes and societal expectations on individuals’ behavior and life choices.

Throughout her career, Eagly has conducted numerous studies examining how gender influences various aspects of our lives, including career choices, leadership styles, and relationships. She has challenged traditional views regarding gender differences by emphasizing the importance of socialization and cultural contexts in shaping these differences.

Linda Carli

Linda Carli is also an American social psychologist known for her work on gender and leadership. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University and has been teaching at Wellesley College since 1983. Carli’s research primarily revolves around understanding the barriers women face in attaining leadership positions.

Carli’s contributions to the Social Role Theory have focused on analyzing how societal expectations affect women’s career choices, opportunities for advancement, and perceived competence as leaders. By examining both individual-level factors and systemic biases, she has shed light on the complex interplay between gender roles and professional success.

The Collaborative Efforts

Eagly and Carli collaborated on multiple studies investigating the role of social context in shaping gender roles. Their groundbreaking work challenged traditional theories that attributed gender differences solely to biological factors. Instead, they emphasized the importance of socialization and societal expectations in shaping individuals’ behavior.

By combining their expertise in social psychology and gender studies, Eagly and Carli have provided valuable insights into how gender roles are constructed and perpetuated within society. Their research has had a significant impact on our understanding of the societal forces that shape individuals’ roles and opportunities.


The Social Role Theory, initially proposed by Alice Eagly and Linda Carli, offers a comprehensive framework for understanding how society assigns different roles to individuals based on their gender and other social characteristics. Through their collaborative efforts, Eagly and Carli have challenged traditional theories, highlighting the influence of socialization and societal expectations in shaping gender roles.

Their work continues to inspire researchers and scholars to explore the complex dynamics between individual agency and cultural norms. By acknowledging the impact of social context on individuals’ behavior, we can strive towards a more equitable society that recognizes and values diverse contributions regardless of gender or other social attributes.