Who Proposed Social Role Theory?


Diego Sanchez

Who Proposed Social Role Theory?

Social Role Theory is a psychological theory that seeks to explain the influence of social roles on individuals’ behavior, attitudes, and beliefs. It was first proposed by Alice Eagly and Valerie Steffen in the late 1970s.

The Founders

Alice Eagly, a social psychologist, and Valerie Steffen, an industrial-organizational psychologist, collaborated to develop the theory. They aimed to understand how societal expectations and norms shape individuals’ behaviors within specific social roles.

Key Concepts

At its core, Social Role Theory suggests that people’s behavior is strongly influenced by the roles they occupy in society. These roles can be based on factors such as gender, age, occupation, or cultural background.

Role Expectations

Role expectations involve the societal beliefs and norms about how individuals should behave when occupying a particular role. For example, in many cultures, there are certain expectations regarding the behavior of men and women in various social roles.

Role Conflict

Role conflict occurs when individuals experience conflicting expectations from different roles they occupy. For instance, a working mother may face challenges in balancing her responsibilities at work and at home.

Role Salience

Role salience refers to the importance an individual attaches to a specific role. Some roles may be more central to an individual’s identity than others. For instance, being a parent may be highly salient for someone who values their role as a caregiver.

Influence on Behavior

Social Role Theory proposes that individuals’ behaviors are largely shaped by their adherence to societal expectations associated with specific roles. These expectations can influence how people act, think, and respond to various situations.

Gender Roles

Gender roles are a significant aspect of Social Role Theory. Society often expects different behaviors, characteristics, and responsibilities from individuals based on their gender. This theory suggests that these gender roles strongly influence the behavior of men and women.


Social Role Theory has been widely applied in various fields of study, including psychology, sociology, and organizational behavior. It has been used to explain phenomena such as gender inequality in the workplace, stereotypes, and socialization processes.

Organizational Behavior

In the realm of organizational behavior, Social Role Theory helps understand how individuals’ behaviors within their professional roles are influenced by societal norms and expectations. It also sheds light on issues such as leadership styles and decision-making processes within organizations.


Social Role Theory, proposed by Alice Eagly and Valerie Steffen, provides valuable insights into how societal roles shape individuals’ behavior. By understanding the influence of social roles on human behavior, we can gain a deeper understanding of our own actions as well as those around us.