Research Questions

Here we outline a number of research goals that our team has with this data collection.

Understanding Men and Women’s Communion and Agency Across Countries

a. Men’s Own Communal Values:
Project lead: Katharina Block (

In many countries, men perceive themselves in less communal ways than do women. Somewhat ironically, such gender differences are more pronounced in more economically developed countries (Falk & Hermle, 2018). First, we want to explore whether the relationship between human development and gender differences in communal values replicates in our sample. Next we want to examine cultural factors that predict communion among men specifically (and women as comparison). Some past research points toward specific factors here. For example, in countries in which collectivism is more valued, men are stereotyped as more communal (Cuddy et al., 2015). Other cultural factors may play a role as well. Social role theory posits that the roles we observe other men and women occupying (descriptive norms) should shape how communal and agentic we perceive men and women to be, possibly having downstream effects on men’s own values. With the UCOM data, we will test the following hypotheses: In countries which a) are more collectivistic, b) show a higher female labor force participation, c) in which it is more normative for men to take on communal roles, men should themselves endorse communal values more strongly

b. Causes & Consequences of Communal-Agentic Compatibility:
Project lead: Katharina Block (

Individuals and cultures might not only differ in the extent to which they endorse communal and agentic values separately, they might also differ in the extent to which they perceive communal and agentic goals as compatible. With the UCOM data, we will explore individual cultural variability in this novel construct of compatibility between communal and agentic goals. We will explore possible predictors of seeing such goals as more compatible, such as collectivism and work- and family-policies in a given country. We also explore consequences for men and women’s roles. The compatibility between achievement and communion should be especially important for expectations about work and family life. Seeing communion and agency as inherently incompatible should lead people to see more conflict between communal roles (e.g., HEED careers, family-orientation) and achievement roles (e.g., career-orientation) – through this, compatibility perceptions could also predict gender role norms.

Understanding Norms, Permissive Attitudes &
Support for Equality

a. Documenting & Understanding Asymmetric Support Equality in HEED vs. STEM:
Project lead: Katharina Block (

Not all instances of gender inequality appear to be equally concerning to the public. In American samples, we find that there is asymmetric support for achieving more gender equality in HEED vs. in STEM (Block, Croft, De Souza, & Schmader, 2019). With data from several nations, we aim to document in which countries people perceive gender imbalances in male-dominated careers (especially STEM and leadership) as more problematic than gender imbalances in female-dominated careers (especially HEED). We are furthermore interested in what predicts whether individuals within a country are concerned with supporting gender equality in HEED vs. STEM. Our own values, together with national level of gender equality, might color which roles we perceive to be appropriate for men and women, and how much we in turn support efforts to work towards more gender-equal representation in certain careers. With the help of this dataset, we will examine whether several policy, cultural, and individual variables predict support for gender equality in careers. We expect that countries with higher levels of overall gender equality in a country, more explicit gender-equality policies, but also individuals (especially men) with higher communal values will: a) report more personal support for making HEED (& STEM) more equally occupied by men and women and b) show more egalitarian injunctive norms for HEED and STEM participation.

This issue of gender equality in HEED and STEM connects to the issue of pay equality between these types of careers. One way to conceptualize how much a career is valued in a country is through the level of pay and status the career receives in the country. We find that, on an individual level, communal values predict a desire to pay HEED occupations a higher salary (i.e., to be more comparable to STEM salaries) . We will extend this work with this dataset. We expect that a country’s support for pay equality between HEED and STEM should be related to: a) collectivism, b) communal values, c) a general preference for equality (Schwartz values) and/or, d) male participation in HEED roles. Please refer to the pre-registration for detailed hypotheses.

b. Predictors of Fear of Backlash:
Project lead: Eline Camerman (

National level of gender equality may be predictive of the extent to which men fear they will receive backlash for engagement in communally oriented tasks and roles. Experimental data shows that when presented with more traditional norms, men are more likely to expect backlash (Van Grootel, Van Laar, Meeussen, Schmader, & Sczesny, 2018). We expect that in countries with greater overall support for gender equality, higher levels of female employment, a lower wage gap, more generous paternal leave, and lower power distance, there will be less fear of backlash for men engaging in communal roles.

c. Relationship of Perception Norms with Actual Norms (Pluralistic Ignorance):
Project lead: Leila Eisner (

We will examine whether pluralistic ignorance (the extent to which one’s own beliefs about group norms vary from what a group actually believes), with regard to male communal orientation, may be most likely to occur as gender-attitudes start to shift – due to a lag in attitude changes, perceptions of norms may be left behind. This would also suggest there may be less pluralistic ignorance when gender-roles are more traditional or stable, and this is testable in our dataset by examining perceptions of others’ injunctive norms vs. own reported injunctive norms. An alternative hypothesis would be that there is always pluralistic ignorance, as perceived norms are always stronger than actual norms: people, after all, hide non-normative attitudes and behaviors, so norms may always appear stronger than they in fact are (this would also mean that pluralistic ignorance can always be revealed to encourage social change).

d. Interactions of Own and Others’ Injunctive Norms on Related Outcomes:
Project lead: Carolin Schuster (

We will examine particularly the effect of having opposing injunctive norms to the ones perceived as typical in one’s country. We expect that a larger difference between one’s own and others’ injunctive norms will predict a smaller relationship between individual aspirations and descriptive norms. Having a different injunctive norms than others’ around oneself requires active consideration and rejection of the culturally dominant beliefs. Descriptive norms are likely to affect aspirations, intentions, and behaviors either by implying injunctive norms that require conformity or by a heuristic facilitation of the descriptively normal response. Actively and explicitly endorsing contrary injunctive norms than the majority should disrupt this effect.

On the other hand, the (individual) own injunctive norms may be less effective in predicting aspirations, intentions, and behaviors if others’ contrary perceived (individual) and actual (CL) injunctive norms are prevalent leading to high conformity pressures.

Understanding Men’s Attitudes Towards Taking on Paid HEED vs. STEM Careers

a. National Predictors of the Gender Gap in HEED and STEM
Project lead: Katharina Block (

Previous research has found that the gender segregation of labor markets (i.e., actual gender differences in representation), as well as gender differences in career interests, both vary between countries, and this variation is correlated with economic development in paradoxical ways. Although more developed countries are also higher in gender equality indices, the overall gender segregation of labor markets and college majors (Charles, 1992; 2003; Charles & Bradley, 2002; 2009), as well as differences in men and women’s personal preferences for STEM-related careers (Charles, Harr, Cech, & Hendley, 2014; Sikora & Pokropek, 2012; Goldman & Penner, 2016) are MORE pronounced in countries with higher vs. lower economic development (and thus also higher gender equality). We want to examine evidence and explanations for this “Development Paradox” in the case of HEED careers (independent of a country’s level of general gender equality). For this, we will document the country-level gender differences in preference for HEED careers (interest + value-fit) and test whether more developed countries (HDI and GDP) tend to show a larger gender difference (whereby men are less interested).

There are several plausible theoretical explanations for WHY economic development might predict higher gender differences in career preferences. Adding to previous work that has largely focused on economic development and its structural characteristics as a predictor, we will test whether several cultural psychological factors can account for the seemingly ironic effects of economic development (ED). In addition to a number of exploratory factors listed later, we are specifically testing the following factors as predictors of the country-level gender difference in HEED interest: a) country-level gender differences in communal values, b) collectivism, c) self-expression values and, d) gender stereotypes. Importantly, we planned additional analyses to distinguish effects of development from effects of gender equality (such as measured with the GGGI indicator) Please refer to the pre-registration for detailed hypotheses.

b. Personal Values vs. Societal Norms in Predicting Interest in HEED and STEM Careers:
Project lead: Katharina Block (

A further project is aimed at honing in on examining how individual- and societal-level factors specifically predict interest in HEED and STEM careers among men (vs. women). There are a number of barriers to men’s participation in HEED roles. Men’s interest in taking on roles is likely determined by an interplay of different factors – some of which are internal and some of which are external (Croft, Schmader, & Block, 2015). Firstly, we are interested in exploring external barriers. Specifically, we ask whether descriptive norms (i.e., the perceived proportion of men and women in HEED and STEM) or perceived injunctive norms (i.e., the extent to which people think men and women should occupy careers in HEED and STEM) influence men’s interest (and especially sense of belonging) in HEED and STEM careers. It is possible that expectancy-value beliefs such as self-efficacy mediate these relationships.

Secondly, communal values are an internal motivation to take on HEED. In line with past research, we expect that men with more communal values will be more interested in HEED careers (Block et al., 2018). However, the relationship between communal values and HEED interest might be moderated by cultural factors such as national-level injunctive norms or self-expression values. We will test the hypothesis that men’s own communal values should be more closely related to whether they are interested in HEED roles when they believe that other’s injunctive norms are permissive of men taking on HEED roles. Similarly, we believe that men’s internal values and their career interests should be more closely aligned in nations that highly values self-expression- (over survival-) values.

More exploratory analyses aim to compare these predictors of HEED interest in men to the same processes for women. It is possible that especially self-efficacy beliefs and external barriers function differently for men than women. Moreover, additional analyses will explore whose injunctive norms exactly are the best predictor for men’s career interest. It is possible that men are especially attuned to the normative preference of other men around them, since these might be an especially good signal of what roles are compatible with masculinity in a given country. On the other hand, heterosexual men could also be especially attuned to to women’s injunctive norms, since young heterosexual individuals expect some extent of complimentarity between men and women in their future roles (Croft et al., 2019).

c. Are Non-Heterosexual Individuals LESS Influenced by Injunctive Gender Role Norms than Are Heterosexual Individuals?:
Project lead:  Katharina Block (

It is worth considering in what ways non-heterosexual men and women’s career choices might be guided by social norms differently than the career interest of heterosexual participants. Whereas internal communal motivations may guide the career aspirations of non-heterosexual and/or non-binary identifying individuals in ways similar to what we have observed in many studies, social norms might influence these populations in different and unique ways. On the one hand, traditional gender role stereotypes are often less readily applied to non-heterosexual men or individuals who were assigned male at birth but do not hold a binary gender identity (Blashill & Powlishta, 2009). Such individuals might, therefore, feel less confined by traditional gender role norms because they already defy traditional expectations. On the other hand, individuals who do not fall into heteronormative categories are still embedded in a dominant culture that fosters the internalization of traditional gender roles to some extent (e.g., Szymanski & Carr, 2008), and face serious social sanctions for not conforming to traditional ideas of gender (Parrott, 2009). In this sense, traditional gender role norms might still be important factors deterring even LGBTQ+ men from HEED roles. With the UCOM data, we can test these potentially diverging predictions. Specifically, we can examine whether sexual orientation moderates the relationship between perceived injunctive norms for HEED and STEM careers and interest in these careers. It will be especially interesting to examine whether countries that have more negative attitudes towards homosexuality will not show such a moderation effect, as even non-heterosexual individuals in these countries are not given the chance to defy norms.

c. Implicit Gender Stereotypes and National Level-Norms
Project lead: Tessa Charlesworth (

We will investigate how country-level differences in implicit (and explicit) gender-career and gender-science stereotypes (i.e., associating men-career/women-family, and men-science/female-arts) are correlated with country-level differences in descriptive (i.e., what is seen in the world) and societal injunctive norms (i.e., what others think the world should be like) about the distribution of labor (between childcare/paid work) and occupations (between HEED and STEM). In line with the “bias of crowds” theory, which proposes that implicit cognition arises from descriptive perceptions of the surrounding environment, we expect that higher implicit gender-career and gender-science stereotypes will occur in countries where descriptive and (to a lesser extent) societal injunctive norms emphasize high gender division in domestic labor and occupations. We also expect that individual injunctive norms (i.e., what you think the world should be like) and personal evaluations will be less associated with country-level implicit cognitions than perceptions of descriptive norms are.

Understanding Men’s Attitudes Towards Taking on Domestic Roles

a. National Predictors of the Gender Gap in the Intended Uptake of Parental Leave:
Project lead:  Maria Olsson (

Research has shown that couples who shared parental leave share childcare and housework more equally (Almqvist & Duvander, 2014; Bünning, 2015; Haas & Hwang, 2008; Nepomnyaschy & Waldfogel, 2007; Tanaka & Waldfogel, 2007). Making parental leave available to fathers might therefore be an important way to foster gender equality. When couples share housework and childcare, it paves the way for women to pursue careers, couples are happier and healthier, and their children do better in school and have less stereotypical aspirations (Aldous & Mulligan, 2002; Bergmann, 2008; Croft, Schmader, Block, & Baron, 2014; Frisco & Williams, 2003; Haas & Hwang, 2008; Holter, 2014; Shalev, 2009). Despite these benefits, and the fact that mothers and fathers in many European Union (EU) countries are in principle able to share parental leave, EU data show that mothers not only take more leave than fathers but they sometimes take all of the leave (Bruning & Plantenga, 1999; Eurofound, 2019; Haataja, 2009). 

Recently, researchers have argued that it is important to not only take into account individual-level predictors (such as men’s and women’s relative resources and gender attitudes), but to also consider how the social context leads to a traditional division of childcare between couples (Davis & Greenstein, 2004; Fuwa, 2004; Geist, 2005; Hook, 2006; Meeussen, Van Laar & Van Grootel, 2020; Treas & Lui, 2013). The focus of the present work is to investigate the extent to which country-level factors (i.e., gender egalitarian parental leave policies, cultural values, and occupational gender inequality) predict intentions to take equal share of parental leave, either by increasing men’s or decreasing women’s intended use of parental leave.

 b. National Predictors of the Gender Gap in Share of Domestic Work and Childcare:
Project lead: Sanne van Grootel (

Men’s underrepresentation in domestic communal roles such as housework or childcare engagement has remained relatively stagnant; over the last approximately 20 years, men’s engagement in occupations that are considered traditionally female has remained relatively low, whereas women have become represented more in male dominated fields (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013). Interestingly, across countries men’s engagement in these domestic roles differs. For example, in Japan, men spend less than 5 hours per week on unpaid work such as housework and childcare, whereas in other countries such as Belgium men spend almost 17 hours per week and in Sweden men spend more than 20 hours per week (OECD, 2019). The current research investigates young men’s and women’s expected share of these domestic roles across countries, and macro-level factors that are related to their expected share. At this time in their lives this sample is in the process of making career and life choices based on their expected behaviors in the future (Baber & Monaghan, 1988; Meeussen et al., 2016); their decisions may be driven by their expectations of domestic and childcare engagement, as well as their intentions – which have been found to be important predictors of actual behavior (Azjen, 1985, 1991).  A key question is whether cultural and policy factors might shape these expectations, and in turn the gender gap in men’s and women’s expected share of domestic engagement.

C. Country-level and Individual-level Predictors of Women’s and Men’s Intentions to Engage with Childcare:
Project lead: Maria Olsson (                                                                
Across the world, women take more responsibility for housework and childcare than men do (Oinas, 2018). Men’s lesser engagement in childcare has negative consequences for their well-being, their children’s welfare, and women’s ability to pursue careers (Meeussen et al., 2020). It is therefore important to understand what underlies equal share of childcare. In line with prominent psychological models of behavior (e.g., theory of planned behavior, TPB; Ajzen, 1991; 2002; Ajzen & Fishbein, 2005) and models on gender differences in behavior (stereotype inoculation model, SIM; Dasgupta, 2011; social role theory, SRT; Eagly & Wood, 2012), we predict that injunctive and descriptive norms play a central role in predicting women’s and men’s intentions to engage with childcare. In this model, we explore country-level antecedents (e.g., gender roles in the labor market) as well as individual-level consequences (e.g., affect, self-efficacy, attitudes) of gender role norms. Furthermore, we explore to what extent these variables directly and indirectly influence women’s and men’s intentions to engage with childcare.

d. Gender Inequality in Gender Equal Countries: Women’s and Men’s Expectations of Work-Family Conflict Across Countries.
Project lead: Maria Olsson (  

Women’s increased participation in paid labor has not been met with an increase in men’s participation in unpaid labor (Hochschild & Machung, 2012). It is possible, therefore, that in very egalitarian countries, expectations about women’s engagement in agentic roles (with respect to women pursuing careers) have changed, but not expectations about women’s engagement in communal roles (with respect to women being in charge of childcare and domestic work). In very gender egalitarian countries, women may be expected to fulfill expectations of being a successful career woman while at the same time being a devoted mother caring for their children’s emotional and physical needs (Christler, 2013; Hays, 1996; Liss et al., 2013; Newman & Henderson, 2014). This may become a difficult juggling act for women to uphold, suggesting that while things may have become better for women in highly egalitarian countries (in terms of career opportunities), things may also have become tougher (in terms of more responsibilities). Thus, it is possible that in countries where women are more represented in agentic roles, women may, perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, expect more, rather than less, work-life conflict. In this model, we explore women’s and men’s expectations of work-life conflict across countries. Furthermore, we explore to what extent expectations of backlash for prioritizing career over childcare and expectations of backlash for prioritizing children over career contribute to expectations of work-life conflict.

e. What Underlies the Gender Equality Paradox Effect?
Project lead: Maria Olsson (

Over recent years, an increasing number of studies have found that gender differences are sometimes larger in countries that rank high on global gender equality indices than in countries that rank low on global gender equality indices. This phenomenon is known as the gender equality paradox effect (Stoet & Geary, 2018). This effect has sometimes been interpreted as evidence for inherent differences between women and men. Some evolutionary psychologists claim that the gender equality paradox effect arises because in highly gender egalitarian countries women and men are more “free” to express their inherently different natures (e.g., Schwartz & Rubel-Lifshitz, 2009; Schmitt, 2015). From a social psychological perspective, however, the gender equality paradox effect could be explained from people making essentialist inferences from observing gender segregation across caring- and power-orientated roles (Eagly & Wood, 2012). It is possible that higher endorsement of essentialist beliefs (i.e., the assumption that women are inherently more orientated toward care whereas men are inherently more orientated toward power) in gender egalitarian countries may lead to more gender “typical” behavior in these countries (in line with the gender equality paradox effect). In this model, we explore the underlying factors to gender differences in priority for childcare over career across countries.

f. Women as Pulling Male Gender Change on the Domestic Front:
Project lead: Loes Meeussen (

Related to some of these questions women could be “pullers” of male social change on the domestic front. Specifically, we expect as women take up more hours of work and more high level careers, men will move to take up domestic roles and became more positively oriented towards these roles (as women will be needing men to take up more of the roles at home – see Meeussen et al., 2018a; Meeussen et al., 2018b).

g. The Role of Macro-Level Biological Essentialism in the Expected Distribution of Paid and Domestic Labor Between Partners:
Project lead: Aster Van Rossum (

While women have increased their participation in paid work over the years, they are still responsible for the majority of the unpaid domestic work as men have not made a corresponding shift in their contribution to housework (England, 2006; Bianchi et al., 2006). These observations suggest that the division of domestic labor between partners cannot be explained entirely by how much economic resources the partners each bring into the household, which is claimed by the economic bargaining account (Mannino & Deutsch, 2007). Previous research has indeed indicated that gender plays an important role in the negotiation between partners of who does how much housework, i.e., the gender construction account (Erickson, 2005). Also, some individual-level factors otherwise reported to be associated with a more equal division of housework (e.g., individual gender-egalitarian attitudes) show a weaker association in less gender-egalitarian countries than in more gender-egalitarian countries, i.e., the discount hypothesis (Fuwa, 2004; Fuwa & Cohen, 2007; Knudsen & Wærness, 2008). In this part of the project we investigate (1) whether there are gender differences in young adults’ expectations regarding their share of future paid work and future household chores relative to their (future) partner across countries and (2) how young women and men’s expected share of paid work relate to their expected share of household chores in countries with more vs. less macro-level biological essentialist beliefs.

Understanding Partner-Preferences & Home Dynamics Across Nations

a. Understanding Preferences for Communal & Agentic Partners:
Project lead: Loes Meeussen (

Sheryl Sandberg once said: ‘The Most Important Career Choice You’ll Make Is Who You Marry’. How and why do nations differ in the extent to which men and women desire to have partners with communal vs. agentic values and partners who are similar or complementary to themselves in terms of agency and communion? We have evidence from experimental and survey studies in Belgium (Meeussen, Van Laar, & Verbruggen, 2019) showing that agentic women seek more communal partners, especially when they expect that balancing work and family will be difficult. In this cross-national study, we aim to extend these findings to partner preferences for both women and men, and will investigate whether country policies and norms that create easier or more difficult conditions to combine work and family (e.g., through parental leave policies) affect such preferences. One of the processes involved might be complementary expectations. Thus, women’s expectations about their own career might be uniquely shaped by the extent to which they expect future spouses to participate in domestic tasks. Specifically, women who can expect (or feel like they can expect) men to help them out with family-tasks should feel freer to pursue their career ambitions and adjust their plans accordingly. We have evidence for this from experimental studies on a Canadian sample (Croft, Block, & Schmader, 2019). Thus, we expect that in countries where women expect their partner to participate more in domestic tasks (descriptive norms), women’s internal career ambitions will more closely map onto how much time they actually expect to spend on their career in the future.

b. Understanding Intensive Parenting Norms Across Nations:
Project lead: Loes Meeussen (

Intensive parenting norms prescribe women to be fully devoted to their role as a mother and put their children’s needs first. While such ideologies aim to ensure the best for today’s children, their high quality standards have been shown to involve costs: mothers who feel pressured to be ‘perfect’ are at risk of depression and parental burnout, and show decreased career ambitions. While their consequences have been well-documented, far less is known about what constitutes intensive mothering norms in a society and their prevalence across the world. Using the UCOM data, we will investigate cross-national variation in experienced intensive mothering norms and three potential country-level mechanisms related to these norms: changing standards of parenting, individuation of childcare responsibilities, and additional roles women take up in their lives. Moreover, we will investigate the extent to which men also experience intensive fathering norms. Together, this research provides insight in the complex socio-normative processes that affect parenting as well as gendered patterns therein.


A smaller group of 19 researcher teams has collected data on the UCOM survey both before and after the onset of the COVID epidemic. This data is currently being cleaned and this smaller group of researchers is planning to examine a number of questions relating to the COVID pandemic. 

a. How does COVID-19 Change Communal Values?
Project lead:
Katharina Block (
Extreme global events, like the COVID-19 pandemic may cause global shifts in the values that people prioritize in their lives. We will test whether there is evidence that people from several countries have generally increased in their endorsement of communal values. In addition to such a general phenomenon, we examine whether especially men and people from certain cultures increased in their valuing of communal values. In addition, some sites were also able to collect information about participants’ own exposure to COVID-related issues; either through the media or through having contact with especially vulnerable individuals. We expect that these factors might moderate the impact of COVID-19 on participants’ communal values. Similarly, cultural factors, like collectivism, might determine the reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic.

b. How does COVID-19 Change Interest in and Valuing of HEED Careers?
Project lead:
Katharina Block (
Extreme global events, like the COVID-19 pandemic may cause global shifts in the careers that people find interesting and broadly valuable to society. HEED careers, and specifically nursing, has been at the centre of the pandemic. We will test whether there is evidence that people from several countries have generally increased in interest in and valuing of HEED careers. In addition to such a general phenomenon, we examine whether especially men and people from certain cultures increased in their attitudes towards HEED careers. In addition, some sites were also able to collect information about participants’ own exposure to COVID-related issues; either through the media or through having contact with especially vulnerable individuals. We expect that these factors might moderate the impact of COVID-19 on participants’ interest in HEED careers. Similarly, cultural factors, like collectivism, might determine the reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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