Date of Graduation

Spring 2022


Master of Science in Psychology



Committee Chair

Dana Paliliunas


Biases related to gender are an important area of empirical attention in the United States due to social challenges related to prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination based on gender. The purpose of this study is to evaluate potential bias related to binary and nonbinary gender using a measure of relational responding rooted in Relational Density Theory (RDT) (Belisle & Dixon, 2020). Mass and volume of networks in terms of gendered stereotypical relations are assessed to further examine binary gendered stereotypes and to examine relations regarding nonbinary genders in the context of traditionally masculine and feminine labels. Implicit biases regarding male and female genders have been examined, however less research on nonbinary gender biases and stereotypes is available. As the number of individual’s identifying as nonbinary increases, (estimated 1.2 million) it is of particular importance to examine this population. Using an RDT approach, binary gender stereotypes were expected to tightly cluster, but become less dense after employing an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) technique to weaken stereotypical relations that create bias. A brief 10-minute defusion procedure was utilized to elaborate relational networks, using an approach adapted from previous research (Belisle et al., 2019). Participants randomized into the control group that did not complete the defusion task were expected to see little to no change in relational responding. In the empirical investigation of the data, using a multidimensional scaling procedure (MDS), three distinct classes emerged where ‘woman’ tightly clustered with feminine descriptors, ‘man’ tightly clustered with masculine terms, and ‘nonbinary person’ appeared in its own class between the other two gendered terms. When comparing the two groups between both MDS procedures administered to measure the effects of the defusion procedure on gendered stereotypical relational responding, no changes were observed between the control group (G1) and the experimental group (G2). Relational distance (Rd) was measured between gendered terms, yielding like distances between all gendered terms. The greatest change observed in Rd occurred comparing both groups at time two of the MDS procedure. Implications and avenues for future interventions to diminish unhelpful bias and stereotypical responding are discussed in terms of this empirical investigation.


gender bias, gender discrimination, nonbinary gender identity, relational frames, relational density, defusion, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Social Justice


© Chynna B. Frizell

Open Access