Beginnings of the Brackenridge


Hello! My name is Jolie. As a junior at Pitt, I am double majoring in Psychology and Law, Criminal Justice, and Society with a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. I am originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I came to Pitt in hopes of pursuing research on the development of gendered actions and preferences. On-campus, I am involved in the Blue and Gold Society, on the board for the Pitt Undergraduate Review, and an undergraduate research assistant for the Infant Communication Lab. In fact, the main photo of this post features some of my friends and me (furthest to the left) from the Blue and Gold Society when we went to support the Pitt football team at the ACC Championship in 2021. I am so excited to join the Brackenridge Fellowship on how 18- and 24- month olds engage with objects, and I look forward to hearing and watching the other fellows develop their research skills throughout this summer.


As early as infancy, children begin to learn about gender expression and ideals based on observations influenced by their surroundings. Analyzing how infants interact with stereotypically gendered toys helps researchers understand how they interpret gender norms based on their environment. Self-socialization theories of gender development describe how infants categorize cultural information into categories to understand their world (Martin et. al., 2002). The development of these distinctions can influence their interactions with and preferences for gender-typed toys. For example, girls may favor the color pink due to exposure to parental choices and influence.

The difference in how infants interact with their environment can be early indications of feminine or masculine behaviors. Prior research focusing on 6- to 13- month old infants suggests that male infants are more likely to participate in rough play while females are more inclined to engage in structured play (DiPietro, 1981; Green 2004). Female infants tend to prioritize organized, gentle play like puzzles or sorting pieces while their male counterparts participate in disruptive and tumble behavior such as physical aggression towards people or objects. These behaviors develop are more likely to occur as infants begin to understand the social expectations regarding gender (Baldwin & Moses 1996).

In addition to variation in play behavior, toy preference can indicate gender-stereotypical behavior when a child chooses to interact with toys that are traditionally marketed for a specific gender. Infants as young as 24 months old have displayed biased toy preferences for objects that are conventionally for their gender, suggesting that by this age, children are categorizing information from their environment to build an understanding of social expectations (Halim et. al., 2018). 

Previous research has examined gender-typed behavior through observational play (Green, 2004; DiPietro, 1981), and separate work has found preferences for gender-typed toys can indicate self-socialization development during infancy (Halim, et. al., 2018; Todd, Barry & Thommessen 2017; Martin et. al., 2002). There is limited research looking at the intersection of play behavior and infants’ toy preferences between the ages of 18- to 24- months. In this study, I hope to fill the gaps in the literature regarding the interaction of infant engagement with gendered toys and the embodiment of gender-typed behavior.

Future Plans

This upcoming semester, I will be studying abroad for the entire school year at the University College of London. I think it will be an eye-opening experience and help me figure out where I want to continue my academic endeavors. While traveling, I hope to eventually pursue a Ph.D. in psychology and become a professor who teaches others on topics that I am passionate about. Even though I have a long way to go, I look forward to where life takes me next.


Besides my academic life, I have many hobbies that bring me joy outside the classroom. I began to swim competitively when I was 8 years old, but now you can find me at Trees Hall where I enjoy swimming recreationally. Photography is also a passion of mine. I enjoy walking around the city of Pittsburgh and capturing beautiful moments and perspectives.

In my free time, I also enjoy volunteering in the community. I participated in many PittServes programs, but this summer I joined the Goodwill GED program as a classroom aid. I will be assisting students in Algebra A and Chemistry courses all summer! As someone who wants to become a professor in the future, I really enjoy mentoring and helping people understand new things!

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