The Twenty Statements Test – Social Psychology

Table of Contents

In order to determine self-concept, researchers Rhee, Uleman, Lee and Roman developed the Twenty Statements Test or TST. The process required the participants to answer the question “Who are you?”

They were provided a questionnaire that contained this question followed by 20 blank lines that began with “I am.” The TST helped people understand the correlation between culture and self-concept. Bem’s research design contained many flaws that had to be rectified in order to create a study that could be acceptable to the scientific community.


The core principle used for the design of the TST was the argument that there were collectivistic and individualistic cultures. According to the researchers, “Individualism describes cultures, such as those of the United States and Western Europe, in which people maintain ‘loose ties’ with each other and a belief in the inherent separateness of people” (Rhee, Uleman, Lee & Roman 143).

As a result, this particular culture highlights the importance of “autonomy, emotional independence, individual initiative, a right to privacy, primacy of personal goals over in-group goals, behavior regulated by attitudes, and acceptance of confrontation” (Rhee, Uleman, Lee & Roman 143). The same thing can be said of American culture.

The view concerning the individualism is contrasted with collectivistic cultures where the emphasis is on “collective identity, emotional dependence, in-group solidarity and harmony, duties and obligations, behavior regulation by in-group norms, family integrity, and strong in-group-out-group distinctions” (Rhee, Uleman, Lee & Roman 143).

As a result, the members of this particular culture view a person “not as an autonomous being with abstract qualities but in terms of specific relationships to significant others” (Rhee, Uleman, Lee & Roman 143). The same thing can be said of many Asian cultures, especially the Korean one.

Thus, it led to the conclusion that “the strength of spontaneous ethnic identities is systematically related to other aspects of the self-description that are characteristic of the culture of origin and supports the validity of this measure of ethnic identity” (Rhee, Uleman, Lee & Roman 151).

However, in order to reach that point the researchers had to develop a research methodology that not only contrasted with different responses of participants who came from different backgrounds but also with respect to the participants that had gone through the process of acculturation.

The researchers were able to prove their claim by focusing on Korean students whom they described as having one of the most collectivistic cultures in the world. At the same time, they used to base on the study conducted on Chinese and Japanese students to develop their methodology. In addition, the participants included Asian Americans and those with Western European backgrounds.

Finally, there were two types of Korean students tested. The first group was composed of the students from Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea, while the second group consisted of Korean American students studying in the United States.

The composition of the participants strengthened the validity of the study, especially with regard to the claim that differences in self-concept vary and are affected by culture. In this particular case, not only the students are a product of a particular culture but some of them are also influenced by the process of acculturation (Hofstede 12).

Consider, for instance, the fact that although many Korean students can trace their ancestry to the Korean peninsula and are raised by Korean parents, the American culture that they live in has affected their worldview and hence their self-concept.

Psychological Androgyny

Sandra Bem, on the other hand, argued that there should have been a new way of looking at the concept of masculinity and femininity. Bem said that society at large tend to view these concepts as “bipolar ends of a single continuum; accordingly, a person has had to be either masculine or feminine but not both” (Bem 155). The necessity of a new method for assigning masculine and feminine characteristic can be understood from the perspective of those who argue in favor for the equal treatment of men and women in society (Sargeant 15).

The core principle that was used to build the case in favor of androgyny is the idea that social factors impose an unfair influence on the way men and women view their roles and what is expected of them in their respective social spheres (Cotter 17).

Thus, Bem suggested that if there were another way to reframe the question so that it would not automatically trigger a socially conditioned response, then, there would be a way to prove that masculine and feminine traits could exist in the same person. In other words, an individual can possess the same qualities that are traditionally seen as exclusive to a man or a woman. If Bem succeeds in proving this theory, then, society must reconsider how it treats men and women.

It is easy to understand the significance of the study and the motivation behind the researcher to develop a new system to analyze how society comes to view masculinity and femininity. However, the methodology used to prove this claim is highly questionable. Consider, for instance, the fact that the whole research was based on the BSRI.

Now, the BSRI was established based on the inputs of 100 judges. In testing the validity of the claim, Bem pointed out the selection of the participants, their background and the other factors that can influence the outcome of the research process. But in the development of the BSRI, not a great deal of information was disclosed on the identity and other pertinent information regarding the judges.

There are gaps in the research method that are to be addressed. The weakness of the methodology can be made more evident if compared to the study made by Rhee, Uleman, Lee and Roman. Bem must disclose the principles used in selecting 100 judges. Their background must be determined in order to find out if they are not bias in the creation of the system that will have the capability to reinterpret how society must judge masculine and feminine traits.

Another problematic issue of Bem’s methodology is the difficulty it creates when it comes to the flow of the analysis framework. For example, not enough information was given on the scoring method. Assumptions were made without providing the necessary explanation why certain values were attributed to a particular response.

The most serious flaw of the methodology can be seen in the way Bem contradicted herself when she pointed out that social forces influence the way people view and appreciate masculinity and femininity. In the beginning, Bem pointed out that social forces shape the perception of the public when it comes to the issue of masculinity and femininity.

Thus, it was difficult to determine the accuracy of the data when Bem used the same information generated by the society that she claimed to have biased views. The judges that she interviewed as well as the respondents of the study were all the members of the society that valued masculine traits over feminine ones. There must be a way to detect cultural bias in order to generate information that correctly describes the phenomenon in question and not to be swayed by unsubstantiated information.

In comparison to the experiment conducted by Rhee, Uleman, Lee and Roman, the researchers were able to lay the basis for their study as well as demonstrate the difference between two cultures. They were able to show the significance of studying the reaction of Korean students that live in Korea and Korean Americans that live in the United States. In the case of Bem’s study, the proponent should have developed a way to determine cultural bias with regard to a person’s view on femininity and masculinity. Before compliance to this requirement has been completed, Bem cannot prove the accuracy of the data provided by the judges and even the respondents.


The study conducted by Rhee, Uleman, Lee and Roman was considered better than that of Bem because of the way they developed in their research methodology. In case of Rhee, Uleman, Lee and Roman, one can see the pattern of development that can easily convince a person with regards to the veracity of their research.

The same thing cannot be said of Bem’s work. There were numerous gaps in the research methodology that had to be rectified. Bem must create a way to determine culture bias in order for the respondents to be aware of their tendency to become prejudiced, especially when it comes to a controversial topic such as gender.

Works Cited

Bem, Sandra. “The Measurement of Psychological Androgyny.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 42.2 (1974): 155-162. Print.

Cotter, Angelo. Just a Number: An International Legal Analysis on Age Discrimination. New York: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008. Print.

Hofstede, Geert. Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations across Nations. CA: Sage Publications, 2001. Print.

Rhee, Eun, Uleman, James, Lee, Hon and Robert Roman. “Spontaneous Self-Descriptions and Ethnic Identities in Individualistic and Collectivistic Cultures.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69.1 (1995): 142-152. Print.

Sargeant, Michael. Age Discrimination and Diversity: Multiple Discrimination from an Age Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Print.

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