This week Apple announced some changes to its line up of emojis available through its operating system. In addition to the popular change of the pistol to the water gun, it is making emojis of women and people of color doing a variety of things and single parents of both genders. Also in the news this week, Pope Francis appoints a commission to consider restoring women’s ability to become deacons.
Do these changes reflect changes that have occurred in our society, or are they promoting change?
Social learning theory tells us, we learn our social roles by observing the behavior of models in our environment. If female deacons or a female president were to exist, SLT suggests that it could produce changes in those observing them, especially among children. Sex roles get set early. I remember my daughter at the age of four refusing to cut her hair short because only boys had short hair and more disturbing, expressing belief that women were nurses and men were doctors.
Schema theory tells us that we develop rules with which to interpret the events in our world and predict what will happen next. If individuals see the roles of women as being the same as men, schema theory says that we will have a rule that says female soccer players should be paid the same as the men. Or that female athletes are feminine.
While these changes undoubtedly reflect the real changes in our society regarding the roles of women and probably internal politics of each organization, they will accelerate and support these changes by changing our perceptions of what is possible and permissible.