Sex Roles

, Volume 59, Issue 9, pp 713–725

Effects of Ingroup Bias and Gender Role Violations on Acquaintance Rape Attributions

Authors

    • Department of PsychologyCalifornia State University
  • Dawn M. Howerton
    • Department of PsychologyUniversity of Tennesee
  • Ashley M. Secarea
    • Department of PsychologyCalifornia State University
  • Chau Q. Nguyen
    • Department of PsychologyCalifornia State University
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11199-008-9472-9

Cite this article as:
Harrison, L.A., Howerton, D.M., Secarea, A.M. et al. Sex Roles (2008) 59: 713. doi:10.1007/s11199-008-9472-9

Abstract

Two studies of ethnically diverse US college students from northern California examined whether ingroup bias and gender norm violations influence acquaintance rape attributions (Study 1, N = 118; Study 2, N = 140). Participants read vignettes depicting acquaintance rape and completed questionnaires. Victims were part of participants’ ingroup or outgroup. Study 1 manipulated the victim’s sexual history (chaste or promiscuous). Study 2 manipulated the victim’s alcohol use (sober or intoxicated). Ingroup victims were perceived more positively than outgroup victims if the victims were promiscuous or intoxicated. More guilt was attributed to rapists of ingroup victims than outgroup victims if the victims were promiscuous or intoxicated. Findings are examined in relation to ingroup bias and gender norm violations.

Keywords

Acquaintance rapeGender role violationsIngroup bias

Introduction

A significant portion of young women experience some type of sexual assault during their lifetime. Of these assaults, it is estimated that approximately 70% are perpetrated by non-strangers (US Department of Justice 2006, 2005). However, about 90% of college students who are sexually assaulted know their assailant before they are assaulted (US Department of Justice 2000). It is important to understand factors that may influence judgments of acquaintance rape victims because previous research has found that negative social reactions toward sexual assault victims are related to greater victim self-blame (Ullman 1996) and increased PTSD symptoms (Campbell et al. 1999; Ullman and Filipas 2001; Ullman et al. 2007). Previous research also reliably suggests people generally favor ingroup members (Tajfel and Turner 1979; Turner 1987) over outgroup members and that women who violate gender role norms are often disliked (Prentice and Carranza 2004; Rajecki et al. 1992). This research extends the current literature on ingroup bias and gender role norm violation by examining whether ingroup acquaintance rape victims are perceived more favorably than their outgroup counterparts and whether violations of gender role norms by acquaintance rape victims lead to negative judgments, regardless of whether the victim is an ingroup or outgroup member. This research used a vignette methodology and college students to examine these issues.

Ingroup Bias and Acquaintance Rape Attributions

Social identity theory proposes that because self-esteem is closely related to social group membership (Tajfel and Turner 1979; Turner 1987) people are motivated to view their social groups more favorably than they do unaffiliated groups (Doise et al. 1972). Furthermore, this ingroup favoritism occurs even when there has been no social interaction with outgroup members and there has been no previously existing hostility toward outgroups (for a review, see Diehl 1990). Thus, people behave more favorably toward ingroup members than they do toward outgroup members. For example, people behave more cooperatively toward ingroup members than outgroup members (Kramer and Brewer 1984) and they are more likely to help ingroup members than outgroup members (Hornstein 1976; Piliavin et al. 1981). Not surprisingly, people also feel a greater kinship with ingroup members and are more likely to assume that ingroup members’ beliefs are very similar to their own beliefs (Allen and Wilder 1975). Research also suggests that causal attributions may be influenced by ingroup bias. Consequently, people are more likely to attribute positive behaviors of their ingroup members to internal causes whereas they attribute negative behaviors to external causes. Conversely, positive behaviors of outgroup members are likely to be attributed to external causes whereas negative behaviors are likely to be attributed to internal causes (Pettigrew 1979).

There have also been investigations into whether ingroup bias influences perceptions of violence committed by ingroup and outgroup members. For example, researchers examined how membership in political parties influenced perceptions of aggressive behavior (Schruijer and Blanz 1994). In this study, participants read about a fight between two communists (ingroup members) or two fascists (outgroup members). The study indicated that the fascists were perceived as more aggressive and intentional in their aggressiveness than were the communists. A similar study examined how religious affiliation influenced perceptions of violence (Hunter and Stringer 1991). Participants watched a news video that depicted a person from their religious ingroup engaging in violence against someone from their religious outgroup or a news video that depicted a person from their religious outgroup engaging in violence against a member of participants’ ingroup. The data revealed that participants were more likely to attribute the aggression committed by the outgroup member to internal causes that were inherent to the individual. Conversely, the aggression of the ingroup member was more likely to be attributed to external causes that induced the aggressive behavior. Overall, there appears to be consistent pattern in which ingroup members are favored over outgroup members, even in regards to causal judgments about aggressive behaviors.

Although there is a robust literature on ingroup bias, there are a relatively limited number of studies that examine how ingroup bias might specifically impact judgments of rape. However, in one such study European Americans and Latinos read a rape scenario that depicted either a European American or Latina rape victim. There was evidence of ingroup bias among the European American women participants inasmuch as they had more positive attitudes toward European American rape victims than did Latina participants (Jimenez and Abreu 2003). Another study examined ingroup bias and dating violence (Harrison and Abrishami 2004). In this study, participants read a vignette depicting an assault of a college student by her long-term boyfriend. In the vignette, the victim was described as from the participants’ ingroup or from the participants’ outgroup. This allowed the researchers to examine whether more favorable attributions were made about the ingroup victim than the outgroup victim. The vignette also specified that this was either the first time the assailant had hit the victim or that the assailant had a history of hitting the victim. As expected, participants’ judgments of the ingroup victim who was assaulted by the repeat assailant were more favorable than their judgments of the outgroup victim who was assaulted by the repeated assailant. However, contrary to previous findings, ingroup bias did not influence judgments made about victims who were assaulted by a first-time assailant. This suggests that ingroup bias moderates judgments of victims who violate traditional gender role norms. The author’s argue that this effect occurred because people are unable to justify favoring ingroup members in situations in which the individual is clearly an innocent victim of violence. However, in situations in which the victim can be partially blamed for her victimization, ingroup bias is likely to emerge. The present research continues this line of inquiry by examining whether ingroup bias similarly influences judgments of acquaintance rape victims who have violated traditional gender role norms.

Gender Role Norms

Gender socialization begins very early in life as boys and girls learn to behave in different ways that are perceived as appropriate for their gender. One source of gender socialization is children’s relationships with their parents. Although a meta-analysis showed that there are great similarities in how parents treat their daughters and sons (Lytton and Romney 1991) there is also evidence that parents’ often subtly socialize their children to behave in gender stereotypical ways (Gelman et al. 2004). For example, parents are more likely to encourage their daughters to play with dolls than they encourage their sons to do so (Caldera and Sciaraffa 1998). A longitudinal study of mothers and fathers with second, third, and fifth grade children found that parents’ gender stereotypes concerning boys’ and girls’ involvement in sports influenced their beliefs about whether their children would be successful in sports. Consequently, parent’s beliefs substantially influenced children’s assessment of their own athletic ability and their participation in sports (Fredricks and Eccles 2005). In addition, a recent a meta-analysis of 43 articles revealed evidence that parents’ with traditional ideas about gender are also more likely to have children who have traditional ideas about gender (Tenebaum and Leaper 2002).

Early childhood gender socialization also has an important influence on children’s cognitive processes. For example, by the time children are 3 years old they are easily able to categorize people as male or female (Katz 1996; Levy 1999) and they have a simple understanding of how many common activities and objects are stereotyped as feminine or masculine (Gelman et al. 2004; Poulin-Dubois et al. 2002; Serbin et al. 2001).Furthermore, by the time children are 5 years of age, they have a somewhat sophisticated understanding of how to use gender labels appropriately and they have an elementary understanding of the gender stereotyping of personality traits (Powlishta et al. 2001). Consequently, as children mature their gender stereotypes become so strong that they are likely to be automatically and nonconsciously activated when forming judgments of others (Banaji and Greenwald 1994). Furthermore, their judgments of men and women are influenced by societal expectations for what is considered gender appropriate (Deaux and Kite 1987).

Because of socialization processes, expectations concerning gender appropriate behaviors are strong and people who violate gender–role expectations tend to be disliked (Prentice and Carranza 2004; Rajecki et al. 1992). For example, a qualitative study of high school basketball players found that because their athletic activities were contrary to traditional feminine gender roles, their status as athletes often lessened their popularity among their peers (Shakib 2003). Experimental research also found that women who are successful in traditionally male domains tend to be disliked but this dislike can be lessened if they clearly express communal attributes, which are traditionally perceived as feminine traits (Heilman and Okimoto 2007). Disapproval for gender role violation is also experienced by men as evidenced by the censure of men who do not work outside the home, but instead work within the home as househusbands (Wentworth and Chell 2005). Evidence also suggests that people who violate traditional gender roles experience feelings of discomfort and fears that their sexual orientation will be misidentified (Bosson et al. 2006).

The present research adds to the literature by examining how behavioral violations of traditional gender roles influence judgments of women who have been raped. We expected that acquaintance rape victims who violate traditional gender role norms would be judged more harshly than would acquaintance rape victims who conform to traditional gender role norms. In order to examine behavior violations of feminine gender role norms, we investigated how alcohol intoxication and sexual promiscuity influence perceptions of an acquaintance rape.

Women’s Alcohol Use

Traditional gender role norms often lead to disapproval of women who drink alcohol but not of men who drink. For example, research investigating alcohol use among adolescents found that those with more traditional gender role identities were more likely to approve of drinking by males but disapprove of it by females (Huselid and Cooper 1992). Alcohol consumption also tends to be higher among males with traditional gender role identities than their counterparts with less traditional gender role identities (McCreary et al. 1999). Conversely, drinking by women is often perceived as a violation of feminine gender role norms (Blume 1997) and women are more likely than men to believe others disapprove of their drinking (Agostinelli et al. 2003). Nonetheless, sexual assault victims often drink alcohol prior to their assault (Abbey 1991; Muehlenhard and Linton 1987) and there is some evidence that women who use alcohol are more likely to experience some form of sexual aggression (Abbey 1991; Muehlenhard and Linton 1987). A large scale nationally representative study of college women supported this notion in its finding that 72% of the women who reported they had been raped also reported they had been intoxicated when they were raped (Meichun et al. 2004). Other research has also found that most sexual assault victims who consumed alcohol before the assault believed their alcohol consumption had an influence on the perpetrator’s behavior and 23% of them believed their intoxication was a direct cause of their sexual assault (Testa and Livingston 1999).

We argue that women who consume alcohol are perceived as violating gender role norms and consequently biased judgments are often made about women who are intoxicated when they are assaulted. Support for this notion can be found in experimental research that showed that drunken rape victims are judged more harshly and are often blamed more than their sober counterparts (Hammock and Richardson 1997; Sims et al. 2007; Stormo et al. 1997). These findings are also consistent with a mock jury decision-making study that used a community sample to examine the effects of alcohol use on judgments of acquaintance rape (Schuller and Wall 1999). Victims who had consumed alcohol before being raped were perceived as less credible, more sexually disinhibited, and less able to regulate her behavior. Furthermore, the rape was less likely to be perceived as a sexual assault. Experimental research also indicates that police officers’ evaluations of rape victims become more negative if the victim had been drinking (Schuller 2000). Similar findings have also been found in experimental research that examined the influence of victim drinking on college students’ judgments of domestic violence victims (Harrison and Willis Esqueda 2000) inasmuch as intoxicated victims of domestic violence were blamed more and perceived as less truthful than were sober domestic violence victims. Intoxicated victims were also more likely to be perceived as having provoked the assault than were sober victims. Overall, research suggests that women who violate traditional gender role norms concerning alcohol are more likely to be judged negatively if they subsequently experience some form of interpersonal violence.

Sexual Promiscuity

Traditional gender role norms also lead to assumptions that women should not be sexually promiscuous. Since the middle and later parts of the nineteenth century, gender role norms concerning sexuality have reflected a double standard in which women are expected to be virtuous and men are allowed more leniencies in their sexuality (Denmark et al. 2005). For example, cross-cultural research suggests that about 54% of societies have permissive attitudes toward men having affairs outside of their marriage. However, only about 11% of societies have permissive attitudes toward women having affairs outside of their marriage (Ember and Ember 1990). These double standards for sexuality are reflected in the Madonna–Whore dichotomy, in which women are generally categorized as good women who are sexually chaste women or as bad women who are sexually promiscuous. This dichotomy leads girls and young women to fear being perceived as sexually promiscuous (Tolman 2002) because sexually promiscuous young women are judged more harshly than are young women with limited sexual experiences (Garcia 1986). However, similar negative attributions are not made about sexually promiscuous males. For example, a study of Scottish teenagers found that sexually active women were perceived as less popular, as having less self-respect, and as more irresponsible than sexually active men (Sheeran et al. 1996). A similar study of college students in the United States found that men believed it was more acceptable for men to have sexual relations on a first date than it was for women (Sprecher and Hatfield 1996). There is also evidence that this double standard influences men’s preferences for lifetime mates inasmuch as promiscuous women are preferred dating partners, but are unlikely to be considered suitable marriage partners (Fromme and Emihovich 1998; Oliver and Sedikides 1992). Because research suggests that negative attitudes toward sexually active women persist, the present study extends the literature by examining whether such negative attitudes affect judgments about sexually promiscuous acquaintance rape victims.

Gender Differences

Previous research has also consistently found that men form harsher judgments of women who are sexual assault victims than do women. For example, a very recent study presented American college students with interview vignettes describing a woman who had been raped by either an acquaintance rape or a stranger rape. The study found that women blamed the victim less and the perpetrator more than did the males. In addition, women were more likely to be willing to provide emotional and practical support to the victim than were men (Brown and Testa 2008). Similar research using Australian adolescents and young adults (Xenos and Smith 2001), English college students (Anderson and Lyons 2005), and Latinas (Jimenez and Abreu 2003) also found that women are generally more sympathetic toward women who were sexual assault victims than are men. Overall, these findings are consistent with less recent research (Bell et al. 1994; Davis et al. 1993; George and Martinez 2002; L’Armand and Pepitone 1982; Workman and Freeburg 1999) concerning gender difference and support the notion that women’s judgments of women sexual assault victims are more positive than are men’s judgments. We added to this line of research by examining whether this effect is stronger when women form judgments of ingroup acquaintance rape victims rather than outgroup acquaintance rape victims.

Overview of Present Research and Hypotheses

The extensive research on ingroup bias suggests that judgments concerning ingroup acquaintance rape victims may be more favorable than judgments of outgroup acquaintance rape members. In addition, research on the effects of gender role violations on perceptions of women suggests that acquaintance rape victims who violate gender role norms by becoming intoxicated or by being sexually promiscuous will be judged more negatively than their counterparts who adhere more firmly to traditional gender role norms concerning alcohol use and sexuality. Based upon previous research we had three predictions.

Hypothesis 1

We expected that attributions of ingroup victims that violated gender role norms by being sexually promiscuous or intoxicated would be more favorable than judgments of their outgroup counterparts. However, social group membership was not predicted to influence judgments of rape victims who displayed gender normative behavior (i.e., sobriety and chastity).

Hypothesis 2

We expected that attributions of rapists would be more negative when they assaulted ingroup victims that violated gender role norms by being sexually promiscuous or intoxicated than when they assaulted similar outgroup victims. However, social group membership was not expected to influence judgments of rapists who assaulted victims that behaved in gender normative ways (i.e., sobriety and chastity).

Hypothesis 3

We predicted that women would have more lenient judgments of ingroup acquaintance rape victims than would men because women share two social groups with the victim (i.e., social group membership and gender).

In summary, we expected that ingroup bias, violation of gender roles, and perceiver gender would have a significant influence on how acquaintance rape victims are perceived. These assumptions were examined in two studies. In each study, participants read a vignette that described an acquaintance rape. In order to examine ingroup bias the rape victim in each study was described as either part of the participants’ ingroup or the participants’ outgroup. In order to study the effects of violating gender role norms, the victim’s sexuality in Study 1 was manipulated so that she was described as either sexually chaste or promiscuous. In Study 2, the victim’s drinking behavior was manipulated so that she was described as either sober or intoxicated during the rape. After reading the vignettes in each study, participants completed a questionnaire that measured the attributions they formed about the rape victim and the rapist. We expected that group membership, gender role violation, and perceiver gender would negatively influence acquaintance rape attributions.

Study 1

Method

Participants

Participants were 123 students from a northern California university who volunteered to participate in order to fulfill a research assignment for their undergraduate psychology courses. Five participants were eliminated because they failed to complete all of the dependent variable measures or failed the manipulation checks. Thus, the sample contained 118 participants (61 women, M age = 21.22 years, SD = 5.89 years; 57 men, M age = 20.55 years, SD = 4.38 years). The sample contained 48 White, 5 Black, 23 Asian, 16 Hispanic, 7 multi-racial and 19 “other-race” participants.

Materials

Vignettes

Four vignettes were used that varied the victim’s social group membership and her sexual history. The vignettes reported an acquaintance rape that occurred after a college graduation party. The rape victim’s social group membership was manipulated by describing her as either attending the same university as the participants or a nearby rival school. The victim’s sexual history was also manipulated inasmuch as she was described as either sexually promiscuous (having 15 sexual partners in the past year), or sexually chaste (a virgin). The vignettes were the same other than the manipulations of group membership and victim sexual history. The vignettes presented an interview between the acquaintance rape victim and an assistant district attorney who was investigating the case. In the vignette, the victim explained that she had gone to a college graduation party with a friend. During the party she met a man that she liked. When it was time to go home she discovered that her friend, who had driven them to the party, had left her. The man she met at the party offered to drive her home and she accepted. When they arrived at her home she invited him inside. They watched TV for a short time and she let him kiss her twice. After the two kisses she told him he should go home, but he refused and kept kissing her. Then he raped her. She repeatedly told him to stop, but he would not. Afterwards he left. The victim claimed that neither she nor the rapist had been drinking that night.

Victim Attribution Indices

Participants completed six Likert-type items concerning their perceptions of whether the victim was to blame for the rape. Participants were asked whether they believed the victim was largely to blame for the incident, whether she should blame herself, whether she should feel guilty, whether she should feel ashamed, whether she was responsible, and whether she was entirely to blame for the incident. All items were measured using a seven-point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Higher scores indicate increased victim blame. These six items were combined to form a Victim Blame Index. The internal reliability for the victim blame measure was acceptable (Cronbach’s alpha = .86).

Participants also completed a modified version of the Illinois Rape Myth Scale (Payne et al. 1999). The original Illinois Rape Myth Scale is a seven-point Likert scale that contains 45 items designed to measure general attitudes toward rape (e.g., Some women prefer to have sex forced on them so they won’t feel guilty). We modified 33 of these questions to make them specific to the victim depicted in the vignette (e.g., This woman prefers to have sex forced on her so she won’t feel guilty). All items were measured using a seven-point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Higher scores indicate more negative judgments about the victim. The scale items were averaged to form four indices that assessed participants’ judgment of the rape victim. Specifically, the indices assessed participants’ judgments concerning (a) whether the victim lied about the rape, (b) whether the victim wanted to be raped, (c) whether the victim asked for it, and (d) whether the incident was actually a rape. The internal reliability for each of the indices was acceptable (Cronbach’s alpha > .81).

Rapist Attribution Indices

Participants completed thirty items from the Revised Gudjonsson Blame Attribution Inventory (BAI; Gudjonsson and Singh 1989) as a way to measure attributions concerning the rapist’s behavior. The BAI consists of three subscales that assess the type of attributions participants make about the rapist’s behavior. Seven items from the BAI were averaged to form the External Attribution Index, which measures whether the rapist’s behavior is attributed to factors external to the rapist. Five items from the BAI were averaged to form the Mental Attribution Index, which measures whether the rapist’s behavior is attributed to some mental defect or lack of self-control on the part of the rapist. Eleven items from the BAI were averaged to form the Guilt Feeling Attribution Index, which measures whether participants think the rapist should feel guilty about his behavior. Each item of the BAI were measured using a seven-point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Higher scores indicate increased external attributions, guilt attributions, and mental element attributions concerning the rapist’s behaviors. The internal reliabilities for the External Attribution and the Guilt Feeling Attribution indices were acceptable (Cronbach’s alpha < .70). However, the internal reliability for the Mental Attribution Index was not acceptable (Cronbach’s alpha < .22). Thus, this index was not used in the analyses.

Manipulation Checks

Manipulation checks followed the dependent variable measures and they assessed participants’ awareness of the victim’s university affiliation and sexual history. Participants provided open-ended responses to items about these factors and their responses were compared to the assigned conditions. Participants were deleted from the analysis if their responses were not consistent with their assigned conditions.

Procedure

A single female experimenter conducted the research in multiple sessions at a university laboratory. Each session included one to eight participants. The researcher led participants to believe that the purpose of the research was to examine perceptions of all types of criminal behavior. However, participants only examined one of four vignettes that described an acquaintance rape. The manipulations of the acquaintance rape’s university affiliation and sexual history were contained in the vignettes. After signing informed consents, the experimenter instructed the participants to carefully read one vignette and complete a questionnaire that contained the BAI, the Victim Blame Index, and the modified version of the Illinois Rape Myth Scale. Afterwards, participants completed the manipulation checks and were thoroughly debriefed about the true nature of the study.

Results

To examine the effects of ingroup bias, gender role violation and participant gender on acquaintance rape attributions we conducted a 2 × 2 × 2 MANOVA. The independent variables were victim group membership (ingroup or outgroup) and victim sexual history (chaste or promiscuous). The participant variable was gender. The dependent variables were the Victim Attribution Indices (victim blame, victim asked for it; victim wanted it; victim lied; it was not rape) and the two Rapist Attribution Indices (external attribution and guilt feeling). Significant multivariate effects were analyzed with univariate tests.

Hypothesis 1

We expected that participants would have more favorable judgments of intoxicated ingroup victims than intoxicated outgroup victims. However, social group membership was not predicted to influence judgments of rape victims who were chaste. Overall, the data support the hypothesis. However, there were several main effects that are also presented.

The analysis yielded a significant main effect for group membership, Pillai’s Trace = 4.28, p < .001. Univariate follow-up tests indicated several main effects. Participants attributed less blame to the ingroup victim (M = 2.33) than to the outgroup victim (M = 3.09), F(1, 114) = 18.93, p < .001, MSE = .87, η2 = .15. Participants were less likely to believe that the ingroup victim (M = 2.58) asked to be raped than the outgroup victim (M = 2.95), F(1, 114) = 8.64, p = .004, MSE = .89, η2 = .07. In addition, they were less likely to think the ingroup victim (M = 2.40) lied about the rape than the outgroup victim (M = 2.90), F(1, 114) = 13.02, p < .001, MSE = .93, η2 = .11. Overall, the data show a consistent pattern of more favorable perceptions of the ingroup victim than the outgroup victim. However, these effects are qualified by several interactions discussed below.

We also found a significant main effect for victim sexual history, Pillai’s Trace = 3.03, p < .006. Univariate follow-up tests indicated several main effects. Participants attributed less blame to the chaste victim (M = 2.38) than the promiscuous victim (M = 3.05), F(1, 114) = 12.44, p < .001, MSE = .87, η2 = .12. Participants were less likely to believe the chaste victim (M = 2.50) asked to be raped than the promiscuous victim (M = 3.03), F(1, 114) = 8.61, p = .004, MSE = .89, η2 = .07. They were less likely to think the chaste victim (M = 1.96) wanted the rape than the promiscuous victim (M = 2.45), F(1, 114) = 6.22, p = .01, MSE = 1.04, η2 = .05. Finally, they were less likely to think the chaste victim (M = 2.31) lied about the rape than the promiscuous victim (M = 2.99), F(1, 114) = 13.02, p < .001, MSE = .93, η2 = .12. Overall, the data show a consistent pattern of more favorable perceptions of the chaste victim than of the promiscuous victim. However, these effects are qualified by several interactions discussed below.

As predicted in Hypothesis 1, the MANOVA indicated an interaction of group membership and victim sexual history, Pillai’s Trace = 2.39, p = .02. Univariate tests revealed that the interaction was significant for the Victim Blame Index, F(1, 114) = 11.43, p = .001, MSE = .87, η2 = .09, the Victim Asked For It Index, F(1, 114) = 6.90, p = .01, MSE = .89, η2 = .06, the Victim Wanted It Index, F (1, 114) = 4.79, p = .03, MSE = 1.04, η2 = .04, and the Victim Lied Index, F(1, 114) = 9.11, p = .003, MSE = .93, η2 = .07. The data indicated that participants attributed less blame to the promiscuous ingroup victim than to the promiscuous outgroup victim, but group membership did not influence the amount of blame attributed to the chaste victim. In addition, participants were less likely to think that promiscuous ingroup victim asked for the rape, that she wanted the rape, and that she lied about the rape in comparison to the promiscuous outgroup member. Group membership did not influence these measures when the victim was chaste. See Table 1.
Table 1

Mean victim attributions as a function of victim social group membership and victim sexual history in study 1.

Attribution Item

Ingroup victim

Outgroup victim

Chaste

Promiscuous

Chaste

Promiscuous

Victim is to blame for the rape

2.29a

2.36a

2.46a

3.73b

Victim asked to be raped

2.55a

2.60a

2.46a

3.45b

Victim wanted the rape

2.06a

2.12a

1.87a

2.77b

Victim lied about the rape

2.34a

2.47a

2.29a

3.52b

Assailant should feel guilty for his behavior

5.60a

5.88a

5.38a

4.85b

Row means with different superscripts differ significantly at p < .05. Item scores range from 1 to 7. Higher means indicate greater attributions.

Hypothesis 2

We expected that participants’ attributions of rapists would be more negative when the sexually promiscuous victim was a member of the participants’ ingroup rather than the participants’ outgroup. We found some support for this notion. As shown in Table 1, univariate tests indicated a significant interaction for the Guilt Attribution Index, F(1, 114) = 7.26, p = .008, MSE = .62, η2 = .06. Participants were more likely to believe the rapist should feel guilty when the victim was a promiscuous ingroup member rather than a promiscuous outgroup member. However, group membership did not influence the amount of guilt attributed to the rapist of the chaste victim.

Hypothesis 3

We predicted that when the victim was an ingroup member, women would perceive the rape victim more favorably and the rapist more negatively in comparison to men’s perceptions of the victim and rapist. However, the expected interaction of group membership and participant gender was not significant for the Pillai’s Trace p > .27. The MANOVA did reveal a significant main effect for participant gender, Pillai’s Trace = 12.48, p < .001, which is consistent with previous research. As shown in Table 2, univariate follow-up tests indicated several strong main effects. Men were more likely than women to blame the victim for the rape, to believe the victim asked to be raped, that she wanted to be raped and that she lied about the rape. Men were also less likely than women to believe that the incident was actually rape. Overall, the data suggests that men form more negative attributions about acquaintance rape victims than do women and have more lenient attitudes toward rapist.
Table 2

Mean date rape attributions as a function of participant gender in study 1.

Attribution item

Females

Males

F value

MSE

η2

Victim is to blame for the rape

2.17

3.25

32.62**

.87

.12

Victim asked for the rape

2.23

3.30

84.66**

.89

.25

Victim wanted the rape

1.88

2.53

72.95**

1.04

.09

Victim lied about the rape

2.17

3.14

82.67**

.93

.20

It was not rape

1.65

2.76

88.85**

.86

.26

Assailant's behavior is due to external causes

5.14

5.72

11.32*

.82

.09

Assailant should feel guilty for his behavior

5.55

5.19

11.20*

.76

.09

Item scores range from 1 to 7. Higher scores indicate higher ratings of the characteristic. *p < .01, **p < .001

Study 2

Method

Participants

Participants were 145 students from a northern California university who volunteered to participate in order to fulfill a research assignment for their undergraduate psychology courses. Five participants were eliminated because they failed to complete all of the dependent variable measures or failed the manipulation checks. Thus, the sample contained 140 participants (77 women, M age = 20.51 years, SD = 3.57 years; 63 men, M age = 21.31 years, SD = 4.90 years). The sample contained 62 White, 11 Black, 18 Asian, 23 Hispanic, 2 Native American, 3 Arab American, 10 multi-racial and 11 “other-race” participants.

Materials and Procedures

The same measures and procedures used in Study 1 were used in Study 2 except that the vignettes varied victim drinking behavior rather than victim sexual history. The victim was described as either sober or drunk during the acquaintance rape. The internal reliability for all the indices was acceptable (Cronbach’s alpha > .70) except for the Mental Attribution Index. This index was not used in the analyses.

Manipulation checks followed the dependent variable measures and they assessed participants’ awareness of the victim’s university affiliation and intoxication level the night of the rape. Participants provided open-ended responses to items about these factors and their responses were compared to the assigned conditions. Participants were deleted from the analysis if their responses were not consistent with their assigned conditions.

Results

To examine the effects of ingroup bias, gender role violation and participant gender on acquaintance rape attributions we conducted a 2 × 2 × 2 MANOVA. The independent variables were victim group membership (ingroup or outgroup) and victim drinking behavior (sober or intoxicated). The participant variable was gender. The dependent variables were the Victim Attribution Indices (victim blame, victim asked for it; victim wanted it; victim lied; it was not rape) and the two Rapist Attribution Indices (external attribution and guilt feeling). Significant multivariate effects were analyzed with univariate tests.

Hypothesis 1

We expected that participants would have more favorable judgments of intoxicated ingroup victims than intoxicated outgroup victims. Conversely, social group membership was not predicted to influence judgments of rape victims who were sober. Overall, the data support the hypothesis. However, there were several main effects that are also presented.

The analysis yielded a significant main effect for group membership, Pillai’s Trace = 3.21, p = .004. Univariate follow-up tests indicated several main effects. Participants attributed less blame to the ingroup victim (M = 3.49) than to the outgroup victim (M = 4.06), F(1, 136) = 10.73, p < .001, MSE = .76, η2 = .10. Participants were less likely to believe that the ingroup victim (M = 3.14) asked to be raped than the outgroup victim (M = 3.68), F(1, 136) = 6.47, p = .01, MSE = 1.48, η2 = .05. They were less likely to think the ingroup victim (M = 3.54) wanted the rape than the outgroup victim (M = 4.09), F(1, 136) = 7.88, p = .006, MSE = 1.28, η2 = .06. They were less likely to think the ingroup victim (M = 3.21) lied about the rape than the outgroup victim (M = 3.77), F(1, 136) = 5.71, p = .01, MSE = 1.86, η2 = .04. Finally, they were more likely to label the incident as rape when the victim was an outgroup member (M = 3.52) rather than an ingroup victim (M = 2.91), F(1, 136) = 4.71, p = .03, MSE = 2.57, η2 = .04. Overall, the data show a consistent pattern of more favorable perceptions of the ingroup victim than the outgroup victim. However, these effects are qualified by several interactions discussed below.

We also found a significant main effect for victim drinking behavior, Pillai’s Trace = 4.79, p < .001. Univariate follow-up tests indicated several main effects. Participants attributed less blame to the sober victim (M = 3.46) than the intoxicated victim (M = 4.06), F(1, 136) = 18.03, p < .001, MSE = .76, η2 = .12. Participants were less likely to believe the sober victim (M = 3.15) asked to be raped than the intoxicated victim (M = 3.66), F(1, 136) = 5.28, p = .02, MSE = 1.48, η2 = .04. They were less likely to think the sober victim (M = 3.49) wanted the rape than the intoxicated victim (M = 4.16), F(1, 136) = 10.21, p = .002, MSE = 1.28, η2 = .07. They were less likely to think the sober victim (M = 3.19) lied about the rape than the intoxicated victim (M = 3.81), F(1, 136) = 5.71, p = .01, MSE = 1.86, η2 = .04. Finally, they were less likely to label the incident as rape when the victim was intoxicated (M = 3.51) rather than sober (M = 2.92), F(1, 136) = 4.26, p = .04, MSE = 2.57, η2 = .03. Overall, the data show a consistent pattern of more favorable perceptions of the sober victim than of the intoxicated victim. However, these effects are qualified by several interactions discussed below.

As predicted in Hypothesis 1, the MANOVA indicated an interaction of group membership and victim drinking, Pillai’s Trace = 4.64, p < .001. Univariate tests showed interactions of group membership and victim drinking on the Victim Blame Index, F(1, 136) = 13.77, p < .001, MSE = .76, η2 = .10, the Victim Asked For It Index, F(1, 136) = 8.75, p = .004, MSE = 1.48, η2 = .06, the Victim Wanted It Index, F(1, 136) = 6.47, p = .01, MSE = 1.28, η2 = .05, the Victim Lied Index, F(1, 136) = 9.07, p = .003, MSE = 1.86, η2 = .07,and the Incident Is Not Rape Index, F(1, 136) = 12.63, p = .001, MSE = 2.57, η2 = .09. As shown in Table 3, participants attributed less blame to the intoxicated ingroup victim than to the intoxicated outgroup victim, but group membership did not influence the amount of blame attributed to the sober victim. In addition, participants were less likely to think that the intoxicated ingroup victim was to blame for the rape, that she asked for the rape, that she wanted the rape, and that she lied about the rape in comparison to the intoxicated outgroup member. Group membership did not influence these measures when the victim was sober. We also found that participants were more likely to think that the incident was rape when the intoxicated victim was an ingroup member rather than an outgroup victim. Group membership did not influence this measure when the victim was sober.
Table 3

Mean victim attributions as a function of victim social group membership and victim drinking in study 2.

Attribution item

Ingroup victim

Outgroup victim

Sober

Intoxicated

Sober

Intoxicated

Victim is to blame for the rape

3.43a

3.55a

3.45a

4.61b

Victim asked to be raped

2.99a

3.00a

3.21a

4.37b

Victim wanted the rape

3.30a

3.55a

3.61a

4.37b

Victim lied about the rape

3.02a

3.09a

3.22a

4.08b

It was not rape

2.82a

2.62a

2.86a

3.88b

Assailant should feel guilty for his behavior

4.64a

4.64a

4.88a

3.90b

Assailant's behavior is due to external causes

4.53a

4.51a

4.56a

5.17b

Row means with different superscripts differ significantly at p < .05. Item scores range from 1 to 7. Higher means indicate greater attributions.

Hypothesis 2

We expected that participants’ attributions of rapists would be more negative when the intoxicated victim was a member of the participants’ ingroup rather than the participants’ outgroup. We found some support for this notion. Overall, the data support this notion. However, there were several main effects that are presented below.

Univariate follow-up tests indicated that participants attributed more guilt to the rapist of the sober victim (M = 4.76) than to the rapist of the intoxicated victim (M = 4.27), F(1, 136) = 10.19, p = .002, MSE = .78, η2 = .07. In addition, participants were more likely to attribute the rapist’s behavior to external causes when the victim was an outgroup member (M = 4.87) rather than an ingroup member (M = 4.52), F(1, 136) = 5.39, p = .02, MSE = .73, η2 = .04. However, these effects are qualified by the interaction discussed below.

As predicted in Hypothesis 2, univariate tests revealed significant interactions for the Guilt Attribution Index, F(1, 136) = 10.08, p = .002, MSE = .78, η2 = .07 and the External Attribution Index, F(1, 136) = 4.61, p = .03, MSE = .73, η2 = .03. Participants were more likely to believe the rapist should feel guilty when the victim was an intoxicated ingroup member rather than an intoxicated outgroup member. However, group membership did not influence the amount of guilt attributed to the rapist of the sober victim. Furthermore, we found that participants were more likely to attribute the rapist’s behavior to external causes when the intoxicated victim was an outgroup member rather than an ingroup member. However, group membership did not influence external attributions for the rapist when the victim was sober. See Table 4.
Table 4

Study 2 mean date rape attributions as a function of participant gender in study 2.

Attribution Item

Females

Males

F value

MSE

η2

Victim asked for the rape

2.45

4.37

84.66**

1.48

.39

Victim wanted the rape

3.09

4.64

72.95**

1.28

.36

Victim lied about the rape

2.42

4.58

82.67**

1.86

.39

It was not rape

1.91

4.52

88.85**

2.57

.40

Assailant’s behavior is due to external causes

4.34

5.05

23.43**

.73

.15

Assailant’s behavior is due to mental defect

3.66

4.48

36.95**

.60

.22

Assailant should feel guilty for his behavior

4.20

4.83

10.08*

.78

.11

Item scores range from 1 to 7. Higher scores indicate higher ratings of the characteristic. *p < .01, **p < .001

Hypothesis 3

We predicted that when the victim was an ingroup member, women would perceive the rape victim more favorably and the rapist more negatively in comparison to men’s perceptions of the victim and rapist. However, the expected interaction of group membership and participant gender was not significant, Pillai’s Trace p > .96. However, the MANOVA did reveal a significant main effect for participant gender, Pillai’s Trace = 16.11, p < .001, which is consistent with previous research. As shown in Table 4, univariate follow-up tests indicated men were more likely than women to believe the victim asked to be raped, that she wanted to be raped, and that she lied about the rape. In addition, men were less likely to believe that the incident was actually rape. However, men were also more likely than women to believe the rapist should feel guilty for his behavior. Overall, the data suggests that men form more negative attributions about acquaintance rape than do women.

Discussion

According to social identity theory, it makes people feel good to be part of groups that they perceive are desirable and worthy. Consequently, people can maintain and enhance their self-esteem by favoring their own social groups in comparison to other social groups. This ingroup bias leads to more favorable judgments about ingroup members than about outgroup members (Tajfel and Turner 1979; Turner 1987). Not only does ingroup bias lead to more favorable judgments of ingroup members, it also influences the type of attributions made about their negative behaviors. In general, people are more likely to attribute negative behaviors by ingroup members to external causes, which may mitigate the amount of blame attributed to the individual and perhaps the larger social group. Conversely, they are likely to attribute the same negative behaviors by outgroup members to internal causes, which might exacerbate blame attributions (Pettigrew 1979). Previous research has found evidence for ingroup bias in a multitude of domains, including judgments made about aggressive behaviors (Hornstein 1976; Hunter and Stringer 1991; Piliavin et al. 1981). However, only recent research has examined whether ingroup bias similarly influences judgments made about interpersonal violence (Harrison and Abrishami 2004; Jimenez and Abreu 2003).

The present research extends our understanding of ingroup bias by examining whether it moderates judgments made about acquaintance rape victims and rapists. Overall, the research revealed a consistent pattern of more favorable perceptions of the ingroup acquaintance rape victim than the outgroup acquaintance rape victim. Moreover, the evidence suggests that judgments of rapists are influenced by ingroup bias; inasmuch as rapists of ingroup victims are perceived as guiltier than rapists of outgroup victims. In addition, the rapist’s behaviors are less likely to be attributed to external (mitigating) causes when the victim is an ingroup member rather than an outgroup members. Thus, the data supports the notion that ingroup bias leads to more lenient judgments of ingroup acquaintance rape victims. It also leads to harsher judgments of rapists of ingroup victims than rapists of outgroup victims. However, these findings are qualified by whether the victim’s behavior violates traditional gender role norms.

The present research also suggests that acquaintance rape victims who violate traditional gender role norms are perceived more negatively than their counterparts who adhere to more traditional gender role norms. This finding supports previous research that found people are likely to disapprove of others who violate traditional gender role norms (Costrich 1975; Rajecki et al. 1992). Because conventional wisdom dictates that “good” women are sexually chaste and do not drink alcohol, especially to excess, acquaintance rape victims who have had multiple sexual partners or are intoxicated during the rape are likely to be judged harshly. Therefore, it is not surprising that we found that less favorable judgments were made about sexually promiscuous and intoxicated acquaintance rape victims than were made about chaste victims and sober victims of acquaintance rape. The accumulated evidence suggests that rape victims who engage in certain types of behaviors that are contrary to traditional gender role norms may be less likely to receive sympathetic support from others.

As expected we found that ingroup bias and gender role violations influence acquaintance rape judgments. However, the central purpose of this research was to examine whether these two factors interact to differentially influence acquaintance rape judgments. Research on ingroup bias suggests that ingroup acquaintance rape members should always be favored over outgroup acquaintance rape members. In addition, research on gender role violations related to sexual promiscuity and alcohol use by women suggests that sober chaste acquaintance rape victims should always be favored over drunk or sexually promiscuous acquaintance rape victims. However, recent research that examined the influence of ingroup bias on dating violence attributions found that ingroup bias did not occur in a dating violence situation in which it was clear that the victim was not at all responsible for her victimization. Conversely, more favorable judgments were made about the ingroup victim than the outgroup victim when it could be inferred that the victim contributed to her victimization in some manner. The present research builds upon these findings by studying whether similar effects occur in acquaintance rape.

Overall, the evidence suggests that less blame is attributed to ingroup victims than to outgroup victims if the victim is sexually promiscuous or intoxicated. Moreover, general judgments are more positive for the promiscuous and the intoxicated ingroup victim than for the outgroup counterpart. Specifically, promiscuous and intoxicated ingroup victims are less likely to be perceived as having asked for the rape, to have wanted the rape, and to have lied about the rape. In addition, more blame is attributed to the rapist when the promiscuous or intoxicated victim is an ingroup member rather than an outgroup member. Thus, the data show a clear pattern of ingroup bias when the victim’s behavior is contrary to traditional gender role norms. However, this ingroup bias does not persist when the victim’s behavior is consistent with gender role norms. Thus, ingroup and outgroup acquaintance rape victims are perceived similarly when they conform to traditional gender role norms. Conceivably, when there is no easy way to justify blaming the victim for encouraging the rape then social group membership is unlikely to substantially influence judgments of rape victims. However, if perceivers’ can attribute their negative judgments of outgroup victims as due to something other than social group membership (i.e., gender role violations) they can easily justify their negative judgments as based upon the victim’s behavior rather than the victim’s social group membership. This process may be very similar to aversive prejudice. Aversive racists make similar judgments about Whites and Blacks in situations in which it is clear that more negative judgments of Blacks would be due to racism. However, when judgments can be attributed to factors other than race aversive racists are likely to judge Blacks more harshly than Whites and they justify their judgments as being due to non-race related factors (Dovidio and Gaertner 2000). The justification that their judgments are due to factors other than race allows them to maintain a self-concept in which they view themselves as egalitarian. Possibly, the same type of process influences ingroup bias and acquaintance rape. People can have more negative judgments of outgroup gender role violators than ingroup gender role violators and attribute these judgments to role violation rather than social group membership. However, ingroup bias is less likely to influence judgments of women who conform to gender role norms because it would be difficult for people to attribute their negative judgments to factors other than social group membership.

This research also examined whether gender influences acquaintance date attributions. Previous research (Bell et al. 1994; Davis et al. 1993; L’Armand and Pepitone 1982; Workman and Freeburg 1999) has found that that men judge rape victims more harshly than do women. Our data suggests that this effect extends to acquaintance rape. However, one of our goals was to examine whether perceiver gender interacts with social group membership to influence acquaintance rape attributions. Conceivably, women would form more lenient judgments of ingroup acquaintance rape victims than would men because women share two social groups with the victim (i.e., social group membership and gender). However, we found no support for this notion inasmuch as victim social group membership did not differentially influence the judgments women and men made about the acquaintance rape.

Although the present research extends our understanding of how ingroup bias influences social behavior, we must concede that the research sample and the methodology used cannot capture the diversity of a community sample or the intensity of an actual acquaintance rape. However, the effects found in this research might be stronger in many applied settings. The manipulation of social group membership in this study was relatively mild and the written descriptions of gender role violations obviously lack contextual realism. Thus, it is possible that ingroup bias and gender role violations influence acquaintance rape judgments even more robustly in authentic cases of acquaintance rape. Future research should expand upon this line of inquiry by determining whether the effects are reliable using other research samples and methodologies. For example, it would be interesting to investigate whether actual membership in certain social groups that are highly valued by many (e.g., sororities, churches, etc.) result in similar judgments of acquaintance rape. In addition, it would be useful to determine if life experiences related to acquaintance rape influence dating violence attributions. We can only speculate that women who have experienced rape or other types of sexual assaults may actually demonstrate an ingroup bias toward all victims. Moreover, males who have perpetrated sexual assaults may also show a tendency to favor all rapists, regardless of their social group membership.

In closing, it is clear that ingroup bias influences judgments concerning acquaintance rape. Thus, rape prevention programs should consider how to appropriately use this information. Much research has focused on developing programs to educate people about the causes of acquaintance rape and to understanding how acquaintance rape can be prevented (Fabiano et al. 2003; Washington and Katz 2002). However, it would be useful if such programs would also focus upon how people perceive acquaintance rape because victims who behave in non-normative ways may not receive the aid they need if they are judged to be somewhat to blame for their victimization. This is especially problematic inasmuch as women who use alcohol are more likely to experience some form of sexual aggression (Abbey 1991; Muehlenhard and Linton 1987). Recent research suggests that educational programs can reduce the likelihood that police officers will be influenced by racial bias (Plant and Peruche 2005). Similar educational programs could be developed for those who work most closely with rape victims (e.g., police officers, social workers, and prosecutors) to diminish the likelihood that ingroup bias and gender role violations influence how they treat acquaintance rape victims.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008