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Gender Differences in the Perception of Prisoner Abuse


We examined gender stereotypes and perceptions of aggression in 743 US psychology students at a northeastern university in the USA. Participants rated a vignette depicting torture of an Iraqi prisoner by an American soldier in which the gender of prisoner and guard were varied. The results showed that female participants viewed torture more negatively than male participants. Additionally, participants perceived the torture and killing of a female prisoner warranted significant compensation to her family. However, participants perceived violent acts by a male guard to be as serious as for a female guard, suggesting a shift in perceptions of gender role stereotypes. Our findings demonstrate a change in the gender role stereotyping for females in the military and suggest a number of future studies.

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We thank Sara R. Fallahi who coded much of the data for this study, Daniel A. Fallahi for his assistance with some aspects of the literature review and Sally K. Laden for editorial assistance. We thank Sally A. Lesik and Marianne Fallon for their statistical consultation.

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Correspondence to Carolyn R. Fallahi.

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Fallahi, C.R., Austad, C.S., Leishman, L.L. et al. Gender Differences in the Perception of Prisoner Abuse. Sex Roles 60, 261–268 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-008-9528-x

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  • Gender differences
  • Perception of aggression
  • Gender role stereotyping