Sex Roles

, Volume 62, Issue 7–8, pp 545–553

Be Too Kind to a Woman, She’ll Feel Incompetent: Benevolent Sexism Shifts Self-construal and Autobiographical Memories Toward Incompetence

Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11199-008-9582-4

Cite this article as:
Dumont, M., Sarlet, M. & Dardenne, B. Sex Roles (2010) 62: 545. doi:10.1007/s11199-008-9582-4


The present study investigated how benevolent (BS) and hostile sexism (HS) shift women’s self-construal and autobiographical memory. Belgian undergraduates (only women, N = 45, mean age = 21.8) were confronted either by BS, HS or neutral comments in the context of a job interview. After performing a cognitive task, participants reported the intrusive thoughts that came to their mind during the task. Later, autobiographical memory for self-incompetence was assessed. Performance response latencies were slower after BS than HS. Also, BS generated more disturbing mental intrusions related to the idea of being incompetent than HS. Autobiographical memory similarly indicated greater access for incompetence after BS. Although HS was more aggressive in tone, it did not shift women’s self-construal and autobiographical memories toward incompetence.


Sexism Self-construal Incompetence Autobiographical memory Performance 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cognitive SciencesUniversity of LiègeLiègeBelgium
  2. 2.Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FRS–FNRS)BrusselsBelgium

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