A Real Time Social Norms Intervention to Reduce Male Sexism

Abstract

College males’ overestimation of peers’ sexism may result in reluctance to challenge these toxic attitudes. Researchers investigated the power of a brief intervention to correct these cognitive distortions in Southeastern U.S. undergraduate samples of unacquainted (N = 65; 86.2% Caucasian) and acquainted males (N = 63; 82% Caucasian). Participants first reported selfperceptions of attitudes toward women and then estimated the attitudes of other men present. Intervention participants attended brief presentations that included feedback on discrepancies between actual and perceived norms within their groups. At 3 week follow up, there was a significant decrease in perceptions of peers’ sexism for intervention groups, indicating that a brief intervention may be useful in sexism reduction.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Asch, S. E. (1965). Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgments. In H. Proshansky, & B. Seidenberg (Eds.), Basic studies in social psychology (pp. 393–401). New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Berkowitz, A. D. (2003). Applications of social norms theory to other health and social justice issues. In H. W. Perkins (Ed.), The social norms approach to preventing school and college age substance abuse: a handbook for educators, counselors, and clinician (pp. 259–279). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Boswell, A. A., & Spade, J. Z. (1996). Fraternities and collegiate rape culture: why are some fraternities more dangerous places for women? Gender and Society, 10, 133–147.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bruce, S. (2002). The “a man” campaign: marketing social norms to men to prevent sexual assault. The report on social norms, working paper #5.

  5. Burt, M. (1980). Cultural myths and supports for rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 217–230.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Campo, S., Brossard, D., Frazer, S., Marchell, T., Lewis, D., & Talbot, J. (2003). Are social norms campaigns really magic bullets? Assessing the effects of students’ misperceptions on drinking behavior. Health Communication, 15, 481–497.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Cialdini, R. B. (1993). Influence: the psychology of persuasion (2nd ed.). New York: Quill.

    Google Scholar 

  8. DeJong, W., Schneider, S. K., Towvim, L. G., Murphy, M. J., Doerr, E. E., Simonsen, N. R., et al. (2006). A multisite randomized trial of social norms marketing campaigns to reduce college student drinking. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 67, 868–880.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Far, J., & Miller, J. (2001, Fall). Social norms intervention with small groups. Social Norms Quarterly, 1, 1–8.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Far, J., & Miller, J. (2003). The small group norms-challenging model intervention: a social norms intervention with targeted high risk groups. In H. W. Perkins (Ed.), The social norms approach to preventing school and college age substance abuse (pp. 98–119). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2001). An ambivalent alliance: hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality. American Psychologist, 56, 109–118.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Haines, M. (1997). A social norms approach to preventing binge drinking at colleges and universities. Newton, MA: U. S. Department of Education.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Hoover, E. (2004). Studies find “social norms” strategy reduces drinking at colleges. Chronicle of Higher Education, 50, 49 August 13.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Kilmartin, C., & Berkowitz, A. D. (2005). Sexual assault in context: teaching college men about gender. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Kilmartin, C., Conway, A., Friedberg, A., McQuoid, T., Tschan, T., & Norbet (1999). Social conformity and sexism in all-male peer groups. Paper presented at the Spring Convention of the Virginia Psychological Association, Virginia Beach, VA.

  16. Latané, B., & Darley, J. M. (1970). The unresponsive bystander: Why doesn't he help? New York: Appleton-Century-Croft.

  17. Lisak, D., & Ivan, C. (1995). Deficits in intimacy and empathy in sexually aggressive men. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 10, 296–308.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Lisak, D., & Roth, S. (1988). Motivational factors in nonincarcerated sexually aggressive men. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 795–802.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Lucero, M. A., Allen, R. E., & Middleton, K. L. (2006). Sexual harassers, behaviors, motives, and change over time. Sex Roles, 55, 331–344.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Myers, D. G. (2007). Exploring social psychology. Boston: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Toch, H., & Klofas, J. (1984). Pluralistic ignorance, revisited. In G. M. Stephenson & J. H. Davis (Eds.), Progress in applied social psychology (pp. 129-159). New York: Wiley.

  22. Wechsler, H., Nelson, T. F., Lee, J. E., Seibring, M., Lewis, C., & Keeling, R. P. (2003). Perception and reality: a national evaluation of social norms marketing interventions to reduce college students’ heavy alcohol use. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 64, 484–494.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. White, J. (2002). New ideas to prevent violence against women: a social norms approach. Paper presentation at the annual meeting of the American College Health Association, Washington, DC.

  24. Yost, M. R., & Zurbriggen, E. L. (2006). Gender differences in the enactment of sociosexuality: an examination of implicit social motives, sexual fantasies, coercive sexual attitudes, and aggressive sexual behavior. The Journal of Sex Research, 43, 163–174.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christopher Kilmartin.

Additional information

The authors wish to thank the Virginia Department of Health and the University of Mary Washington Advisory Council on Diversity and Community Values for financial support of this project, and Christine McBride for her help in the preparation of the manuscript.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kilmartin, C., Smith, T., Green, A. et al. A Real Time Social Norms Intervention to Reduce Male Sexism. Sex Roles 59, 264–273 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-008-9446-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • Sexual assault
  • Prevention
  • Sexism
  • Social norms