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

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Benoit Dardenne.

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This research was supported by an incentive grant I-06/07 to Benoit Dardenne and by a grant SFR 2007 to Marie Sarlet, both from the University of Liège.

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Dumont, M., Sarlet, M. & Dardenne, B. Be Too Kind to a Woman, She’ll Feel Incompetent: Benevolent Sexism Shifts Self-construal and Autobiographical Memories Toward Incompetence. Sex Roles 62, 545–553 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-008-9582-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-008-9582-4

Keywords

  • Sexism
  • Self-construal
  • Incompetence
  • Autobiographical memory
  • Performance