Sex Roles

, Volume 62, Issue 7–8, pp 532–544 | Cite as

How Nice of Us and How Dumb of Me: The Effect of Exposure to Benevolent Sexism on Women’s Task and Relational Self-Descriptions

  • Manuela BarretoEmail author
  • Naomi Ellemers
  • Laura Piebinga
  • Miguel Moya
Original Article


This research demonstrates how women assimilate to benevolent sexism by emphasizing their relational qualities and de-emphasizing their task-related characteristics when exposed to benevolent sexism. Studies 1 (N = 62) and 2 (N = 100) show, with slightly different paradigms and measures, that compared to exposure to hostile sexism, exposure to benevolent sexism increases the extent to which female Dutch college students define themselves in relational terms and decreases the extent to which they emphasize their task-related characteristics. Study 3 (N = 79) demonstrates that benevolent sexism has more pernicious effects when it is expressed by someone with whom women expect to collaborate than when no collaboration is expected with the source of sexism. The implications of these results are discussed.


Benevolent sexism Women’s self-descriptions Task-related and relational self-descriptions Stereotype confirmation 



This research was financed by a grant from the Dutch Scientific Organization (NWO) awarded to the first author, who was at Leiden University when this research was conducted. Study 3 was part of the master thesis of the third author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuela Barreto
    • 1
    Email author
  • Naomi Ellemers
    • 2
  • Laura Piebinga
    • 2
  • Miguel Moya
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Social Research and Intervention (CIS), Av das Forças Armadas-Ed ISCTELisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Leiden Institute for Psychological ResearchLeiden UniversityLeidenthe Netherlands
  3. 3.University of GranadaGranadaSpain

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