Nonverbal and Verbal Expressions of Men’s Sexism in Mixed-Gender Interactions

Abstract

This study examined the nonverbal and verbal expressions of hostile and benevolent sexism. Hostile sexism is sexist antipathy and benevolent sexism is a chivalrous belief that women are warm yet incompetent. We predicted that hostile sexist men would display less affiliative expressions but benevolent sexist men would display more affiliative expressions during mixed-gender interactions. Twenty-seven pairs of U.S. male and female undergraduates from a private university in New England participated in this study. These mixed-gender dyads participated in two social interactions: a structured trivia game followed by an unstructured conversation period. During the trivia game, men with more benevolent sexism were perceived to be more patient overall when waiting for the woman to answer the trivia questions. Furthermore, we examined the men’s nonverbal and verbal expressions during the unstructured interaction—naïve raters made impression ratings of the men’s nonverbal and verbal behavior, and trained coders counted the frequency of specific nonverbal cues (e.g., smiles). A word count software was used for verbal content analysis. As predicted, more hostile sexism was associated with less affiliative nonverbal and verbal expressions (e.g., less approachable, less friendly, and less smiling), but more benevolent sexism was associated with more affiliative nonverbal and verbal expressions (e.g., more approachable, more likely to smile, and more positive word usage). The effects held after controlling for men’s personality traits and partners’ nonverbal behavior. Differential behavioral expressions of benevolent and hostile sexism have theoretical importance as we can examine how sexism maintains the status quo at the interpersonal level.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Aria Rad, Julia Zuroff, Avery Cross, Adriana Jodoin, and Isabelle Nichols for their assistance in conducting the study. We also thank Mollie Ruben, Paul Condon, and Stephen Harkins for helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. This research was supported by a Clara Mayo Grant from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues to the first author.

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Correspondence to Jin X. Goh.

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Goh, J.X., Hall, J.A. Nonverbal and Verbal Expressions of Men’s Sexism in Mixed-Gender Interactions. Sex Roles 72, 252–261 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-015-0451-7

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Keywords

  • Benevolent sexism
  • Hostile sexism
  • Nonverbal
  • Verbal
  • Social interactions