Mars, Venus, or Earth? Sexism and the Exaggeration of Psychological Gender Differences
Few studies have examined how people perceive psychological gender differences despite the practical importance of these perceptions for everyday life. In three studies, we examined whether there is a positive association between sexism and the tendency to exaggerate psychological gender differences. Study 1 demonstrated that the more strongly men endorsed hostile sexism and the more strongly women endorsed hostile or benevolent sexism, the larger they perceived gender differences to be across a broad range of psychological traits. Study 2 documented that the more strongly people endorsed hostile or benevolent sexism, the more likely they were to exaggerate the size of gender differences. In Studies 1 and 2, women perceived gender differences to be larger than did men, after accounting for sexism. Finally, Study 3 showed that increasing (decreasing) the perceived size of gender differences predicts corresponding increases (decreases) in sexism. These results support relevant theory, which argues that differentiation between genders underlies sexist ideologies, and they may inform future intervention studies that aim to reduce sexism by targeting exaggerated gender beliefs. Discussion highlights the proposed connection between sexism and the belief that “men are from Mars and women are from Venus”.
KeywordsSocial perception Sex role attitudes Sexism Masculinity Femininity
We thank the faculty and students at the UNCG Hard Data Café for comments on this research.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
There are no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research and/or authorship of this manuscript. We received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this manuscript. The current research involved human participants and was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the first-author’s university. All participants provided informed consent prior to their participation.
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