Mars, Venus, or Earth? Sexism and the Exaggeration of Psychological Gender Differences
- 2.5k Downloads
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.
- Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
- Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Garden City: Doubleday.Google Scholar
- Barber, N. (2016, January 4). Gender differences in sexuality crumbling. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com.
- Brehm, J. W. (1966). A theory of psychological reactance. Oxford: Academic.Google Scholar
- Brehm, S. S., & Brehm, J. W. (1981). Psychological reactance: A theory of freedom and control. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
- Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2012). An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality. In J. Dixon, M. Levine, J. Dixon, & M. Levine (Eds.), Beyond prejudice: Extending the social psychology of conflict, inequality and social change (pp. 70–88). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Glick, P., Fiske, S. T., Mladinic, A., Saiz, J. L., Abrams, D., Masser, B., & … López, W. L. (2000). Beyond prejudice as simple antipathy: Hostile and benevolent sexism across cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 763–775. doi: 10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.523.
- Gray, J. (1992). Men are from Mars, women are from Venus: A practical guide for improving communication and getting what you want in your relationships. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
- Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Jussim, L., Cain, T. R., Crawford, J. T., Harber, K., & Cohen, F. (2009). The unbearable accuracy of stereotypes. In T. D. Nelson (Ed.), Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (pp. 199–227). New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
- Löckenhoff, C. E., Chan, W., McCrae, R. R., De Fruyt, F., Jussim, L., De Bolle, M., & … Terracciano, A. (2014). Gender stereotypes of personality: Universal and accurate? Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45, 675–694. doi: 10.1177/0022022113520075.
- Maestripieri, D. (2012, January 14). Gender differences in personality are larger than previously thought: New study confirms that men’s minds come from Mars and women’s from Venus. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com.
- Rudman, L. A., & Glick, P. (2008). The social psychology of gender: How power and intimacy shape gender relations. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Sample, I. (2015, November 30). Men are from Mars, women are from Venus? New brain study says not. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com.
- Tajfel, H. (1981). Human groups and social categories: Studies in social psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Tannen, D. (1991). You just don’t understand: Women and men in conversation. New York: Ballantine Books.Google Scholar
- Viegas, J. (2013, May 28). 10 gender differences backed up by science. Discovery News. Retrieved from http://news.discovery.com.
- Whitley, B. E., & Kite, M. E. (2010). Psychology of prejudice and discrimination (2nd ed.). Belmont: Cengage Learning.Google Scholar
- World Economic Forum. (2015). The global gender gap report (10th ed.). Geneva: World Economic Forum.Google Scholar