Gender Stereotyping Experiment

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Topic: Sociology
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Abstract

The aim of this study was to examine the first impression formed by a group of subjects based on the information given to them about a fictitious man on the one hand and a fictitious woman on the other and to investigate further whether the subjects are likely to stereotype the target persons based on their sex. In this study, the subjects are given identical information pertaining to the two fictitious people who are both described as attractive, successful in their workplaces, and also gravely depressed. After the rating, it was established that there were discrepancies in the way the subjects viewed the target persons in relation to their involvement in the workplaces, social attitude, and marriage. Secondly, the results further demonstrated a heavy reliance on traditional gender treatment in both contexts, with men being regarded more highly than women. In addition, it was notable that there were only a few instances where women were viewed in a positive manner.

Introduction

The concept of gender stereotype has elicited a mixed reaction in the field of psychology. Most people tend to generalize the impression based on both men and women in regard to their attributes, behaviors, and their societal roles. It is worth noting that the prescriptions of gender stereotypes have been linked to the societal roles between the two sexes that were traditionally predominant (Baron, Branscombe, and Byrne, 2009). Most studies that have been conducted to establish the origin of gender stereotypes indicate that the traditional perceptions that dictated the societal roles and power inequalities have played a significant role in maintaining the current status quo. Further, it has also been argued that stereotypes do not always give negative information. They can also be positive. However, most of the information communicated by the stereotypes are, in most cases, inaccurate. The females, in particular, have faced lots of stigmatization in our culture.

In their well-articulated article, Phillip, Marc, and Paul (1975) conducted research to establish how women were stereotyped on the basis of sex. In their study, they used images of 30 young women, both attractive and unattractive. One group of women was depicted as to be members of the feminist movement, while others were deemed to be non-supporters. The subjects were then asked to pick out the photos of the women whom they thought supported the feminist movement. The results indicated that the subjects importantly picked out the pictures of the less attractive women as those who supported the movement.

Subsequent researches further support the findings of Phillip, Marc, and Paul by arguing that most stereotypes view women feminists as not only unattractive but also as weak. The present study is, therefore, aimed at measuring the effects of stereotyping women on the basis of their assertiveness and autonomy.

Method

Six subjects were required to complete a questionnaire about two hypothetical persons selected for the study after reading their personal reports. One report gave the information about a man, Steven, while the other one gave a report on Sharon. Both reports had similar details regarding the target persons, and only the gender of the target persons differentiated the contents in the reports. Both individuals were regarded as physically attractive, successful in their careers, and also seriously depressed.

Subjects

Six subjects were used to conduct this study. The subjects were equally divided into two groups of three members each. Group 1 was given a personal report about Steven and asked to complete the questionnaire based on the information of the report. Group 2, on the other hand, was given a similar personal report about Sharon and was asked to fill a questionnaire based on the report given. The subjects used for the study were all the same age, sex, and from a similar social class.

Materials

The study relied on the use of a questionnaire. The questionnaire was made up of a set of words that were used to rate the subjects’ opinion on the hypothetical persons. The ratings were a result of the personal report of the hypothetical persons that were given to the subjects for assessment. The study further relied on factorial design in which a set of personal reports was used to describe the hypothetical persons, which was only differentiated by the names ‘Steven’ and ‘Sharon.’ The adjectives used in the questionnaire were designed in a bid to create a favorable or less favorable impression of the hypothetical persons based on their gender.

Procedure

The subjects In Group 1 were given a personal report on Steven while those in Group 2 were given a personal report on Sharon. The subjects were then asked to read the personal reports of the target person and to form an impression of how they deemed them to be. The subjects were tested separately. The subjects were further asked to complete a questionnaire to rate their impression of the target persons used in the study. The rating scale used in the questionnaire was on a rating of 1 to 5, with rating 1 having the most favored aspect of the target person and five ratings the least aspect of the target person.

Results

It was inferred from the ratings that the women were judged more harshly in respect to their feminism and assertiveness. This means that Group 1 rated Steven as more sexy, strong, more competent, and even ethical as compared to Group 2 that viewed Sharon as less sexy, cold, and even more emotional. It is important to note from the results that Steven was viewed as less faithful in his relationship as compared to Sharon hence indicating the perception of the subjects on the matter of infidelity. Despite the report giving an indication that both target persons have successfully climbed the corporate social ladder, it was noted that Sharon was viewed as less competitive than Steven, as shown in Table 1. By comparing the ratings by the subjects, it was possible to determine the degree to which both males and females differ in their attitudes towards work, relationship, and normal behavior. Though both persons have similar character traits in regards to their work and marriage, the male is viewed as more dominant than the female.

Table 1: Mean Rating Given To Steven and Sharon

High Anchor Low Anchor Steven Sharon
Strong Weak 1.33 4.3
Warm Cold 2.33 3.3
Good Bad 2.3 3.3
Competent Incompetent 1.3 4.67
Ethical Unethical 1.67 3
Competitive Non-competitive 1 4.3
Logical Emotional 1.67 5
Faithful Unfaithful 4.3 1.67
Kind Unkind 2.67 3
Sexy Not sexy 1.67 4

Discussion

Consistent with the study conducted by Phillip, Marc, and Paul, the subjects seemed to view the female in stereotyped ways. Specifically, the subjects viewed the female as being incapable of being competent despite being promoted in the workplace, colder in her relationship due to the report that she is keen on leaving the marriage and giving up the custody of the child and even more emotional due to her moody nature. The female also created an impression of being less attractive to the subjects as compared to the male character. It should, however, be noted that the male was stereotyped as being less faithful in the marriage as compared to the female. The discrepancies in the findings can be attributed to several factors.

First, it is arguable that the subjects are relying on the stereotypes of women portrayed by society. Women are viewed as being less aggressive as compared to men. In general, aggression and attractiveness in women seem to correlate in an intricate manner hence influencing the general public view of attractive women being incapable of being aggressive in their workplaces. Most stereotypes actually argue that the women who have climbed the corporate social ladder might have succeeded due to the fact that the company is not functional. This means that any company headed by a female is bound to fail sometime in the near future. This has been evidenced in other studies that indicate that women are likely to be turned down for senior positions in technical areas. On the other hand, the public does not view such women as sexy.

Sexy women have always been stereotyped as being married to a good-looking man and being less aggressive in their daily life. On the contrary, men are stereotyped as being less committed to their families as compared to women. It has been socially accepted that a man’s role in the family is the breadwinner, hence his commitment to his work than the family. A woman, on the other hand, should be in the house taking care of the home rather than competing with the man in the career sector. This mentality, therefore, plays a big role in the impression formed by our subjects regarding the decision of Steven and Sharon both opting to walk out of a marriage and giving up custody of their children. It is for this reason that Steven is stereotyped as being less faithful in the marriage on the one hand, but committed on the other as compared to Sharon.

Secondly, the psychologist report that describes the characters as moody, tense, and depressed is also interpreted differently. Men have always been stereotyped as less emotional despite their low moments in their life (Chrisler and McCreary, 2010). The females, on the other hand, are known as being very emotional, a trait that is said to influence their decisions hence making the wrong move. Several studies indicate that both males and females have different emotional reactions.

Women have been stereotyped as to emotionally express fear, sympathy, and shame when in distress as compared to men who are believed to express anger and an inward sense of pride. It is further argued that women are deeply affected and are publicly allowed to express their emotions as compared to men. A good example is seen where culture has allowed a woman to cry in public, but a man is ‘forbidden’ from expressing his distress through tears. The traditional culture expects a man to be strong, and it is this stereotyping culture that has become deeply entrenched in the society hence influencing them from forming the first impression of a person.

Conclusion

The present study, therefore, indicates the level of gender stereotyping in society. Social stereotypes that perceive women as incapable of performing equal tasks as their counterpart has become deeply rooted in our culture. A woman is expected to dedicate herself more to her family than competing in the corporate world. Each gender has been prescribed for their expected roles in order to meet the social expectation.

Reference List

Baron, R., Branscombe, N., and Byrne, D. (2009). Social Psychology. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.

Chrisler, J., and McCreary, D. (2010). Handbook of Gender Research in Psychology. New York: Springer Science and Business Media.

Phillip, G., Marc, G., and Paul, A. (1975). Another put-down of women? Perceived attractiveness as a function of support for the feminist movement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32 (1), 113-115.