Here’s a secret, guys: you’re probably a little sexist.
Don’t think you are? Well, it turns out that being reminded of the possibility will keep you on your toes, according to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
The experiment took a test group of male participants and engaged them in conversation with women over an “ethically ambiguous scenario” which would intentionally lead to a conflict. For the control group of men, the argument was over something general. But for the other half, the clash was over the participant’s alleged use of sexist language.
For instance, in a discussion over whether a nurse should be fired, the woman tester would aggressively assert, “I noticed that you said ‘she’ when referring to the nurse. Are you assuming the nurse is female? That’s kind of sexist, don’t you think?”
Researchers then observed the man’s reaction and recorded both verbal and nonverbal responses. (Granted, the accusation was made, regardless of whether the man had actually used the term “she,” which is somewhat questionable.)
Participants were then ushered into a second conversation in which they were observed while discussing another gender issue, like funding for women’s sports. Researchers looked for what they called “compensatory behavior,” like making lots of eye-contact, smiling more frequently and pausing longer before giving an answer. After this convo, all participants (female testers included) were then asked to rate how much they enjoyed the interaction and how much they “liked” their conversation partner.
Results showed that “the men who were confronted for their alleged sexism engaged in more compensatory behaviors—everything from outright apologies to emotion-based body movements such as leaning back or forward.” These efforts, perhaps surprisingly, “paid off in the form of mutual liking,” according to the lead researchers.
Confrontation reduces the future occurrence of biased behavior … If [a man who is challenged after expressing a sexist statement] is motivated to be liked by the confronter, or wishes to present a non-prejudiced image, then he will likely compensate in response to confrontation and change his future behavior.
But ladies be warned (and men, you can probably attest to this as well), screaming “sexist bastard” is not likely going to make you any friends, according to the researchers. They also acknowledge that men’s behavior would presumably be impacted by the “level of sexism considered acceptable in their social sphere.”
No matter the social sphere, though, what happens in the below video is never acceptable.