People Overestimate Backlash Against Helpers Who Violate Gender Stereotypes: Experimental Examination of a Prosociality Paradox

Ciara Atkinson, Gillian Sandstrom, Alyssa Croft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Men and women typically help others in gender stereotypic ways (gender-consistent helping), but how might people judge helpers who do so in counter-stereotypic ways (gender-inconsistent helping)? Most of the time helpers are viewed favorably, but behaviors that deviate from gender stereotypes tend to elicit social sanctions from others. Thus, gender-inconsistent helping presents a paradox wherein people may anticipate facing negative judgments from others despite helping being a positive, prosocial act. Across three experiments (two pre-registered), participants provided their own (Studies 1–3) and normative (Studies 2–3) evaluations of gender-consistent and gender-inconsistent helpers. Taken together, results revealed that participants expected other people to evaluate gender-inconsistent helpers less favorably than gender-consistent helpers (Hypothesis 1), and less favorably than they actually did themselves (Hypothesis 2). These findings show that gender-inconsistent helping is less susceptible to backlash than people think, and instead suggest that pluralistic ignorance could be a barrier to gender-inconsistent helping, if people fear that others’ judgments of gender-inconsistent helpers are harsher than their own. Our results highlight novel opportunities for addressing persistent occupational gender segregation in prosocial contexts (by confronting pluralistic ignorance), which could subsequently enhance gender equality more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)268-289
Number of pages22
JournalSex Roles
Volume88
Issue number5-6
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Keywords

  • Gender roles
  • Pluralistic ignorance
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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