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The defensive projection of gender stereotypes : threats to gender identity and the link to prejudice
Beavers, Adam J.
Vaughn, AllisonSadler, MelodyReed, Mark
vii, 17 pages : illustrations
The defensive projection of stereotypes is based on the rejection of a stigmatized identity that has been conferred upon an individual. In order to gain distance from this identity, people are likely to project the associated stereotypes onto others. It has been argued that stereotypes focus the defensive projection process, such that the unwanted identity is projected onto others who are likely to possess some aspect of the stigmatized identity. One application of this theory involved threatening the gender identity of participants and measuring the participants' perceptions of fear, hostility and discomfort towards masculine and feminine gay male targets. The previous work has confounded threats to gender by using sexual minorities as targets. From this work, we cannot be sure that men only perceive effeminate gay targets to be more negative in response to a gender identity threat because there was no control group to make such comparisons (i.e., do we need a stereotypic target to focus defensive projection?). The present study isolated the defensive projection response toward unspecified same-gender targets after gender identity has been threatened. It was predicted that participants in the threat condition (i.e., men who "respond" like women; women who "respond" like men) would have more counter-stereotypic judgments of same-gender targets than participants in the no threat condition. While this effect was expected for both men and women, it was predicted that men would show a stronger response to a threat to their gender identity than women. Consistent with previous findings of self-esteem boosts after derogating others, it was predicted that there would be higher levels of self-esteem for those who were threatened when they had an opportunity to project these stereotypes. San Diego State University undergraduates (n = 144; average age = 19.45 years old) were recruited through psychology courses to participate in this study. Following the protocol established in previous research, men and women received false feedback for their responses on the Bem Sex Role Inventory (BSRI). After being told that their responses were similar either to males or females, participants then rated photos on dimensions of competence and warmth. For women, there was no evidence that stereotypic perceptions changed as a function of gender identity threats. Men who received threatening feedback (i.e., a feminine score on the BSRI) rated other men as having lower levels of masculine characteristics than men who received gender-affirming feedback (i.e., a masculine score on the BSRI). Contrary to the predictions from the defensive projection literature, perceptions of feminine characteristics did not differ between the threat and no threat conditions. For men who were threatened and subsequently rated other men as having less masculine qualities, higher self-esteem scores were reported than in the no threat condition. Possible explanations for these findings are explored through methodological limitations and alternative theoretical framing.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 16-17).
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2013
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