“Women are wonderful” effect
The “women are wonderful” effect is the phenomenon found in psychological research which suggests that people associate more positive attributes with the general social category of women compared to men. This effect reflects an emotional bias toward the female gender as a general case. The phrase was coined by Eagly & Mladinic (1994) after finding that both male and female participants tend to assign exceptionally positive traits to the female gender (males are also viewed positively, though not quite as positively), with female participants showing a far more pronounced bias. The authors supposed that the positive general evaluation of women might derive from the association between women and nurturing characteristics.
In a review conducted by Eagly, Mladinic & Otto (1991), strong evidence was found that women are evaluated quite favorably as a general social category, and significantly more favorably than men. In the experiment, over 300 college students (both men and women) evaluated the social categories of men and women, relating the traits and expectations of each gender through interviews, emotion-associations and free-response measures. Supporting this effect, words regarded as positive, such as “happy”, “good”, and “paradise”, were more readily ascribed to women more than men.
Rudman & Goodwin (2004) conducted some of the first research on gender bias that measured gender preferences without directly asking the participants. Subjects at Purdue and Rutgers participated in computerized tasks that measured automatic attitudes based on how quickly a person categorizes pleasant and unpleasant attributes with each gender. For example, similar to Eagly, Mladinic & Otto (1991), the tasks could determine if people associated pleasant words (good, vacation, and paradise) with women, and unpleasant words (bad, slime and grief) with men. The results, which agreed with the “women are wonderful” effect, showed that while both women and men have more favorable views of women, women's in-group biases were four times stronger than men's.
These studies also found that people automatically favored their mothers over their fathers, and associated male gender with violence or aggression. Rudman & Goodwin (2004) suggest that maternal bonding and male intimidation influence gender attitudes. In another part of the study, adults’ attitudes were measured based on their reactions to categories associated with sexual relations. It revealed that the more sexual encounters a man had, the greater the likelihood of him sharing the positively-biased perception of women.
- Eagly, Alice H.; Mladinic, Antonio; Otto, Stacey (1991), Are women evaluated more favorably than men? An analysis of attitudes, beliefs and emotions, Psychology of Women Quarterly 15 (2): 203–16, doi:10.1111/j.1471-6402.1991.tb00792.x
- Eagly, Alice H.; Mladinic, Antonio (1994), Are people prejudice against women? Some answers from research on attitudes, gender stereotypes, and judgments of competence, European Review of Social Psychology 5: 1–35, doi:10.1080/14792779543000002
- Garcia-Retamero, Rocio; López-Zafra, Esther (2006), Prejudice against Women in male-congenial environments: Perceptions of gender role congruity in leadership, Sex Roles 55 (1/2): 51–61, doi:10.1007/s11199-006-9068-1
- Rudman, Laurie A.; Goodwin, Stephanie A. (2004), Gender differences in automatic in-group bias: Why do women like women more than they like men?, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 87 (4): 494–509, doi:10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1244, PMID 15491274
- Whitley, Bernard E.; Kite, Mary E. (2010), The Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination, Belmont, California, USA: Wadsworth, ISBN 978-0-495-81128-2