“Women are wonderful” effect

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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 women as a general case. The phrase was coined by Eagly & Mladinic (1994) after finding that both men and women participants tend to assign exceptionally positive traits to women (men are also viewed positively, though not quite as positively), with woman 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.

Empirical support[edit]

Eagly and Mladinic In a review conducted by Eagly, Mladinic & Otto (1991), significant evidence was found to indicate that women were evaluated positively as 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 and Goodwin Rudman & Goodwin (2004) conducted some of the first research [1] on gender bias that measured gender preferences without directly asking the participants [2]. 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.

Other experiments in this study found people showed automatic preference for their mothers over their fathers, or associated the male gender with violence or aggression. Rudman and Goodwin suggest that maternal bonding and male intimidation may influence gender attitudes. Another experiment found 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.

Controversy[edit]

The original study only used the term "women-are-wonderful effect" once in their study to describe findings by other people, and in fact used their findings in this field to explain the gender wage gap, as explained in the abstract of the study:

  • "...this positive evaluation derives primarily from the ascription to women of nice, nurturant, communal characteristics, which people think qualify individuals for the domestic role as well as for low-status, low-paying female-dominated jobs.

Women's experiences of gender discrimination and feminist protests concerning a contemporary backlash against women reflect women's inroads into traditionally masculine arenas, especially their efforts to gain access to high-status, high-paying male-dominated jobs, which are thought to require characteristics stereotypically ascribed to men."

In this way, the women-are-wonderful effect could actually be seen to have malignant and regressive effects on women's welfare.

Findings by Garcia-Retamero and López-Zafra also indicate that the women-are-wonderful effect doesn't diminish backlash against women in leadership roles:

  • "Participants showed prejudice against the female candidate, especially when she worked in an industry incongruent with her gender role. Female and older participants showed more prejudice against the female leader than did male and younger participants." [3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • 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 prejudiced 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:10.1037/0022-3514.87.4.494, 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