"Women are wonderful" effect
The women-are-wonderful effect is the phenomenon found in psychological and sociological research which suggests that people associate more positive attributes with women compared to men. This bias reflects an emotional bias toward women as a general case. The phrase was coined by Alice Eagly and Antonio Mladinic in 1994 after finding that both male and female participants tend to assign positive traits to women, with woman participants showing a far more pronounced bias. Positive traits were assigned to men by participants of both genders, but to a lesser degree.
The authors supposed that the positive general evaluation of women might derive from the association between women and nurturing characteristics. This bias is suggested as a form of benevolent sexism towards females which is a concept within the theoretical framework of ambivalent sexism.
The term was coined by researchers Alice Eagly and Antonio Mladinic in a 1994 paper, where they had questioned the widely-held view that there was prejudice against women. They observed that much of the research had been inconclusive in showing a bias. They had found a positive bias towards women in their 1989 and 1993 studies, which involved questionnaires given to students in the United States.
In 1989, 203 psychology students of Purdue University were given questionnaires in groups of 20 and asked to assess subjects of both genders, which showed a more favourable attitude to women and female stereotypes.
In 1991, 324 psychology students of Purdue University were given questionnaires in groups of 20 and asked to assess subjects of both genders. They evaluated the social categories of men and women, relating the traits and expectations of each gender through interviews, emotion-associations and free-response measures. Women were rated higher in attitudes and beliefs but not emotions.
Rudman & Goodwin (2004) conducted 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. Such a task was done to discover whether people associate pleasant words (good, happy, and sunshine) with women, and unpleasant words (bad, trouble, and pain) with men.
This research found that while both women and men have more favorable views of women, women's in-group biases were 4.5 times stronger than those of men and only women (not men) showed cognitive balance among in-group bias, identity, and self-esteem, revealing that men lack a mechanism that bolsters automatic preference for their own gender.
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's found that maternal bonding and male intimidation influences gender attitudes.
Another experiment in the study found adults' attitudes were measured based on their reactions to categories associated with sexual relations. It revealed that among men who engaged more in sexual activity, the more positive their attitude towards sex, the larger their bias towards women. A greater interest in and liking of sex may promote automatic preference for the out-group of women among men, although both women and men with sexual experience expressed greater liking for the opposite gender.
Some authors have claimed the "Women are wonderful" effect is applicable when women follow traditional gender roles such as child nurturing and stay at home housewife. The original study by Eagly, Mladinic & Otto (1991) mentions this possibility and states "Nor did it appear that respondents' very positive evaluations of women masked ambivalence toward them" in the abstract. Other authors have cited studies indicating that the women are wonderful effect is still applicable even when women are in nontraditional gender roles.
Several scholars have argued that the "women are wonderful" effect might be better phrased as "women are wonderful when" effect, with the "when" meaning when women are not in charge. However, in the case of one of these scholars, they admit that men only showed diminished pro-female implicit attitudes and that they still exhibited an in-group bias that favoured women.[disputed ] In the case of the other scholar, they state that men who held antifemale attitudes also viewed women benevolently, suggesting ambivalence towards women. The original Eagly, Mladinic & Otto (1991) study that discovered the women are wonderful effect found no such ambivalence.
- Benevolent prejudice
- Gender stereotypes
- Role congruity theory
- Stereotype fit hypothesis
- Glick, Peter; Fiske, Susan.T. (2001). "An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality". American Psychologist. 56 (2): 109–118. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.56.2.109.
- 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.
- Eagly, Alice H.; Mladinic, Antonio (1989). "Gender Stereotypes and Attitudes Toward Women and Men". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 15 (4): 543–58. doi:10.1177/0146167289154008.
- 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.
- Rudman, Laurie A.; Goodwin, Stephanie A. (2004). "Gender differences in automatic in-group bias: Why do women like women more than they like men?" (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 87 (4): 494–509. doi:10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1684. PMID 15491274. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 18, 2014. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
- Anderson, Kristin J. (2015). "Women are Wonderful, but Most Are Disliked". Modern Misogyny: Anti-feminism in a Post-feminist Era. New York: Oxford Press. pp. 106–137. ISBN 978-0199328178.
- Laurie A. Rudman; Peter Glick (22 August 2012). The Social Psychology of Gender: How Power and Intimacy Shape Gender Relations. Guilford Press. pp. 163–. ISBN 978-1-4625-0906-5.
- John F. Dovidio; Peter Glick; Laurie Rudman (15 April 2008). On the Nature of Prejudice. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 112–. ISBN 978-1-4051-5192-4.
- Anderson, Kristin J., Modern Misogyny: Anti-Feminism in a Post-Feminist Era : (Oxford University Press, 2014). ISBN 978-0-199328-178
- Eagly, Alice H.; Steffen, V. J. (1984), "Gender stereotypes stem from the distribution of women and men into social roles", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46 (4): 735–754, doi:10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1245
- 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
- Whitley, Bernard E.; Kite, Mary E. (2010), The Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination, Belmont, California, USA: Wadsworth, ISBN 978-0-495-81128-2