Study: If You’re Sexist, People Will Think You’re Racist, and Vice Versa

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By Ian Miles Cheong | 7:02 pm, February 18, 2017
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New scientific findings published by the Association for Psychological Science reveal that people tend to believe that a person may be racist when they exhibit sexist beliefs, and vice versa. These assumptions are made without evidence to support them.

Thus, misogyny affects black men and racism affects white women—at least psychologically.

The research found that white women tended to believe that a person who exhibited racism would also be sexist, and that black and Latino men believed someone who expressed sexist attitudes would also likely be racist.

“This research shows that prejudice has far-reaching consequences that span beyond targeted groups: White women may be harmed by racism and men of color harmed by sexism,” said psychological scientist Diana Sanchez of Rutgers University, who was quoted by Science Daily.

The findings reveal that the stigmatized groups tend to believe that prejudice of one form transfers into other forms.

Sanchez says that she studied the behavior after noticing that most studies only examine the impact of prejudice on its targeted group.

“I was concerned that our field was approaching the study of stigma with boundaries that were too narrow,” she said. “With emerging research showing how and when stigmatized group members achieve solidarity with one another, a natural question emerged regarding whether stigmatized group members, such as white women, experience stigma when confronted with prejudice against another group, such as African Americans.”

In one study conducted online, 257 white participants were asked to assess the views of a 30-year-old white man. Some participants were given evidence that he was racist, while others were shown evidence of his sexism. A third group received a profile indicating that he was neither sexist nor racist.

Based on the information, participants were asked to determine how likely he was to be sexist or racist. They were also asked to predict how he would judge them at a job interview, and how likely he was to agree with socially dominant statements like “some groups of people are simply inferior to others.”

The man with the neutral profile received higher opinions than either the sexist or racist profiles. Interestingly, both sexist and racist profiles showed evidence of prejudice transfer—participants judged the sexist profile as more racist, and the racist profile as more sexist, in contrast to the neutral profile.

Women who read the racist profile believed he would treat them unfairly, compared to those who read the neutral profile.

A second online study, conducted with black, Latino, and white men, showed that the perceived prejudice of sexism also translated into racism. The men of color anticipated that they would face greater stigma from a man with a sexist profile than the neutral one. White men did not expect to be treated poorly by the sexist profile.

Two additional experiments were conducted, in which subjects were paired with participants who would evaluate their mock interviews or speeches. Findings revealed that women anticipated greater sexism from evaluators who held racist beliefs. Women were also more likely to attribute their poor performance to gender bias when dealing with a racist than an evaluator with a neutral profile.

Taken altogether, perceptions of sexism and racism transfer into the perception of other prejudicial views. It explains why people of every sort tend to lump prejudices together in their condemnation of individuals and groups they oppose.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter and on Facebook.