Sexism and the Big Five: How Self and Informant Reports of Personality Relate to Benevolent and Hostile Sexism Beliefs

Research Category: Social Sciences, Business, and Law
Presenter: Megan Pinaire
PI: Randall Colvin

Empiricists and theorists characterize sexism as consisting of two distinct, yet complementary belief systems: Hostile Sexism (HS) and Benevolent Sexism (BS). Hostile sexism is antipathy toward women who are seen as usurping men’s power. Benevolent sexism is the view that women need to be cherished and protected. BS is a complement to HS because it is perceived as chivalry, thereby reducing women’s resistance to gender inequality. Little is known about the personality correlates of these prejudices. We examined the relationship between Big Five personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism) and sexism, from the perspective of the self and friends. One hundred (55 female) undergraduate participants completed a series of computerized questionnaires in a randomized order (self-reports). A shortened version of the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI; Glick & Fiske, 1996) was used to assess BS and HS; the California Adult Q-sort (CAQ; Block, 2008) was used to measure Big Five personality traits. Each participant also recruited up to three friends to complete a CAQ describing the participant’s personality (informant reports). The self- and informant-reported personality correlates of HS were relatively consistent. These sets of correlates diverged in the case of BS; however, with informants painting a more unflattering portrait. Friends of individuals high in BS described them as introverted, neurotic, and low in conscientiousness. This research stands to change societal perceptions of BS. Many men defend BS as simple politeness, but informant reports suggest it is indicative of a less affiliative personality.