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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2005 Mar;88(3):498-509.

Exposure to benevolent sexism and complementary gender stereotypes: consequences for specific and diffuse forms of system justification.

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Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA.


Many have suggested that complementary gender stereotypes of men as agentic (but not communal) and women as communal (but not agentic) serve to increase system justification, but direct experimental support has been lacking. The authors exposed people to specific types of gender-related beliefs and subsequently asked them to complete measures of gender-specific or diffuse system justification. In Studies 1 and 2, activating (a) communal or complementary (communal + agentic) gender stereotypes or (b) benevolent or complementary (benevolent + hostile) sexist items increased support for the status quo among women. In Study 3, activating stereotypes of men as agentic also increased system justification among men and women, but only when women's characteristics were associated with higher status. Results suggest that complementary stereotypes psychologically offset the one-sided advantage of any single group and contribute to an image of society in which everyone benefits through a balanced dispersion of benefits.

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