Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sexist Humor No Laughing Matter, Psychologist Says

Date:
November 7, 2007
Source:
Western Carolina University
Summary:
Jokes about blondes and women drivers are not just harmless fun and games; instead, exposure to sexist humor can lead to toleration of hostile feelings and discrimination against women, according to new research. “Specifically, we propose that sexist humor acts as a ‘releaser’ of prejudice,” says one of the researchers.

Thomas E. Ford, professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, watches as students Caleb Corwin (left) and Paul Ingram (right) take part in an experiment to determine the impact of watching a videotape containing sexist humor on men's behavior.
Credit: WCU photo by Mark Haskett

A research project led by a Western Carolina University psychology professor indicates that jokes about blondes and women drivers are not just harmless fun and games; instead, exposure to sexist humor can lead to toleration of hostile feelings and discrimination against women.

Related Articles


“Sexist humor is not simply benign amusement. It can affect men’s perceptions of their immediate social surroundings and allow them to feel comfortable with behavioral expressions of sexism without the fear of disapproval of their peers,” said Thomas E. Ford, a new faculty member in the psychology department at WCU. “Specifically, we propose that sexist humor acts as a ‘releaser’ of prejudice.”

In their research article*, Ford and the graduate student co-authors describe two research projects designed to test the theory that “disparagement humor” has negative social consequences and plays an important role in shaping social interaction.

“Our research demonstrates that exposure to sexist humor can create conditions that allow men – especially those who have antagonistic attitudes toward women – to express those attitudes in their behavior,” he said. “The acceptance of sexist humor leads men to believe that sexist behavior falls within the bounds of social acceptability.”

In one experiment, Ford and his student colleagues asked male participants to imagine that they were members of a work group in an organization. In that context, they either read sexist jokes, comparable non-humorous sexist statements, or neutral (non-sexist) jokes. They were then asked to report how much money they would be willing to donate to help a women’s organization. “We found that men with a high level of sexism were less likely to donate to the women’s organization after reading sexist jokes, but not after reading either sexist statements or neutral jokes,” Ford said.

In the second experiment, researchers showed a selection of video clips of sexist or non-sexist comedy skits to a group of male participants. In the sexist humor setting, four of the clips contained humor depicting women in stereotypical or demeaning roles, while the fifth clip was neutral. The men were then asked to participate in a project designed to determine how funding cuts should be allocated among select student organizations.

“We found that, upon exposure to sexist humor, men higher in sexism discriminated against women by allocating larger funding cuts to a women’s organization than they did to other organizations,” Ford said. “We also found that, in the presence of sexist humor, participants believed the other participants would approve of the funding cuts to women’s organizations. We believe this shows that humorous disparagement creates the perception of a shared standard of tolerance of discrimination that may guide behavior when people believe others feel the same way.”

The research indicates that people should be aware of the prevalence of disparaging humor in popular culture, and that the guise of benign amusement or “it’s just a joke” gives it the potential to be a powerful and widespread force that can legitimize prejudice in our society, he said.

*Ford, who conducted research into sexist humor with three graduate students at his previous institution of Western Michigan University, presents their findings in an article accepted for publication in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The article, “More Than Just a Joke: The Prejudice-Releasing Function of Sexist Humor,” is scheduled for publication in February 2008.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Western Carolina University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Western Carolina University. "Sexist Humor No Laughing Matter, Psychologist Says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071106083038.htm>.
Western Carolina University. (2007, November 7). Sexist Humor No Laughing Matter, Psychologist Says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071106083038.htm
Western Carolina University. "Sexist Humor No Laughing Matter, Psychologist Says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071106083038.htm (accessed October 26, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins