Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bragging rights: Study shows that interventions help women's reluctance to discuss accomplishments

Date:
January 13, 2014
Source:
Montana State University
Summary:
Research found that women dislike promoting their own accomplishments, but it is possible for negative effects to be offset and to improve self-promotion.

A study published by Jessi L. Smith, professor of psychology at Montana State University, and Meghan Huntoon, who was Smith's student at MSU when research was conducted, has found that gender norms about modesty help explain why women don't feel comfortable bragging about their own accomplishments. However, intervention techniques can help women to communicate more effectively about their successes.

"Women's Bragging Rights: Overcoming Modesty Norms to Facilitate Women's Self-Promotion" was published in the Dec. 20 issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly.

The research, which sampled nearly 80 MSU undergraduate women, confirmed that women downplay their own accomplishments but have no trouble promoting a friend, Smith said. Past research had already shown than men are not affected by modesty norms like women are. However, this was among the first studies to test ways to intervene to help women write about themselves effectively.

"We also showed that we can intervene positively, and women can absolutely write about their accomplishments effectively," Smith said.

Smith said she and Huntoon, now a doctoral student in psychology at Northern Illinois University, launched the study when Smith observed an interesting response to a request for submissions to an MSU Women's Faculty Caucus newsletter.

"Nobody responded about themselves. Not one," Smith recalled. However, many women told Smith about really great things happening with their friends and colleagues.

"We wondered what was going on, so we began looking at the research," Smith said.

Smith said they found that American women are reluctant to talk about their own accomplishments because cultural norms promote modesty. And, society disapproves of women who are perceived to be bragging about themselves. However, Smith said, American men who brag about their accomplishments are perceived as confident and capable.

"We live in a society where cultural gender norms are powerful and imbedded in our history," she said. "This is no way, shape or form to be blamed on women. It's just part of our culture, and it is our job to find ways to change these cultural norms."

Smith and Huntoon wondered if this could be reversed, so they devised a study in which four groups of about 20 mostly freshmen female students at MSU each were asked to write essays for a scholarship based on merit that ranged in value up to $5,000. The subjects were told that the essays would be used as samples to help other students improve their essay skills.

One group was asked to write essays about their own accomplishments; another group was asked to write about the accomplishments of someone else. A group of impartial judges evaluated the essays, awarding an average of $1,500 less to those essays in which people wrote about their own accomplishments rather than about someone else's.

In order to study whether the female modesty effect could be overcome, Smith and Huntoon had another two groups write essays about themselves and introduced a distraction. A black box of about 3x3 feet square was placed in the room where the students wrote the essays. The researchers told one of the groups of subjects that the box was a "subliminal noise generator" that produced ultra-high frequency noise that couldn't be heard, but could cause them discomfort.

"There is no such thing as a subliminal noise generator," Smith said. "It was total fiction. But, we had given them an explanation for any anxiety they felt while writing their essay."

The other control group wasn't told what the box in the room was. The group that had the black box as justification to explain their discomfort wrote essays that were awarded up to $1,000 more than the group that had no explanation. And they enjoyed the experience of writing more, too.

"The key here is that when women had an alternative explanation for why they might be feeling uncomfortable -- the supposed noise generator- the awkwardness they felt from violating the modesty norm by writing about themselves was diverted, and they did just fine," Smith said.

The research has broad practical implications, Smith said.

"Basically, people in authority positions need to put in place practices that make it feel normal for women to promote their accomplishments," she said. "Cultural shifts take time, so while we wait, our results also suggest that people should be proactive and promote the accomplishments of their female friends and colleagues to their bosses. Women were very good at promoting the accomplishments of friends."

Smith said she has already used the results of the study while she talks to search groups and pay equity task forces and others in a position to review applications from women.

"This sheds light on an important issue and brings into question how we look at self-nomination for awards, cover letters for job applications and even pay raises," Smith said.

"I tell them that the woman that you are reading about on paper is likely really more outstanding than she appears."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. J. L. Smith, M. Huntoon. Women's Bragging Rights: Overcoming Modesty Norms to Facilitate Women's Self-Promotion. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0361684313515840

Cite This Page:

Montana State University. "Bragging rights: Study shows that interventions help women's reluctance to discuss accomplishments." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140113125152.htm>.
Montana State University. (2014, January 13). Bragging rights: Study shows that interventions help women's reluctance to discuss accomplishments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140113125152.htm
Montana State University. "Bragging rights: Study shows that interventions help women's reluctance to discuss accomplishments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140113125152.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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