Sophia Smith

Year: Junior

Major(s): Psychology

Mentor: Mallett, Robyn

Department: Psychology

Project Title: Was That a Joke?

Project Abstract: This proposed study will investigate the effects of belonging-affirmation and humor on confrontation rates of sexist messages. Last September, a politician displayed a sexist joke on an official document during a board meeting, eliciting public outrage to which he responded by stating that any “reasonable person” would have understood what the joke meant. Disparaging humor such as this offers a relief from a serious mindset, making sexist comments more widely accepted in social settings. In research on confronting sexist comments conducted by Swim and Hyers (1999), only 16% of women in their study actually confronted a perpetrator of sexual harassment. This lack of confrontation can be attributed to fear of being disliked or fear of being ostracized, which can lead to excessive compliance (Williams and Carter-Sowell 2009). I will conduct an experiment to test whether inducing a feeling of acceptance or rejection causes differences in confrontation of a sexist statement that is presented in a serious or joking manner. I hypothesize that women will be most likely to assertively respond (i.e. confront) when the sexist statement is delivered in a serious manner and they have been reminded of a time they felt accepted in the past. In comparison, I hypothesize that women will be least likely to confront when the sexist statement is delivered in a joking manner and they have been reminded of a time they felt rejected in the past.