Injunctive Norms, Sexism, and Misogyny Network Activation Among Men

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This study examined the interactive effects of gender-relevant injunctive norm exposure and sexist attitudes on men’s reactance, measured via activation of cognitive networks related to anger and misogyny. Heterosexual adult male students (N = 144) at a large, public university in the Southeastern United States completed measures of hostile and benevolent sexism and were randomly assigned to read fictional injunctive norms promoting paternalistic, misogynistic, or egalitarian treatment of women, or control norms. Anger and misogyny network activation were assessed via response latencies during a lexical decision task that required participants to distinguish emotion, misogyny, or neutral words from nonwords. Exposure to paternalism norms—which emphasize men’s obligation to protect and provide for women—heightened activation of misogyny networks, but not anger or other emotion networks, among men high in hostile sexism (controlling for benevolent sexism) and among men high in benevolent sexism (controlling for hostile sexism). Findings suggest that messages encouraging chivalrous behavior toward women activate cognitive networks of misogynistic concepts in subsets of high-sexism men. We discuss the implications of these results for understanding individual differences in men’s reactions to certain sexual assault messages.

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