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L’Année psychologique

2015/3 (Vol. 115)

  • Pages : 168
  • DOI : 10.4074/S000350331400013X
  • Éditeur : NecPlus

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1

“Women are always complaining, they want to have their cake and eat it!”. Such is the comment of a female internet user, reacting to an article in a major French newspaper, Le Monde (October 29, 2010), in which some women gave firsthand accounts of sexism in the professional sphere. Such a reaction illustrates the hostility against women who report being victims of sexism. Complaining too much! Not determined enough! Such negative judgments made by women about other women who report discrimination are not a specifically French phenomenon. Indeed, reporting discrimination poses a problem in western societies in general. Women are blamed or negatively judged by their fellow ingroup members when they report or confront discrimination (e.g., Garcia, Horstman-Reser, Amo, Redersdorff, & Branscombe, 2005; Kaiser, Hagiwara, Malahy, & Wilkins, 2009; Marin & Guadagno, 1999). These negative judgments are a serious barrier to social change and the fight against discrimination. Research has demonstrated that women often failed to report or confront discrimination of which they are victims (Brinkman, Garcia, & Rickard, 2011; Hyers, 2007; Kaiser & Miller, 2004; Sechrist, Swim, & Stangor, 2004; Shelton & Stewart, 2004; Stangor, Swim, Van Allen, & Sechrist, 2002; Swim & Hyers, 1999; Woodzicka & LaFrance, 2001). And raising a disadvantaged group’s status is hindered by the failure to claim discrimination, as it maintains the status quo and contributes to legitimize a belief that discrimination, especially gender discrimination, is no longer a current problem. In this light, it is essential to improve our knowledge of the factors likely to favor reporting discrimination among women. Thus, the present research investigates how women may contribute or not to reporting the discrimination of another woman. Two experiments examine whether the role played by the commonality of fate with a female victim of sexism can help to understand inconsistent results in the literature, and more precisely, when and why women may show supportive or derogative reactions towards a discriminated peer. Indeed, in the domain of women’s contribution to claiming sexism, research reports some incoherent results. Women seem to adopt either behaviors with positive consequences (i.e., they constitute an important source of social support for the victim) or behaviors with negative consequences (i.e., they reject the victim) towards a female victim of discrimination. To better understand these incoherent results, we suggest that the female observers’ commonality of fate with a female victim of sexism will influence the extent to which they will report this sexist act (Research question 1) and their judgment of the victim who reports discrimination (Research question 2).

1. - Positive reactions from women towards a discriminated peer

2

According to some researchers, intragroup motives consisting in supporting or defending the group underline the perception of discrimination (Postmes, Branscombe, Spears, & Young, 1999). Some studies suggest that women are more empathic and sympathetic than men towards a discriminated woman (Elkins & Phillips, 1999; Gutek, Cohen, & Tsui, 1996; Ryan, Haslam, & Postmes, 2007). For instance, they recognize discrimination against a woman more easily than do men (Elkins & Phillips, 1999; Elkins, Phillips, & Konopaske, 2002; Elkins, Phillips, Konopaske, & Townsend, 2001). The women’s sensitivity to gender discrimination, reflected by a greater perception of discrimination against ingroup members than against men, is called “gender similarity bias” (Elkins et al., 2001). Moreover, when women imagined being a bystander of a sexist act carried out by a man, they felt anger towards the perpetrator and would have liked to confront him (Ayres, Friedman, & Leaper, 2009; Chaudoir & Quinn, 2010). They may also be more able to report discrimination than the victim herself (Sechrist et al., 2004). According to Sechrist and colleagues (2004), by claiming an act of discrimination against another woman, women may demonstrate their solidarity towards their gender group. Thus, all these findings suggest that women may be quite ready to report sexism against their peers.

3

However, in studies about the similarity bias (e.g., Elkins et al., 2001, 2002) or in Sechrist and colleagues’ study (2004), the female participants who observed a sexist act against a female target did not share the fate of the discriminated victim and had no reason to anticipate that they had a risk of sharing it. As a consequence, they were not threatened with experiencing discrimination themselves. In this case, the female observers perceived and reported the discrimination experienced by the target. Moreover, Stroebe, Barreto, and Ellemers (2010) showed that the way in which women react to discrimination against ingroup members depends on their personal interest and not on their empathy towards their gender group. Indeed, when their gender group is a victim of discrimination but there is no risk that this fate will personally affect them, they do not suffer from the negative ingroup fate (Stroebe et al., 2010). Therefore, these previous studies show two important findings: 1. as revealed by the gender similarity bias, group motives may be significant among women when one of them faces discrimination; 2. but as significant as these group motives may be, they do not take precedence over personal motives when facing discrimination. We suggest that women may have positive reactions towards a discriminated peer (i.e., recognizing and reporting discrimination) when they do not share her negative fate, that is, in the absence of self-threat.

4

However, previous research has shown that the ambiguity of discrimination is also likely to determine if women report or not discrimination. Ruggiero and Taylor (1995, 1997) have demonstrated that there is only one case in which women report discrimination: when the sexist act is unambiguous. Therefore, it is important to test if women would make an attribution to discrimination despite the ambiguity of the sexist event because a discriminatory event is rarely easy to identify (Benokraitis, 1997; Kappen & Branscombe, 2001; Swim, Aikin, Hall, & Hunter, 1995). In the previous studies, women themselves were the victims of a sexist act when they minimized discrimination because of the ambiguity surrounding the sexist event. If women are only observers of a sexist act against a female victim, without a risk of being a victim in turn because they do not share her negative fate, they may be more likely to report discrimination against the victim, regardless of the ambiguity of the sexist act. In other words, their contribution to claiming sexism would be highly significant because they would be able to report discrimination not only when a sexist act is unambiguous but also when it is ambiguous.

2. - Negative reactions from women towards a discriminated peer

5

Even if group motives do exist and may be significant, they are not necessarily strong, especially among those who could take advantage of challenging the system, i.e. low status group members (see Jost & Burgess, 2000). Indeed, those group members contribute to maintain their disadvantaged position, for instance by failing to perceive injustice and disadvantage (Jost, 1995). Moreover, some studies showed that women negatively judge a woman claiming discrimination (Garcia et al., 2005; Kaiser et al., 2009; Marin & Guadagno, 1999). Indeed, a discriminatory act against an ingroup member brings the observer’s social identity to the forefront (Schmitt & Branscombe, 2002). Reporting discrimination related to one’s group membership indicates that the group is depreciated (Branscombe, Schmitt, & Harvey, 1999; McCoy & Major, 2003; Schmitt & Branscombe, 2002), and it is detrimental to personal self-esteem (Branscombe et al., 1999; Major, Quinton, & McCoy, 2002; Schmitt & Branscombe, 2001). Therefore, recognizing that an ingroup member is a victim of discrimination because of his/her group membership means recognizing that one could also be a victim of that same discrimination. Sharing a salient common fate with an ingroup member constitutes a particular within-group context: in this situation, ingroup members are not only connected to each other by common-group membership, they are also predestined to be treated similarly (see Gurin & Townsend, 1986). In a context where an ingroup target suffered from an unpleasant fate, Lockwood (2002) showed that observers who risked suffering from the same fate were concerned about this negative experience and felt more vulnerable. Thus, in a discrimination context that makes salient a common fate with a female victim of sexism, female observers may be aware that they risk being (mis)treated as a category. Such a context should be self-threatening. At least two potential strategies for reducing this self-threat to social identity can be considered.

6

One possibility is that women derogate a female target of sexism who reports discrimination. Indeed, women derogate more a female victim (an ingroup member) than a male victim (an outgroup member) claiming discrimination (Garcia et al., 2005). According to Garcia and colleagues (2005), this social derogation of an ingroup victim demonstrates that ingroup members feel a threat toward their social identity and they need to protect it. For instance, people identified less with their group when an ingroup member reports discrimination (Garcia et al., 2005). Thus, motives to maintain positive self-images exert a strong impact on the judgment of others and people may prefer to dissociate themselves from undesirable others to protect their self-esteem (Beauregard & Dunning, 1998). Rejecting an ingroup member claiming discrimination allows one to protect the self by increasing the distance between the self and the ingroup victim (e.g., Eidelman & Biernat, 2003). If a context is especially self-threatening for women, they may reject another woman claiming discrimination.

7

We suggest that another potential strategy for women to not suffer from the negative fate of an ingroup victim will be to incriminate internal causes to explain her negative outcome. In other words, women would be led to minimize discrimination against another woman in a context that makes salient a common fate with her. Previous studies have shown that minimizing discrimination by favoring an attribution to internal causes to explain a personal negative outcome is a self-protective strategy used by discriminated women and many disadvantaged group members (Ruggiero & Taylor, 1995, 1997). Moreover, when a discriminated target attributes to internal causes his negative outcome, he is less derogated than when he attributes his outcome to discrimination (Kaiser & Miller, 2001a). By keeping silent in the face of prejudice and discrimination, and thereby refusing to challenge one’s belief in a just world (Lerner, 1980), the victim maintains a sense of social acceptance and satisfactory social self-esteem (Ruggiero & Taylor, 1997). This state of denial also allows a female victim to maintain perceived control over events and her performance (Ruggiero & Taylor, 1997). In the same manner, we suggest that women sharing a common fate with a female victim of a discriminatory act will have a personal interest to minimize the discriminatory act against this ingroup victim. However, according to Ruggiero and Taylor’s (1995, 1997) findings, minimization of discrimination is a self-protective strategy used as soon as there is a probability of discrimination, even if this probability is weak. In their studies, when the discriminatory event was unambiguous because the probability of discrimination was 100% (all the evaluators are sexist), women explained their negative outcome in making more attribution to discrimination than to internal causes. When the discriminatory event became ambiguous because less probable (at least one of the evaluators was not sexist), women preferred to explain their negative outcome by internal causes than by discrimination. Therefore, we suggest that women sharing a common within-group fate with a discriminated woman will minimize more the discrimination against her when the sexist act is ambiguous rather than unambiguous.

8

In sum, two experiments were conducted to examine the role of communality of fate with the victim on women’s reactions. In the first experiment, we studied the strategy consisting in minimizing discrimination: in which context do female observers minimize discrimination suffered by an ingroup member and in which context do they report it (Research question 1)? In the second experiment, the main aim was to examine the strategy consisting in derogating the victim. We studied how female observers judge an ingroup member as a function of her explanation for her negative outcome following a sexist act: when do they positively judge the victim and when do they negatively judge her (Research question 2)?

3. - Experiment 1

9

The objectives of the first experiment were twofold. First, we examined whether the communality of fate with a female victim of sexism influenced women’s attributions to explain the victim’s negative outcome in order to determine when women minimize discrimination against a peer. We suggest that women sharing a common fate with a female victim of a discriminatory act will minimize discrimination, whereas in a dissimilar fate context, they will recognize more discrimination against her. In the literature concerning discriminated victims, minimization of discrimination is shown by the fact that the victims attribute their negative outcome more to internal dispositions than to discrimination (e.g., Crocker & Major, 1989; Ruggiero & Taylor, 1995, 1997; Sechrist et al., 2004; Stangor et al., 2002). However, in these studies, the female victim herself decided to incriminate her internal dispositions more than discrimination. It is difficult for female observers of a discriminatory act against an ingroup member to report that the victim failed because of her lack of internal dispositions: it could be very awkward. Therefore, the female observers may come up with another internal explanation to justify the discriminated target’s failure. Because minimization of discrimination can be conceptualized by less attribution to discrimination than to internal and/or external causes (Crocker & Major, 1993), an attribution to stress could be one such plausible internal cause for the target’s failure as it avoids the embarrassing situation of making a painful attribution to a lack of internal dispositions. An attribution to stress is a common example of claimed/self-reported handicaps (Hendrix & Hirt, 2009), a strategic complaint that allows one to accord extenuating circumstances to a potential failure in the future (Arkin & Baumgardner, 1985; Hirt, Deppe, & Gordon, 1991; Leary & Shepperd, 1986). Thus, we suggest that in the common fate condition female participants will be more likely to attribute the target’s failure to stress than to discrimination, whereas in the dissimilar fate condition they will be more likely to attribute the target’s failure to discrimination than to stress (Hypothesis 1).

10

The second aim of Experiment 1 was to examine the role of the ambiguity of the sexist act on female observers’ attributions. When women witness discrimination against another woman, are they influenced by the objective reality of an (un)ambiguous sexist event? Or do they distort this reality because of concerns related to their group membership, such as the fact of sharing or not the same discriminated fate with the victim? According to Ruggiero and Taylor (1995, 1997), the ambiguity of the sexist act should enable minimization. Therefore, we suggest that female observers will attribute the target’s failure more to stress than to discrimination when the target is a victim of an ambiguous sexist act in the common fate condition, in comparison to the condition of a common within-group fate with a victim of an unambiguous sexist act and to the condition of a dissimilar fate, regardless of the ambiguity of the discrimination (Hypothesis 2).

11

To test these two hypotheses, a sample of female undergraduate students from a medium-sized provincial French town was studied in the laboratory setting. The participants were placed in the role of observer of a female target’s negative outcome. This negative outcome appeared to be due to an unambiguous or ambiguous sexist act against this woman with whom they shared or not a common, within-group, discrimination-based fate. They had to answer a questionnaire and rate the extent to which the target’s failure was due to stress and discrimination.

3.1. - Participants and Design

12

Female undergraduates in psychology (N = 80) participated in the study for course credit. All the students were Caucasians of European origin. They were randomly assigned to one of experimental conditions in a 2 × 2 × 2 mixed design with 2 between-group factors: commonality of fate (common vs. dissimilar) and ambiguity of discrimination (ambiguous vs. unambiguous), and one within-group factor: type of attribution (attribution to discrimination vs. attribution to stress).

3.2. - Procedure

13

When they arrived at the laboratory, each participant found herself in the presence of a female confederate who played the part of an undergraduate in psychology. A female experimenter conducted all the sessions. The protagonists were told that the goal of the study was to examine predictors of future success such as creativity or morality.

3.2.1. - Commonality of fate induction

14

In the “common fate” condition, the experimenter explained to the two protagonists that they would take the same creativity test graded by one of two male evaluators from an experienced local analysis firm. Thus, the participant thought that she would take the same test as the confederate and expected to be graded by the same male evaluator as the confederate.

15

In the “dissimilar fate” condition, the female participant and the female confederate were informed that they would each take a different test, one a creativity test graded by one of two male evaluators, the other a morality test graded by a female evaluator (procedure derived from Sechrist and colleagues’ study, 2004). Indeed, previous research has shown that sex-based discrimination prototypically implies a discrimination against a woman and perpetrated by a man (e.g., Inman & Baron, 1996). Thus, choosing a male evaluator for the creativity test and a female evaluator for the morality test ensures that participants in the dissimilar fate context will not expect discrimination from the morality test evaluator. The test to be taken by each female protagonist was then selected by drawing lots. The drawing was rigged and the confederate was systematically assigned to the creativity test and the real participant to the morality test.

16

After the two protagonists had finished their tests, the experimenter took the test sheets and attributed the “target” role and the “observer” role to the two protagonists by drawing lots (in all experimental conditions). This second drawing was also rigged and systematically designated the real participant as the observer and the confederate as the target. Both protagonists were told that the reason for having two roles was to examine two points of view about the target’s score: the observer’s and the target’s. Then, the experimenter explained to both protagonists that she was going to e-mail the target’s answer sheet first (i.e., the confederate’s answers) to the local analysis firm in order to quickly get her score. Thus, the participant (the observer)’s test score was supposed to be received later.

3.2.2. - Induction of the ambiguity of discrimination

17

After allegedly sending the e-mail containing the target’s responses, the experimenter confided to the two protagonists that one of the two potential evaluators of the target’s test discriminated against women. As in Ruggiero and Taylor’s studies (1995, 1997), we chose to induce the ambiguity of the discrimination by manipulating the probability of the discriminatory event. In the “ambiguous discrimination” condition, the experimenter stated that she did not know who was going to grade the creativity test, the sexist evaluator or the other evaluator (probability of discrimination: 50%). In the “unambiguous discrimination” condition, the experimenter stated that the sexist evaluator was going to grade the creativity test (probability of discrimination: 100%). Then the experimenter left the room. Upon returning, she presented a printed e-mail showing the target’s (the confederate’s) test score. The target got a failing score of 4 out of 10 in all experimental conditions.

3.2.3. - Pilot study

18

A pilot study with a separate sample of 59 participants from the same population as the main study was conducted to test if the morality test completed by the participants in the dissimilar fate condition was likely to induce a more moral reasoning compared to the similar fate condition. The participants were asked to indicate the extent to which they could adopt moral behaviors in this situation (“morally support the target”, “showing the target that you understand her feelings in this situation”, “showing sympathy” and “making her understand that she does not have to fear your judgment”; α = .81). The results showed that the participants did not answer in a more moral way in the dissimilar fate condition (M = 5.24, SD = .85) than in the common fate condition (M = 5.04, SD = .86), Fs < 1. Moreover, they did not perceive the test they completed more (or less) difficult in the common fate condition (M = 3.35, SD = 1.44) than in the dissimilar fate condition (M = 3.67, SD = 1.70), Fs < 1.

3.3. - Dependent measures

19

The experimenter gave the participant and the confederate a different questionnaire depending on which role they had been assigned to in the drawing, i.e., the observer (the real participant) or the target (the confederate). Before filling in the questionnaire, the participant was informed that she had to give her completed questionnaire to the target who needed it to answer her own questionnaire. In her questionnaire, the participant had to complete attribution measures to explain the negative outcome of the target. She attributed the target’s failure to (1) stress as an internal cause and (2) discrimination. Attribution to stress was measured on a single item (“stress”) which gave the participant’s score. Attribution to discrimination was measured on two items (“discrimination” and “prejudice on the part of the evaluator”; r = .70, p < .001) and the participant’s score was the average of both items. The participant had to rate the extent to which each item could explain the target’s failure on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very much). Thus, participants’ scores could range from 1 to 7. The participant then filled out a manipulation-check questionnaire on which she had to indicate which test she had taken (creativity or morality), which test the confederate had taken, the target’s score, and the gender of the target’s evaluator. Lastly, the experimenter did a suspicion check by asking some indirect questions, after which the participant was debriefed.

3.4. - Results and Discussion

20

After the manipulation check, 3 of the 80 participants were eliminated from subsequent analyses because they were not able to recall the evaluator’s gender nor the test taken by the target. The data for the remaining 77 participants were analyzed in a 2 (commonality of fate: common vs. dissimilar) × 2 (ambiguity of discrimination: ambiguous vs. unambiguous) × 2 (type of attribution: attribution to discrimination vs. attribution to stress) ANOVA with repeated measures on the last factor. The analysis revealed a main effect of the type of attribution made by the participants for the target’s failing score, F(1, 73) = 4.36, p < .05, η² = .06. However, this main effect was qualified by a significant Commonality of Fate × Type of Attribution interaction, F(1, 73) = 4.77, p < .05, η² = .06. As expected in Hypothesis 1, when the participants did not share a common fate with the target, they attributed her negative outcome more to discrimination (M = 4.27, SD = 1.63) than to stress (M = 3.07, SD = 1.66), F(1, 73) = 10.07, p < .001, η² = .12. However, when they expected to share a common fate with an ingroup target of discrimination, the participants did not minimize discrimination as much as predicted. They blamed the other woman’s failure on discrimination (M = 3.53, SD = 1.63) to the same extent as they did on stress (M = 3.43, SD = 1.58), F < 1, ns. However, a supplementary analysis showed that the participants made more attribution to discrimination in the dissimilar fate context than in the common fate context, F(1, 73) = 4.31, p < .05, η² = .06. In line with our expectation, the participants attached more importance to discrimination in the dissimilar fate context. This set of results confirmed that within-group commonality of fate is an essential factor for investigating contexts that influence the reporting of discrimination by women. Thus, female observers clearly attributed the discriminated target’s outcome to discrimination in her presence when they did not expect to share the same fate, i.e., when they considered that the discrimination was not self-threatening. When the observers expected to share a common fate with the discriminated woman, they were threatened by the commonality of fate, so they no longer clearly reported the discrimination suffered by the other woman. However, they did not minimize discrimination in comparison to stress. Attributing the victim’s failure to stress may not be a relevant self-protective strategy. An attribution to the victim’s internal dispositions (ability and effort) would be a better self-protective strategy for female observers who share the same negative fate as the victim. By doing so, the observers may ensure that the target deserves her failure and that they will not personally share the same negative fate. The role of attribution to internal dispositions is tested in Experiment 2.

21

Moreover, contrary to Hypothesis 2 (compared to the other conditions, participants would attribute the target’s failure more to stress than to discrimination when the target was a victim of an ambiguous sexist act in the common fate condition), the ambiguity of discrimination did not moderate the impact of common fate on attributions (the Commonality of Fate × Type of Attribution interaction was not significant, F < 1, ns). The participants did not attribute the negative outcome more to stress when they shared a common within-group fate with the victim of an ambiguous sexist act. However, the participants seemed to have perceived the ambiguity of the discrimination. The analysis revealed a marginally significant ambiguity of discrimination × Type of Attribution interaction effect, F(1, 73) = 3.90, p < .10, η² = .05. When the sexist act was unambiguous, the participants attributed the target’s failure significantly more to discrimination (M = 4.43, SD = 1.70) than to stress (M = 3.16, SD = 1.84), F(1, 73) = 8.86, p < .01, η² = .11. When the sexist act was ambiguous, they attributed the target’s failure to stress (M = 3.28, SD = 1.95) to the same extent as they did to discrimination (M = 3.38, SD = 1.65), F < 1, ns. Even if the participants seemed to have a good perception of the ambiguity of the discrimination, it did not modulate the impact of the commonality of fate on attributions concerning the target’s failure. Thus, this first experiment showed that women reported more discrimination against another woman when they did not expect to suffer from the same fate, even if the sexist act was ambiguous. Such a result is consistent with the idea that self-protection motives are probably more activated in a shared, discrimination-based fate context than in a dissimilar fate context. However, Experiment 1 does not allow us to clearly assume that in a common fate context, female observers would minimize the discrimination suffered by the victim.

4. - Experiment 2

22

The objectives of Experiment 2 were twofold. First, to examine in which context female observers minimize the discrimination suffered by the victim (Research question 1) by proposing to them a better self-protective attribution than stress. Therefore, in Experiment 2, the participants had to rate the extent to which the internal dispositions of the victim could explain her failure. To protect their self, female observers should minimize discrimination against another woman by favoring an attribution to her (lack of) internal dispositions to explain her negative outcome when they shared a within-group, discrimination-based fate. Thus, we expected that participants in the common fate condition should attribute the target’s failure more to her internal dispositions than to discrimination and stress, whereas in line with the results of Experiment 1, participants in the dissimilar fate condition should attribute the target’s failure more to discrimination than to her internal dispositions and stress (Hypothesis 3).

23

The second aim of Experiment 2 was to examine another potential self-protective strategy for female observers sharing the negative fate of a discriminated victim, that of derogating her. We suggest that, when they share a common fate with a victim of sexism who reports discrimination, female observers would be motivated to derogate the victim. Indeed, research on victim blaming suggests that by dissociating with an innocent victim, blaming her/his behavior or character, people could convince themselves that the same negative fate will not befall them (Correia & Vala, 2003; Hafer, 2000; Lerner & Simmons, 1966; van Prooijen & van den Bos, 2009). A woman who “complains” about being a victim of discrimination rather than assuming individual responsibility for her negative outcome would not be a “good” person in the eyes of women who expect to share the same discrimination-based fate. Thus, female observers could perceive such a woman as someone who complains too easily and is not determined enough to confront herself with failure. On the contrary, derogating the target would not be necessary when she attributes her negative outcome to her internal dispositions (lack of ability and effort). By doing so, she offers herself an explanation for her failure that minimizes a sexist act on the part of a male evaluator. In a context of dissimilar fate with the victim, as previously suggested, women should be more motivated by intragroup motives consisting in supporting or defending the group in a context of discrimination (Postmes et al., 1999). Therefore, they should have a more positive view of a female victim of sexism attributing her negative outcome to discrimination, while they should be disappointed when the female victim of sexism attributed her negative outcome to her internal dispositions. In sum, compared to the dissimilar fate condition, female participants in the common fate condition should judge more negatively (less determined and more of a complainer) a target attributing her negative outcome to discrimination (Hypothesis 4a) and more positively (more determined and less of a complainer) a target attributing her negative outcome to her internal dispositions (Hypothesis 4b).

24

To investigate these hypotheses, a sample of female undergraduate students from a medium-sized provincial French town was studied in the laboratory setting. These participants were placed in the role of observer of a female target’s negative outcome. This negative outcome appeared to be due to a sexist act against this woman with whom they shared or not a common, within-group, discrimination-based fate. They first had to rate the extent to which the target’s failure was due to her internal dispositions (ability and effort), stress and discrimination on a questionnaire. Then, they were informed that the target explained her failure either by discrimination or by internal dispositions. They had to judge the personality of the target on two dimensions, complaint and determination, on another questionnaire.

4.1. - Participants

25

Female undergraduates in psychology (N = 42) participated in the study for course credit. Most students were Caucasians of European origin.

4.2. - Procedure

4.2.1. - Commonality of fate induction and measures

26

As in Experiment 1, when each female participant arrived at the laboratory, she found herself in the presence of a female confederate who played the part of an undergraduate in psychology. Commonality of fate was manipulated with the same tests alleged to predict future occupational success. In the “common fate” condition, both protagonists took the same creativity test which was said to be graded by the same male evaluator from an experienced local analysis firm. In the “dissimilar fate” condition, the confederate took the creativity test alleged to be graded by a male evaluator, while the real participant took the morality test alleged to be graded by a female evaluator, with both evaluators being from the same experienced local analysis firm. After the two protagonists had finished their tests, the experimenter took the test sheets and attributed the “target” role to the confederate and the “observer” role to the participant by a bogus drawing of lots. The two protagonists were informed that in order to examine two different points of view about the target’s score, the observer’s and the target’s, they would only see the target’s test score, but that no one would know the observer’s score. Then the experimenter explained that she was going to e-mail the target’s answer sheet (i.e., the confederate’s answers) to the male evaluator in order to quickly get her score.

27

According to Kaiser and Miller (2003), if information about discrimination is directly obtained from the source, discrimination should be more obvious. For instance, if the sexist comment is directly obtained from the perpetrator, it may prevent observers from supposing that the evaluator did not discriminate this time (Sechrist et al., 2004). Thus, after leaving the room, the experimenter came back with a printed e-mail which showed the confederate’s score and asked the participant and the confederate to look at the e-mail, which indicated a poor score (4 out of 10) accompanied by the following comment from the male evaluator: “Like most women, you exhibit traditional thinking where creative thinking is more appropriate” (the same sexist comment as in Sechrist and colleagues’ procedure, 2004). Then, the experimenter gave the two protagonists the same questionnaire.

28

Both the target (confederate) and the observer (participant) had to attribute the target’s failure to (1) the target’s internal dispositions, (2) stress and (3) discrimination. Attribution to the target’s internal dispositions was measured on two items (“her ability”, “her efforts”; r = .52, p < .001) and each participant’s score was the average of both items. Attribution to stress was measured on a single item (“stress”) which gave the participant’s score. Attribution to discrimination was measured on two items (“discrimination” and “prejudice on the part of the evaluator”; r = .61, p < .001) and each participant’s score was the average of both items. For each item, the participant rated the extent to which it could explain the target’s failure on a Likert scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very much). Thus, participants’ scores could range from 1 to 7.

4.2.2. - Target’s attribution induction and measures

29

By giving the same questionnaire to the confederate as the participant, bogus scores of attribution for the target’s failure by the target (confederate) herself were obtained. In the “dispositional” condition, the confederate rated “ability” and “efforts” as 7, and all the other items (including stress) as 1. In the “discrimination” condition, the confederate rated “discrimination” and “prejudice on the part of the evaluator” as 7, and all the other items as 1. Once the questionnaire was filled in, the experimenter asked the confederate to give her questionnaire to the observer under the pretext that the observer would need to know her answers to complete her second questionnaire. The participants had to read the target’s (the confederate’s) answers. Then, they were asked to rate the target on Likert scales going from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very much) on two dimensions: (1) being a complainer which was measured using 5 items (defeatist, blaming others for her failures, complainer, always dissatisfied, having no sense of responsibility, α = .66), and (2) being a determined person which was measured using 5 items (determined, motivated, strong-minded, has self-control, efficient, α = .75). Finally, before being debriefed, the participants were administered a manipulation check, which included the same four questions as in Experiment 1.

4.3. - Results and Discussion

30

Based on the manipulation check, 1 of the 42 participants was excluded from subsequent analyses because she was not able to recall the evaluator’s gender nor the test taken by the target. The data for the remaining 41 participants were analyzed.

4.3.1. - Attributions for the target’s failure

31

A 2 (commonality of fate: common, dissimilar) × 3 (type of attribution: to discrimination, to stress, to target’s dispositions) ANOVA with repeated measures on the last factor revealed a main effect of the type of attribution made by the participants to account for the target’s outcome, F(2, 78) = 4.27, p < .05, η² = .10. This main effect was qualified by a marginally significant Type of Attributions × Commonality of Fate interaction effect, F (2, 78) = 2.94, p < .10, η² = .07. As expected in Hypothesis 3, in the common fate context, the female observers attributed the target’s failure to her internal dispositions (M = 3.38, SD = 1.20) significantly more than to discrimination (M = 1.78, SD = .93), p < .001, and marginally more than to stress (M = 2.57, SD = 1.63), p < .10. As suggested, in a context likely to be self-threatening, attribution to internal dispositions shows more clearly that the female participants minimized discrimination. Contrary to hypothesis 3, if they did not share a common fate with the target, the female observers attributed the target’s failure to discrimination (M = 2.58, SD = 1.74) as well as to her internal dispositions (M = 2.72, SD = 1.63) or to stress (M = 2.45, SD = 1.47), all ps > .10, ns. However, in line with our expectation, a supplementary analysis showed that the participants tended to attribute the target’s failure more to discrimination in the dissimilar fate context than in the common fate context, F (1, 39) = 3.32, p < .10, η² = .08.

32

Compared to Experiment 1, introducing an attribution to the target’s internal dispositions in Experiment 2 allowed to show a self-protective strategy which, for female observers, consisted in minimizing discrimination experienced by another woman when they shared a common fate with her. Contrary to the results of Experiment 1, the female observers did not clearly attribute the target’s outcome more to discrimination than to internal causes when they did not share the same discriminated fate. However, as expected, they tended to recognize more the role of discrimination in such a context than in the common fate context. In fact, in the dissimilar fate context, the observers considered that each explanatory factor could have played a role in the target’s failure. Such a result, observed only in the second experiment, may be explained by the change in procedure regarding the sexist act used here. The sexist comment that served to introduce the male evaluator’s discrimination refers to intrinsic abilities related to traditional thinking. Therefore, the participants may have believed that in addition to the evaluator’s sexism, the role of typical female characteristics (including low creative abilities and stress) could not be excluded.

33

As in Experiment 1, this set of results showed that within-group commonality of fate with a discriminated target is an essential factor for an investigation of contexts that influence attribution to discrimination by female observers.

4.3.2. - Target’s rating by the observers

34

A 2 (commonality of fate: common, dissimilar) × 2 (type of attribution made by the target: discrimination, ability) ANOVA was conducted on the two dimensions of judgment, complaint and determination. The analysis yielded a significant main effect of the type of attribution only on the dimension of determination, F (1, 37) = 5.04, p < .05, η2 = .13. For the two judgment dimensions, each analysis revealed a significant Commonality of fate × Type of target’s attribution interaction effect, for complaint, F (1, 37) = 7.99, p < .01, η2 = .18, and for determination, F (1, 37) = 4.75, p < .05, η2 = .12 (see ). Thus, as expected in Hypothesis 4a (participants in the common fate condition would judge the target who attributed her negative outcome to discrimination more negatively than in the dissimilar fate condition), the female observers judged the target claiming discrimination as more of a complainer, t (37) = -2.50, p < .05, and less determined t(37) = 2.14, p < .05 in the shared, discrimination-based fate context than in the dissimilar fate context. Hypothesis 4b (if the target attributed her negative outcome to her internal dispositions, participants would judge her more positively in the common fate condition than in the dissimilar condition) was not validated: the female observers did not judge the target who attributed her failure to internal dispositions as less of a complainer, t (37) = 1.54, p > .10, ns, and more determined t (37) = -1.26, p > .10, ns, in the shared, discrimination-based fate context than in the dissimilar fate context. However, the results went in the expected direction (see ).

Table 1. - Mean Scores for the Female Target’s Judgment on two dimensions (complaint and determination) by the Female Observer as a Function of Commonality of Fate and Attribution Made by the Target

Note. The ratings corresponding to judgments could range from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very much) with higher numbers reflecting higher ratings. M = Mean and SD = Standard deviations. Within a line, means without a common subscript differ at a significance level of at least p < .05.

35

As predicted, in the shared, discrimination-based fate context, female observers derogated more the victim who attributed her negative outcome to discrimination by considering that this woman possessed personality characteristics which justified her failure. They perceived her as more of a complainer and less determined than in the dissimilar fate context. Therefore, derogating the target allowed them to protect their self by considering that the victim deserved, at least in part, what happened to her. However, in an unexpected way, commonality of fate did not modulate the female observers’ judgment of the victim who preferred attributing her negative outcome to internal dispositions. We suggest that, when a victim of discrimination explains her failure by internal dispositions (she does not claim discrimination), she contributes to minimize the threat related to the commonality of fate with her. By attributing her failure to her internal dispositions, the victim gives a one-stop solution to the observers, the same one that the observers use when they have to explain the victim’s negative outcome. A shared, discrimination-based fate context would be self-threatening for a female observer only when the victim claims discrimination.

5. - General Discussion

36

The present findings showed that sharing a common fate with a discriminated woman is self-threatening for female observers who realize that they risk being (mis)treated as category members in a similar way and, despite their personal qualities, they are vulnerable to sexism. In such a context, the female observers prefer minimizing the discrimination suffered by the victim. Moreover, if the victim claims discrimination, they derogate her more than in a dissimilar fate context. Thus, the present findings contribute to clarify some incoherent results in the domain of women’s contribution to claiming sexism. Women seem to adopt more positive reactions when they do not share the negative fate of a victim of sexism, but more negative reactions when they are likely to share her negative fate. The present results also contribute to identify one factor, the commonality of fate with the victim, which modulates the social derogation of ingroup victims reporting discrimination.

37

Even though the present research did not examine the mediating role of self-serving motives likely to lead female observers to minimize discrimination and derogate a discriminated peer, previous studies support the idea that derogating an ingroup member is an individual protective strategy (Eidelman & Biernat, 2003). In the same manner, Ruggiero and Taylor (1995, 1997) have shown that minimizing discrimination by attributing one’s negative outcome more to one’s ability is a self-protective strategy among victims themselves. We also showed with female observers that they attributed the victim’s failure more to her internal dispositions than to discrimination when they shared a negative fate. Thus, as observers of a sexist act against an ingroup peer, women may minimize discrimination in a self-protective goal when they anticipate sharing the same discriminated fate.

38

Moreover, our results are in accordance with Hodson and Esses’ research (2002) on PGDD (Personal/Group Discrimination Discrepancy). The PGDD is a robust phenomenon showing that disadvantaged group members (women, African American, etc.) report higher level of discrimination against members of their group than against themselves (e.g., Taylor, Wright, Moghaddam & Lalonde, 1990). According to Hodson and Esses (2002), in reporting a PGDD people avoid being associated with their group membership. Their results confirmed that among women, PGDD reflects this tendency to distance the self from the group. In other words, in PGDD studies, women seem to consider that they do not share the discriminated fate of the women group. When women are led to expect the same discriminated fate as another woman, as in our experiments, they prefer to minimize discrimination. Thus, on the basis of our results and PGDD’ results, women seem to be highly motivated to avoid recognizing that discrimination is likely to affect them personally.

39

Moreover, by supporting the role of self-serving motives likely to lead female observers to derogate a discriminated peer, the present results support the idea that there are intragroup social costs when a female victim wants to report discrimination in the presence of other women. Such social costs are a very serious barrier to the fight against discrimination (see Garcia et al., 2005). Therefore, in order to facilitate discrimination claims, it seems important to identify factors, like the commonality of fate with the victim, which modulate the social derogation of ingroup victims reporting discrimination. Previous research suggests that when disadvantaged group members face personal discrimination, group discrimination can create a sense of common fate and have beneficial effects. Indeed, perceiving group discrimination may be positively related to self-esteem because people feel less alone in their plight, thereby alleviating the ill-effects of exclusion (Bourguignon, Seron, Yzerbyt, & Herman, 2006). Similarly, being informed of group-level disadvantage can alleviate negative affect resulting from personal rejection (Redersdorff, Martinot, & Branscombe, 2004; Stroebe, Ellemers, Barreto & Mummendey, 2009). Thus, when personal discrimination is perceived, group discrimination is likely to be perceived not just as a threat, but as resources to cope with one’s own discrimination.

6. - Limits and Perspectives

40

Due to the novelty of the present results, we cannot discard the possibility that our findings were particular to French women. Our hypothesis should be tested further by collecting data in other western countries. Indeed, France does not appear as an especially “good student” in a recent international economics study on inequalities between men and women in 134 countries (Hausmann, Tyson, & Zahidi, 2012) by occupying the 57th place (the first place being attributed to a more egalitarian country). It is possible that French women have accommodated themselves more to sexist behaviors and find it strange that some peers claim discrimination. A comparison could then be made between countries, such as Finland, where men and women experience higher gender equality, and other Western countries (as Italy) where this is not the case (Hausmann et al., 2012). However, if as we suggest, self-motives underline the tendency of female observers to minimize discrimination and derogate a female victim claiming sexism, the level of equality between men and women in a country should not influence their reactions towards such a victim.

41

Moreover, the present results stem from experimental studies in a laboratory setting with undergraduate students and must be extended to real world situations, with working women for instance, to improve our knowledge about the reporting of discrimination against a woman by her peers. Future studies should also focus on other discriminated groups. Kaiser and colleagues (2009) have found different results for ethnic groups and women’s groups. They examined how group identification (as a group-serving motive) moderates judgment toward ingroup members who challenge or not an outgroup’s discriminatory comment. As expected, they found that among African and Asian participants, highly identified members evaluated more positively an ingroup member who confronted discrimination than the ingroup member who did not confront discrimination, which revealed a group-serving motive. However, these results were not obtained among women; highly identified women did not judge differently a woman who confronted or not sexism. These results highlight the fact that sexism is more accepted than racism (Czopp & Monteith, 2003) and self- or group-motives should be studied with different stigmatized groups.

42

Despite these limits, the present results enlighten some current reports. Indeed, a recent survey on discrimination concerning employees of several French companies (Cegos, 2011; 1205 respondents) underlined that only 36% considered that their colleagues are the most appropriated persons to struggle discrimination. Moreover, within the observers of a discriminatory act, 56% reported that they did not react. This result is consistent with the present findings showing that observers of a sexist act minimize discrimination if they share a common fate with the victim. Thus, to examine the role of the perception of communality of fate in firms is a very challenging perspective to improve the struggle against discrimination. Another important factor to consider in exploring contexts which could influence discrimination claims is the type of sexism. For instance, sexism may be subtle because it is hidden behind more desirable reasons (Kappen & Branscombe, 2001), or presented in a positive and benevolent way (Glick & Fiske, 1996), or related to prejudiced attitudes but not to clear discriminatory intent (Swim et al., 2003). Thus, the type of sexism may be induced in several ways: a clear vs. unknown intent to discriminate (Swim, Scott, Sechrist, Campbell, & Stangor, 2003), the expression of old-fashioned vs. modern sexism (see Swim et al., 1995) or hostile vs. benevolent sexism (see Glick and Fiske, 1996) on the part of the perpetrator. Future studies should explore these different contexts of sexism and their consequences on female observers’ attitudes toward the victim. In order to avoid perceiving themselves as a potential target of sexism, do they use the same self-protective strategies as observed among the victims themselves: do they distance themselves from their ingroup (Eidelman & Biernat, 2003), perceive the target as dissimilar to themselves (Hafer, 2000), dissociate themselves from traditional stereotypes (Kaiser & Miller 2001b), or do they prefer to solve the problem by confronting the protagonist (Ayres et al., 2009; Hyers, 2007)?

43

Received April 4, 2014.

Revision accepted October 21, 2014.


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Résumé

English

Research reports inconsistent results on reactions of women towards a discriminated peer. Two experiments examine the impact of the commonality of fate on supportive or derogative reactions towards a discriminated female target. Female participants observed an ambiguous (Experiment 1) or an unambiguous (Experiments 1 and 2) sexist act against a female target with whom they shared or not a common fate. The results showed that, when they shared a common fate, participants minimized more discrimination against the target regardless the ambiguity of discrimination, and derogate her more if she claimed discrimination. These unsupportive reactions from observers did not occur in a dissimilar fate context.

Français

Minimisation du sexisme et dénigrement de la victime : importance du sort commun Les recherches passées sur les réactions de femmes envers une autre femme discriminée présentent des résultats inconsistants. Deux expériences examinent l’impact du sort commun sur les réactions de soutien ou de dénigrement de femmes envers une autre femme victime de discrimination. Des participantes observent un acte sexiste ambigu (Expérience 1) ou non ambigu (Expériences 1 et 2) émis envers une cible femme avec qui elles partagent ou ne partagent pas de sort commun. Les résultats mettent en évidence que lorsque les participantes partagent un sort commun avec la victime, elles minimisent plus la discrimination envers cette dernière, que la discrimination soit ou non ambiguë, et la dénigrent en la jugeant plus négativement si elle reconnaît la discrimination. Ces comportements de dénigrement envers la victime n’apparaissent pas dans un contexte où les observatrices ne partagent pas de sort commun avec elle.

Plan de l'article

  1. 1. - Positive reactions from women towards a discriminated peer
  2. 2. - Negative reactions from women towards a discriminated peer
  3. 3. - Experiment 1
    1. 3.1. - Participants and Design
    2. 3.2. - Procedure
      1. 3.2.1. - Commonality of fate induction
      2. 3.2.2. - Induction of the ambiguity of discrimination
      3. 3.2.3. - Pilot study
    3. 3.3. - Dependent measures
    4. 3.4. - Results and Discussion
  4. 4. - Experiment 2
    1. 4.1. - Participants
    2. 4.2. - Procedure
      1. 4.2.1. - Commonality of fate induction and measures
      2. 4.2.2. - Target’s attribution induction and measures
    3. 4.3. - Results and Discussion
      1. 4.3.1. - Attributions for the target’s failure
      2. 4.3.2. - Target’s rating by the observers
  5. 5. - General Discussion
  6. 6. - Limits and Perspectives

Pages 327 - 350 Article suivant
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