A new research study suggests prejudice based on generalized beliefs about certain social groups could be a personality trait.
Researchers from the University of the Basque Country confirmed the link between two types of discriminatory behavior: sexism and racism. They also urge education in encouraging equality.
Psychologist Dr. Maite Garaigordobil, co-author, said the study explores the link that sexism has with racism and other variables. She said that “people who are highly sexist, whether they be hostile (seeing women as the inferior sex) or benevolent (believing that women are the weaker sex and need to be protected and cared for), also have racist tendencies.”
Researchers said the study show that both processes are closely related and that they are likely to be based on more general beliefs about relationships between different social groups.
Garaigordobil said that “the results even suggest that such prejudiced attitudes could be a personality trait.”
“Sexism is linked to authoritarianism and a leaning towards social dominance,” said the author. “In other words, sexist people accept hierarchies and social inequality, they believe that different social groups have a status that they deserve and they feel that the social class to which they belong is the best.”
Researchers also discovered that sexism is related to low intercultural sensitivity. This implies that sexist people show low levels of involvement when it comes to interacting with immigrants.
Study participants included a sample population of 802 participants from the Basque Country between 18 and 65 years of age.
Researchers sought to determine the relationship between sexism and self-image, racism and intercultural sensitivity.
As a result of the findings, the authors strongly believe in the importance and need for psychoeducation during infancy and adolescence as a way of encouraging equality among both sexes and respect for others.
Garaigordobil said that “one of the variables that foretells sexism is prejudice. This implies that psychological intervention to reduce prejudice in general would help in reducing sexism.”
The study did not discover a relationship between low self-esteem and sexism. This finding was contrary to what was expected.
“Given the important role that self-esteem plays in interpersonal relationships, we were hoping to find a negative correlation, or rather, the lower the self-image, the higher the level of sexism,” she said.
However, sexism does influence on how people see themselves.
“Men with higher levels of hostile sexism describe themselves using adjectives associated with masculinity, i.e. physically strong, brave, sure of themselves, determined, admirable, etc” said Garaigordobil.
“Women who display hostile sexism described themselves using characteristics that go against femininity such as not very cooperative, not very tolerant, not very compassionate and not very sensitive or sentimental.”
Moreover, men who scored highly in benevolent sexism described themselves using adjectives associated with femininity (warm, friendly, good). A similar finding was displayed by women who displayed benevolent sexism.
The link between sexism and self-perception are different for men and women.
Garaigordobil said that “while sexism allows men to continue in a position of superiority, it stops women from developing their full potential.”