The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘gender’

Bias in Fortune 500 Legal Departments

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 29, 2012

From ABA:

Initial findings from the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession survey “Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Fortune 500 Legal Departments” found that women of color are underpaid, underestimated and undervalued.

According to an executive summary of the survey, “Sadly, female attorneys of color often are treated as second-class citizens in a profession that ironically is charged with the responsibility of ensuring justice and equality for all.”

Nine years ago, the Commission on Women in the Profession created its Women of Color Research Initiative, which has produced surveys to bring attention to the inequities women of color contend with in the profession.

The first phase of this initiative explored the career experiences of women of color in law firms. The current phase of the initiative focuses on those women in corporate law departments during four aspects of their careers: hiring, recruitment, retention and advancement.

So far, the survey has found that women of color did not experience bias in hiring, but as they progressed in their careers, they experienced it in the retention and advancement phases.

Lorelie S. Masters, the co-chair for the Women of Color Research Initiative Committee, said that other initial findings revealed that 48 percent of white men reported satisfaction with their careers in-house compared with 17 percent of African-American women. Though pleased with the decision to work for in-house Fortune 500 legal departments, African-American women’s overall satisfaction was significantly less.

The survey determined that compensation was a key factor in job satisfaction during each phase of a lawyer’s career. Masters said that one study highlighted that the pay gap in the beginning may start at a $2,000 annual difference between male and female associates earning up to $66,000 a year. She said, “We all understand, and certainly women of color as much as anyone, that compensation is a measure of how an organization values one’s contribution.”

The full report of the nationwide survey of 1,000 in-house lawyers at Fortune 500 companies will be published in the fall.

Related video from “Visible Invisibility: Top women lawyers of color share “best advice” for career advancement.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Implicit Associations, Law | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Sapna Cheryan on Stereotypes as Gatekeepers

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 29, 2012

on Apr 27, 2010 Stereotypes as Gatekeepers -

Sapna Cheryans research broadly examines how cultural stereotypes impact peoples choices and behaviors. She is particularly interested in the role that stereotypes play in determining peoples sense of belonging to important social groups.

In this talk, she asks why do women consider a future in computer science to a lesser extent than men? Might this be because the powerful image of the male computer geek makes women feel like they do not belong in the field?

A sample of related Situationist posts:

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What Effect Does Gender Have on Judging?

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 19, 2012

Professor Pat K. Chew recently posted her article, “Judges’ Gender and Employment Discrimination Cases: Emerging Evidence-Based Empirical Conclusions” (Journal of Gender, Race and Justice, Vol. 14, pp. 359-374, 2011) on SSRN.

Here are several paragraphs from the article’s introduction:

This Article furthers our understanding of the substantive value of women judges by analyzing a subset of the research on this topic. It offers a macro-level review of the empirical research done on judges’ gender in U.S. federal courts and how a judge’s gender affects the outcomes in employment discrimination cases, a research area that has attracted considerable empirical analysis. Employment discrimination is also a major subject area of litigation in the federal courts, highlighting its importance and also providing ample databases of cases to study. Thus, this comparatively rich source of research makes it possible to draw conclusions with a clarity that would not be possible if we were comparing judicial decision making in diverse court venues or legal subjects.

To lay the groundwork for the macro review, this Article briefly identifies factors to consider when studying empirical research. A macro review of the empirical research on the relationship between judges’ gender and the outcome in employment discrimination cases follows. This macro review is based on fourteen research studies, a surprisingly large number given the relatively short period in which researchers have actively engaged in this particular inquiry. This macro review focuses on illustrative studies on (1) sex-based discrimination cases, (2) employment discrimination cases more generally, and (3) non-gender-specific employment discrimination cases such as race-based discrimination cases.

This Article provides a status report on the reasonably clear conclusions that can be drawn from current empirical evidence in this area. To the extent that there is a difference between the way female judges and male judges resolve legal cases, the frequent hypothesis is that those differences would most likely appear in employment discrimination, particularly sex discrimination, cases. This macro review largely supports that hypothesis. Thus, it concludes that increasing gender diversity on the bench makes a substantive difference in how these kinds of cases are resolved. As the subject of the cases moves away from sex discrimination, however, the review of research indicates that the relationship of the judges’ gender to case outcomes is less predictable.

Download the article for free here.

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Image from Flickr.

Posted in Abstracts, Law | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Ability

Posted by The Situationist Staff on March 8, 2012

From Scott Barry Kaufman‘s Huffington Post post (1/9/12):

A bulk of research shows that when people are put in situations where they are expected to fail, their performance does plummet. They turn into different people. Their head literally shuts down, and they end up confirming the expectations. When they’re expected to win, their performance shoots back up. Same person, difference expectations.

In recent years, this phenomenon has been studied in a variety of high-stakes testing situations. One area that has received a lot of attention is in the domain of mental rotation. Out of all the gender differences in cognition that have been reported in psychological literature, 3D mental rotation ability takes the cake. While it’s true that there’s more variability within each gender than across genders, the differences on average between males and females on mental rotation tasks are notably large, in some cases as much as a full standard deviation. (That’s a big difference.)

Psychologists have been trying for years to figure out what factors are causing this difference. And there have been no shortage of speculations, ranging from purely biological explanations, to purely environmental factors, to middle-ground psychobiological views. While a number of different factors surely play a role, recent research suggests that the difference in performance may not have to do so much with actual ability, but perceptions of that ability.

People are aware of the stereotype that females have less aptitude at math and spatial skills than men. In fact, in one study almost half of the female participants endorsed this stereotype. This awareness matters. When asked to imagine themselves as a stereotypical male, females perform much better on a mental rotation task than when they are not given such an instruction. Additionally, when women are asked to report their gender before taking a mental rotation test, they perform much worse on the test than if they identify themselves as a “private college student.” This finding has been explained by “stereotype threat” — the tendency for members of a negatively stereotyped group to underperform on tasks relevant a culturally salient stereotype. According to this account, having females report their gender before taking the mental rotation task makes the cultural stereotype more salient to them, thus causing performance-reducing anxiety.

It’s intriguing how easily these effects can be nudged, for both males and females. In another important study, both men and women completed a test of mental rotation, and were then either informed that men do better on the task, or women do better on the task. The same participants then took another test of mental rotation. Women performed significantly worse after being told men do better on the task, whereas women who were told that women do better on the task performed significantly better at the very same task. Similarly, men performed better after being told that men are better at the task and performed worse after being told that women are better at the task. What we believe is true matters. To a very large extent, our beliefs create our own reality.

But what’s the psychological mechanism at play here? Some stereotype threat researchers have proposed that confidence is playing a key role here. Perhaps the stereotype threat is impacting confidence, and it is this decrease in confidence that is impacting performance. To test whether confidence explains the gender difference in mental rotation performance, Zachary Estes and Sydney Felker conducted four recent experiments. They administered the most common test of mental rotation, the Mental Rotations Test (MRT). In this test, participants are presented with one standard figure and four alternative figures. Two of the alternative figures are rotated versions of the standard figure, whereas the other two are mirror images of the standard figure. Here’s an example:

2011-12-16-Figure165.png

Their findings are quite striking. First it should be noted that confident people, regardless of their gender, tended to be more accurate. So confidence matters for everyone. They did find statistically significant gender effects though. Consistent with prior research, males on average were more confident and more accurate than women on the mental rotation test. Note these are only averages, there were women who were more confident and performed better than men. At any rate, when confidence was taken into account, the gender difference in mental rotation scores almost completely evaporated. This is quite impressive, considering there are very few studies showing that one variable can completely account for this very large gender difference.

Of course, it’s still not super clear whether it’s really confidence, and not mental rotation ability, that is causing the gender difference in mental rotation performance. To get to the bottom of this, the researchers manipulated confidence, keeping everything else the same. The way they manipulated confidence was quite clever. The way the task is typically administered, participants can omit responses. Research does show that females tend to offer fewer responses than males on the Mental Rotations Task. The researchers wondered whether the possibility of omitting responses makes confidence an important factor in performing on the task. When participants aren’t required to respond, their confidence becomes relevant to the task, but when participants are required to respond, confidence should have less of an effect on performance since the person doesn’t have to evaluate their confidence on each trial.

To test this possibility, one group took the Mental Rotations Test, but were allowed to omit trials whenever they wanted. In contrast, another group was required to respond on every single trial. While they found the typical gender difference using the standard instructions, males and females did not differ from each other when they were required to give an answer on each trial. These findings support the idea that the gender differences on this task is specifically related to confidence, not ability. Once participants were again required to rate their confidence levels on each trial, a gender difference once again emerged on the task.

Finally, the researchers manipulated confidence prior to the experiment. First they had participants complete a difficult line judgment task. Performance on this task was near chance for both males and females. After completing the task, participants were randomly told either that their performance was above average or it was below average. Then, participants completed the Mental Rotations Task. Regardless of gender, those who were told that their performance on the line judgement task was above average performed better on the mental rotation task than those who were told they performed below average on the task. As they found in their prior studies, males on average outperformed females on the Mental Rotation Task. However, there was no difference in performance between females in the higher confidence group and males in the low confidence group.

Taken together, the researchers conclude that “the sex difference in mental rotation appears to be a difference of performance rather than ability.” Their results are definitely intriguing since confidence explained such a large part of the gender difference in mental rotation performance. Of course, there’s probably no one single cause of the sex difference in mental rotation ability. As the researchers note, few investigations combine multiple levels of analysis. This integration is important.

One potential area of integration is working memory. Working memory reflects the ability to store information in your mind while simultaneously processing or transforming other information. A few years back, I conducted a study that found that spatial working memory, but not verbal working memory, explained the gender difference in spatial ability. I thought these findings were really interesting, as it suggested that the cause of the gender difference was very specific to the storage of spatial information while processing other information, but was not generalized to more general working memory resources. The researchers of the current study cite my study, and speculate that confidence may be related to working memory. I find this suggestion a real possibility. Research does show that stereotype threat reduces the working memory resources available for solving the task at hand. Perhaps many of us — male and female alike — when faced with threatening situations, have decreased confidence, which then lowers the working memory resources specific to the task at hand.

So what can we do as a society to give people more of a chance to display their true colors? The researchers offer the following advice:

Potentially effective methods for achieving this outcome include rejecting the negative stereotype that women have poor spatial skills, encouraging women to view spatial skills as learnable, encouraging females to engage in more spatial tasks, and providing positive feedback when they do so.

Sensible advice, but I think this is sensible advice for just about everyone — male and female — and for every form of ability — math, English, artistic, musical, whatever. So much research now shows the importance of mindset, self-belief and confidence on performance. I look forward to more research that integrates multiple levels of analysis.

So many important questions are still left to answer. What does confidence buy you? . . .

Read the rest of the post (with links) here.

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Image from Trystan.org.

Posted in Education, Emotions, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of “Opting Out”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 29, 2011

Since the early 2000s, much of  Situationist Contributors’ research, writing, teaching, and speaking has focused on the role of “choice,” “the choice myth,” and “choicism” in rationalizing injustice and inequality, particularly in the U.S.  (e.g., The Blame Frame: Justifying (Racial) Injustice in America).  That work has, among other factors, helped to inspire a growing body of fascinating experimental research (and, unfortunately, one derivative book) on the topic.   Over the next couple of months, we will highlight some of that intriguing new research on The Situationist.  (First installment, “Choice and Inequality, is here.)

Here is a summary of research co-authored by Situationist friend Nicole Stephens.

From APS:

For the first time in history, the majority of Americans believe that women’s job opportunities are equal to men’s. For example, a 2005 Gallup poll indicated that 53 percent of Americans endorse the view that opportunities are equal, despite the fact that women still earn less than men, are underrepresented at the highest levels of many fields, and face other gender barriers such as bias against working mothers and inflexible workplaces.

New research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University helps to explain why many Americans fail to see these persistent gender barriers. The research demonstrates that the common American assumption that behavior is a product of personal choice fosters the belief that opportunities are equal and that gender barriers no longer exist in today’s workplace.

The study, “Opting Out or Denying Discrimination? How the Framework of Free Choice in American Society Influences Perceptions of Gender Inequality,” suggests that the assumption that women “opt out” of the workforce, or have the choice between career or family, promotes the belief that individuals are in control of their fates and are unconstrained by the environment.

The study was co-authored by Nicole M. Stephens, assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management, and Cynthia S. Levine, a doctoral student in the psychology department at Stanford University. It will be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Although we’ve made great strides toward gender equality in American society, significant obstacles still do, in fact, hold many women back from reaching the upper levels of their organizations,” said Stephens. “In our research, we sought to determine how the very idea of ‘opting out,’ or making a choice to leave the workplace, may be maintaining these social and structural barriers by making it more difficult to recognize gender discrimination.”

In one study, a group of stay-at-home mothers answered survey questions about how much choice they had in taking time off from their career and about their feelings of empowerment in making life plans and controlling their environment.

The participants then reviewed a set of real statistics about gender inequality in four fields – business, politics, law and science/engineering – and were asked to evaluate whether these barriers were due to bias against women or societal and workplace factors that make it difficult for women to hold these positions.

As predicted, most women explained their workplace departure as a matter of personal choice – which is reflective of the cultural understanding of choice in American society and underscores how the prevalence of choice influences behavior. These same women experienced a greater sense of personal well-being, but less often recognized the examples of discrimination and structural barriers presented in the statistics.

In a follow-up experiment, the researchers examined the consequences of the common cultural representation of women’s workplace departure as a choice. Specifically, they examined how exposure to a choice message influenced Americans’ beliefs about equality and the existence of discrimination. First, undergraduate students were subtly exposed to one of two posters on a wall about women leaving the workforce: either a poster with a choice message (“Choosing to Leave: Women’s Experiences Away from the Workforce”) or one in a control condition that simply said “Women at Home: Experiences Away from the Workforce.”

Then, the participants were asked to take a survey about social issues. The participants exposed to the first poster with the choice message more strongly endorsed the belief that opportunities are equal and that gender discrimination is nonexistent, versus the control group who more clearly recognized discrimination. Interestingly, those participants who considered themselves to be feminists were more likely than other participants to identify discrimination.

“This second experiment demonstrates that even subtle exposure to the choice framework promotes the belief that discrimination no longer exists,” said Levine. “One single brief encounter – such as a message in a poster – influenced the ability to recognize discrimination. Regular exposure to such messages could intensify over time, creating a vicious cycle that keeps women from reaching the top of high-status fields.”

Overall, Stephens and Levine noted that while choice may be central to women’s explanations of their own workplace departure, this framework is a double-edged sword.

“Choice has short-term personal benefits on well-being, but perhaps long-term detriments for women’s advancement in the workplace collectively,” said Stephens. “In general, as a society we need to raise awareness and increase attention for the gender barriers that still exist. By taking these barriers into account, the discussion about women’s workplace departure could be reframed to recognize that many women do not freely choose to leave the workplace, but instead are pushed out by persistent workplace barriers such as limited workplace flexibility, unaffordable childcare, and negative stereotypes about working mothers.”

More.

You can download a pdf of the article here.

Related Situationst posts:

You can review hundreds of Situationist posts related to the topic of “choice myth” here or to the topic of inequality here.

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Distribution, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Implicit Gender Bias in Legal Profession

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 9, 2011

Justin Levinson and Danielle Young posted their excellent article, “Implicit Gender Bias in the Legal Profession: An Empirical Study” (Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, Vol. 18, No. 1, 2010) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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In order to test the hypothesis that implicit gender bias drives the continued subordination of women in the legal profession, we designed and conducted an empirical study. The study tested whether law students hold implicit gender biases related to women in the legal profession, and further tested whether these implicit biases predict discriminatory decision-making. The results of the study were both concerning and hopeful. As predicted, we found that implicit biases were pervasive; a diverse group of both male and female law students implicitly associated judges with men, not women, and also associated women with the home and family. Yet the results of the remaining portions of the study offered hope. Participants were frequently able to resist their implicit biases and make decisions in gender neutral ways. Taken together, the results of the study highlight two conflicting sides of the ongoing gender debate: first, that the power of implicit gender biases persists, even in the next generation of lawyers; and second, that the emergence of a new generation of egalitarian law students may offer some hope for the future.

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Download article for free.

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Susan Fiske on “Inclusive Leadership, Stereotyping and the Brain”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 28, 2011

From :

[Situationist Contributor] Susan Fiske of Princeton University discusses the psychology of stereotyping in her keynote address to Columbia Business School’s research symposium, “Inclusive Leadership, Stereotyping and the Brain,” co-sponsored by the Program on Social Intelligence and the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics. Professor Fiske is introduced by Professors Malia Mason and Bruce Kogut of Columbia Business School.

To learn more about this symposium, click here.

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Unequal Juries

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 24, 2011

Wendy Parker posted her article, “Juries, Race, and Gender: A Story of Today’s Inequality” (Wake Forest Law Review, Vol. 46, pp. 209-240, 2011), on SSRN.  Here’s the abstracst.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 was supposed to be a victory for employment discrimination plaintiffs – a dramatic expansion of their rights. Twenty years later, however, we are told that the news for employment discrimination plaintiffs has gone “from bad to worse.” This essay, a reflection on the twenty-year history of the 1991 Act, explores how just how bad it is. In doing so, this essay discovers some optimistic news (but not much): Plaintiffs today are more likely to win at trial than before the 1991 Act. This is likely because of the 1991 Act’s expanded right to a jury trial. Yet, this is not a story of optimism – or equality – for all plaintiffs. The essay’s original study of 102 jury trials reveals that some plaintiffs do much worse than other plaintiffs. African Americans and Latinos claiming race discrimination, for example, have the lowest jury win rates. Many who study jury behavior would have predicted this outcome. From this, the essay argues that the evidence is strong that the status quo is not race neutral, and neither are juries.

More.

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The Gendered Situation of Decision-Making Under Stress

Posted by The Situationist Staff on June 6, 2011

From Science Daily:

Stress causes men and women to respond differently to risky decision making, with men charging ahead for small rewards and women taking their time, according to a new study in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, published by Oxford University Press. Under stress, men and women also have different brain activation patterns during decision making.

There might be advantages to both stress responses, especially in areas with the need to weigh short-term gain and long-term benefits, such as the stock market, health decisions or retirement planning, according to lead author on the study Nichole Lighthall, a USC doctoral student.

The experiment might also have implications for daily life and relationships, Lighthall said.

Stress caused men and women to make decisions differently, but when stress was absent their behavior and brain activation was much more similar, Lighthall said. Men and women faced with tough decisions might improve their communication by waiting until a stressful situation has passed, Lighthall said. “Men and women appear to think more similarly when they are not stressed,” Lighthall said. “You should be aware of the way you are biased in your decisions.”

After being subjected to stress, men appeared to be more motivated to act quickly while women would slow down, Lighthall said.

For men under stress, playing a risk-taking game stimulated areas in the brain that are activated when one gets a reward or satisfies an addiction. The same experiment found diminished brain activity for women in the same areas when they were stressed.

“It appears women do not feel the drive to get a reward as much under stress,” Lighthall said.

Participants were given a task of filling up a computer-simulated balloon with as much air as possible without popping the balloon.

Subjects earned from $4 to $45 based on their performance, with the men earning much more cash under stress.

Lighthall said that although men performed this task better, the more important conclusion may be that important decisions made under stress should include input from both genders.

“It might be better to have more gender diversity on important decision because men and women offer differing perspectives,” Lighthall said. “Being more cautious and taking the time to make a decision will often be the right choice.”

Mara Mather, director of the Emotion and Cognition Lab at USC and associate professor of psychology at USC Dornsige College and gerontology at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, Michiko Sakaki, Sarinnapha Vasunilashorn, Lin Nga, Sangeetha Somayajula, Eri Y. Chin and Nicole Samii, also of the USC Davis School, were co-authors of the study.

Last year Lighthall authored a study in the journal PLoS One that showed that men under stress may be more likely to take risks, correlating to such real-life behavior as gambling, smoking, unsafe sex and illegal drug use.

More.

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Negotiating the Situation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 9, 2011

Lu-in Wang,  has posted an intriguing situationist paper, titled “Negotiating the Situation: The Reasonable Person in Context ” (forthcoming Lewis & Clark Law Review, Vol. 14, p. 1285, 2010) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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This Essay argues that our understanding of the reasonable person in economic transactions should take into account an individual’s race, gender, or other group-based identity characteristics – not necessarily because persons differ on account of those characteristics, but because of how those characteristics influence the situations a person must negotiate. That is, individuals’ social identities constitute features not just of themselves, but also of the situations they inhabit. In economic transactions that involve social interaction, such as face-to-face negotiations, the actor’s race, gender, or other social identity can affect both an individual actor and those who interact with him or her, because those characteristics often create expectations, based largely on group-based stereotypes, that influence the parties on both sides of the transaction. Individuals’ social identities thereby can influence their constraints and incentives, and accordingly their choices, behavior, and outcomes.

This Essay offers a couple of well-known examples of the influence of social stereotypes on individuals’ choices, behavior, and outcomes in economic transactions. It then provides a more extended examination of the effect of social identity on economic transactions by drawing upon a recent, growing, and fascinating area of social psychological research into the effect of gender on negotiations. The findings of this research are both disturbing and promising: disturbing because they show that stereotypes can influence the behavior of both women and men in negotiations, to the detriment of women, even if the individuals do not believe the stereotypes to be true, and that stereotypes can interact with other features of the situation to aggravate their tendency to promote unequal outcomes. The findings are promising as well, however, because they also show that gender stereotypes can be moderated or even counteracted by yet other features of the situation. Appreciating the situation-altering yet situation-sensitive influence of social identities such as gender provides us with a richer understanding of the circumstances in which people interact and shows that, sometimes, common economic transactions take place in different places for different people.

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Download the paper for free here.

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Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Life, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Gendered Situation of Recommendation Letters

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 3, 2011

From Rice University:

A recommendation letter could be the chute in a woman’s career ladder, according to ongoing research at Rice University. The comprehensive study shows that qualities mentioned in recommendation letters for women differ sharply from those for men, and those differences may be costing women jobs and promotions in academia and medicine.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, Rice University professors Michelle Hebl and Randi Martin and graduate student Juan Madera, now an assistant professor at the University of Houston, reviewed 624 letters of recommendation for 194 applicants for eight junior faculty positions at a U.S. university. They found that letter writers conformed to traditional gender schemas when describing candidates. Female candidates were described in more communal (social or emotive) terms and male candidates in more agentic (active or assertive) terms.

A further aspect of the study involved rating the strength of the letters, or the likelihood the candidate would be hired based on the letter. The research team removed names and personal pronouns from the letters and asked faculty members to evaluate them. The researchers controlled for such variables as the number of years candidates were in graduate school, the number of papers they had published, the number of publications on which they were the lead author, the number of honors they received, the number of years of postdoctoral education, the position applied for and the number of courses taught.

“We found that being communal is not valued in academia,” said Martin, the Elma Schneider Professor of Psychology at Rice. “The more communal characteristics mentioned, the lower the evaluation of the candidate.”

A follow-up study funded by the National Institutes of Health is under way and includes applicants for faculty and research positions at medical schools. In the new study, enough applicants and positions will be included so that the researchers can use the actual decisions of search committees to determine the influence of letters’ communal and agentic terms in the hiring decisions.

Words in the communal category included adjectives such as affectionate, helpful, kind, sympathetic, nurturing, tactful and agreeable, and behaviors such as helping others, taking direction well and maintaining relationships. Agentic adjectives included words such as confident, aggressive, ambitious, dominant, forceful, independent, daring, outspoken and intellectual, and behaviors such as speaking assertively, influencing others and initiating tasks.

“Communal characteristics mediate the relationship between gender and hiring decisions in academia, which suggests that gender norm stereotypes can influence hireability ratings of applicants,” Martin said.
The “pipeline shortage of women” in academia is a well-known and researched phenomenon, but this study is the first of its kind to examine the recommendation letter’s role in contributing to the disparity and evaluate it using inferential statistics and objective measures. It’s also the first study to show that gender differences in letters actually affect judgments of hireability.

“This research not only has important implications for women in academia but also for women in management and leadership roles,” said Hebl, professor of psychology and management at Rice. “A large body of research suggests that communality is not perceived to be congruent with leadership and managerial jobs.”

The research team also noted that letter writers included more doubt raisers when recommending women, using phrases such as “She might make an excellent leader” versus what they used for male candidates, “He is already an established leader.”

“Subtle gender discrimination continues to be rampant,” Hebl said. “And it’s important to acknowledge this because you cannot remediate discrimination until you are first aware of it. Our and other research shows that even small differences — and in our study, the seemingly innocuous choice of words — can act to create disparity over time and experiences.”

Martin, Hebl and Madera’s study, “Gender and Letters of Recommendation for Academia: Agentic and Communal Differences,” was published last year in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Applied Psychology. They are currently beginning data collection on their next study on recommendation letters for medical faculty positions.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see

Posted in Abstracts, Distribution, Education, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

The Situation of Hazing, Torture, Gender, and Tears

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 12, 2010

Here is another segment from John Quinones’s excellent ABC 20/20 series titled “What Would You Do?” — a series that, in essence, conducts situationist experiments through hidden-camera scenarios. This episode asks, “Would you stop hazing? (and includes analysis from psychologist Susan Lipkins).

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To review a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Journalists as Social Psychologists & Social Psychologists as Entertainers,” Milgram Replicated on French TV – ‘The Game of Death’,” Solomon Asch’s Famous Compliance Experiment,” The Situation of Bullying,” Lessons Learned from the Abu Ghraib Horrors,”  “Person X Situation X System Dynamics,” “From Heavens to Hells to Heroes – Part I,” “From Heavens to Hells to Heroes – Part II,” Why Torture? Because It Feels Good (at least to “Us”),”

Posted in Education, Morality, Social Psychology, Video | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Sexism

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 17, 2010

Shankar Vedantam, author of the outstanding book, “The Hidden Brain,” excerpted a brief section of that book for TheAge.com. Here are some excerpts from that excerpt.

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. . . . The existence of unconscious sexism can be scientifically proved in laboratory experiments. . . .

Bias is much harder to demonstrate scientifically in real life, which may be why large numbers of people do not believe that sexism and other forms of prejudice still exist. Many people think we live in a “post-racial” and “post-sexist” world where egalitarian notions are the norm. Indeed, if you go by what people report, we do live in a bias-free world, because most people report feeling no prejudice whatsoever.

What would be remarkably instructive in real life would be if women in various professions could experience life as men, and vice versa. If the same person got treated differently, we would be sure sexism was at work, because the only thing that changed was the sex of the individual and not his or her skills, talent, knowledge, experience, or interests.

Joan Roughgarden and Ben Barres are biologists at Stanford University. Both are researchers at one of the premier academic institutions in the country; both are tenured professors. Both are transgendered people. Stanford has been a welcoming home for these scientists; if you are going to be a transgendered person anywhere in the United States, it would be difficult to imagine a place more tolerant than Palo Alto and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ben Barres did not transition to being a man until he was 50. For much of her early life, Barbara Barres was oblivious to questions of sexism. She would hear Gloria Steinem and other feminists talk about discrimination and wonder, “What’s their problem?” She was no activist; all she wanted was to be a scientist. She was an excellent student. When a school guidance counsellor advised her to set her sights lower than MIT, Barbara ignored him, applied to MIT, and got admitted in 1972.

During a particularly difficult maths seminar at MIT, a professor handed out a quiz with five problems. He gave out the test at 9am, and students had to hand in their answers by midnight. The first four problems were easy, and Barbara knocked them off in short order. But the fifth one was a beauty; it involved writing a computer program where the solution required the program to generate a partial answer, and then loop around to the start in a recursive fashion.

“I remember when the professor handed back the exams, he made this announcement that there were five problems but no one had solved the fifth problem and therefore he only scored the class on the four problems,” Ben recalled. “I got an A. I went to the professor and I said, ‘I solved it.’ He looked at me and he had a look of disdain in his eyes, and he said, ‘You must have had your boyfriend solve it.’ To me, the most amazing thing is that I was indignant. I walked away. I didn’t know what to say. He was in essence accusing me of cheating. I was incensed by that. It did not occur to me for years and years that that was sexism.”

By the time she was done with MIT, Barbara had more or less decided she wanted to be a neuroscientist. She decided to go to medical school at Dartmouth in New Hampshire. Gender issues at med school were like the issues at MIT on steroids; one professor referred Barbara to his wife when she wanted to talk about her professional interests. An anatomy professor showed a slide of a nude female pin-up during a lecture.

* * *

But things changed in large and subtle ways after Barbara became Ben.

Ben once gave a presentation at the prestigious Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A friend relayed a comment made by someone in the audience who didn’t know Ben Barres and Barbara Barres were the same person: “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but, then, his work is much better than his sister’s.”

Ben also noticed he was treated differently in the everyday world. “When I go into stores, I notice I am much more likely to be attended to. They come up to me and say, ‘Yes, sir? Can I help you, sir?’ I have had the thought a million times, I am taken more seriously.”

When former Harvard president Larry Summers (who went on to become a senior economic adviser to President Barack Obama) set off a firestorm a few years ago after musing about whether there were fewer women professors in the top ranks of science because of innate differences between men and women, Ben wrote an anguished essay in the journal Nature. He asked whether innate differences or subtle biases – from grade school to graduate school – explained the large disparities between men and women in the highest reaches of science.

“When it comes to bias, it seems that the desire to believe in a meritocracy is so powerful that until a person has experienced sufficient career-harming bias themselves they simply do not believe it exists … By far, the main difference that I have noticed is that people who don’t know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect: I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man.”

Joan Roughgarden came to Stanford in 1972, more than a quarter century before she made her male-to-female transition in 1998. When the young biologist arrived at Stanford, it felt as though tracks had been laid down; all Roughgarden had to do was stick to the tracks, and the high expectations that others had of the young biologist would do the rest.

“It was clear when I got the job at Stanford that it was like being on a conveyer belt,” Roughgarden told me in an interview. “The career track is set up for young men. You are assumed to be competent unless revealed otherwise. You can speak, and people will pause and people will listen. You can enunciate in definitive terms and get away with it. You are taken as a player. You can use male diction, male tones of voice. … You can assert. You have the authority to frame issues.”

At the Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, an outpost of the university about 150 kilometres from campus, Roughgarden ruffled feathers in the scientific establishment by arguing that a prominent theory that described the life cycle of marine animals was wrong. Where previous research had suggested that tide pools were involved in the transportation of certain larvae, Roughgarden reframed the issue and showed that the larger ocean played a significant role. The new theory got harsh reviews, but Roughgarden’s ideas were taken seriously. In short order, Roughgarden became a tenured professor, and a widely respected scientist and author.

Like Ben Barres, Roughgarden made her transition to Joan relatively late in life. Stanford proved tolerant, but very soon Joan started to feel that people were taking her ideas less seriously. In 2006, for example, Joan suggested another famous scientific theory was wrong – Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. . . .

* * *

The scientific establishment, Joan said, was livid. But in contrast to the response to her earlier theory about tide pools and marine animals, few scientists engaged with her. At a workshop at Loyola University, a scientist “lost it” and started screaming at her for being irresponsible. “I had never had experiences of anyone trying to coerce me in this physically intimidating way,” she said, as she compared the reactions to her work before and after she became a woman. “You really think this guy is really going to come over and hit you.”

At a meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Minneapolis, Joan said, a prominent expert jumped up on the stage after her talk and started shouting at her. Once every month or two, she said, ”I will have some man shout at me, try to physically coerce me into stopping …When I was doing the marine ecology work, they did not try to physically intimidate me and say, ‘You have not read all the literature.’

“They would not assume they were smarter. The current crop of objectors assumes they are smarter.”

Joan is willing to acknowledge her theory might be wrong; that, after all, is the nature of science. But what she wants is to be proven wrong, rather than dismissed. Making bold and counter-intuitive assertions is precisely the way science progresses. Many bold ideas are wrong, but if there isn’t a regular supply of them and if they are not debated seriously, there is no progress. After her transition, Joan said she no longer feels she has “the right to be wrong”.

Where she used to be a member of Stanford University’s senate, Joan is no longer on any university or departmental committee. Where she was once able to access internal university funds for research, she said she finds it all but impossible to do so now. Before her transition, she enjoyed an above-average salary at Stanford. But since her transition, “My own salary has drifted down to the bottom 10 per cent of full professors in the School of Humanities and Sciences, even though my research and students are among the best of my career and are having international impact, albeit often controversial.”

I asked her about interpersonal dynamics before and after her transition. “You get interrupted when you are talking, you can’t command attention, but above all you can’t frame the issues,” she said. With a touch of wistfulness, she compared herself to Ben Barres. “Ben has migrated into the centre whereas I have had to migrate into the periphery.”

* * *

You can read the entire excerpt here and learn more about the book here.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Being ‘(un)American’,” “Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t,” “Examining the Gendered Situation of Harvard Business School,” which includes list of still more related links.  

Posted in Book, Distribution, Education, Life, Neuroscience | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

The Nerdy, Gendered Situation of Computer Science

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 1, 2010

From University of Washington News (by Joel Schwarz):

* * *

In real estate, it’s location, location, location. And when it comes to why girls and women shy away from careers in computer science, a key reason is environment, environment, environment.

The stereotype of computer scientists as nerds who stay up all night coding and have no social life may be driving women away from the field, according to a new study published this month. This stereotype can be brought to mind based only on the appearance of the environment in a classroom or an office.

“When people think of computer science the image that immediately pops into many of their minds is of the computer geek surrounded by such things as computer games, science fiction memorabilia and junk food,” said Sapna Cheryan, a University of Washington assistant professor of psychology and the study’s lead author. “That stereotype doesn’t appeal to many women who don’t like the portrait of masculinity that it evokes.”

Such objects help create what Cheryan calls ambient belonging, or the feeling that you fit or don’t fit in somewhere.

“It is the sense you get right away when you walk into a room. You look at the objects and make an instant appraisal of how you would fit with the objects and the people who are typically found in that environment. You also make a judgment of ‘I like it here’ or ‘I don’t belong here,'” she said

Cheryan set up four experiments involving more than 250 female and male students who were not studying computer science to look at possible reasons why the proportion of women in the field is dropping while the proportion of women in such disciplines as biology, mathematics and chemistry is increasing.

In the first experiment, students entered a small classroom that either contained objects stereotypically associated with computer science such as Star Trek posters, video game boxes and Coke cans, or non-stereotypical items such as nature posters, art, a dictionary and coffee mugs. The students were told to ignore these objects because the room was being shared with another class. After spending several moments in the classroom, the students filled out questionnaires that asked about their attitude toward computer science.

Women exposed to the stereotypical setup expressed less interest in computer science than those who saw the non-stereotypical objects. Men placed in the same situations did not show a similar drop in interest in computer science. Cheryan said this study suggests that a student’s choice of classes or a major can be influenced by the appearance of classrooms, halls and offices.

The other three experiments which asked student to imagine stereotypical and non-stereotypical objects in various environments, found that:

• When women were given the choice of joining one of two all-female teams at a company, and the only difference between the teams was the objects found in the teams’ workrooms, 82 percent of the women picked the team with the non-stereotypical workroom.

• The stereotypical and non-stereotypical objects were the determining factor for both women and men when they were given the choice of taking similar jobs at one of two companies that had workforces evenly split by gender. Both genders had a preference for the job in non-stereotypical work environment, but women’s preferences for the non-stereotypical environment were significantly stronger than men’s. Women also felt less of a sense of ambient belonging in the stereotypical work environment than men.

• After being questioned about their attitudes toward a Web design company, males and females were asked to choose between identical job offers from two such companies. The only difference between the firms was the objects in each company’s workplace. Women were more likely to accept an offer with the non-stereotypical company while men had the opposite preference. The more women perceived the stereotypical environment as masculine, the less interested they were in that company.

“These studies suggest objects such as science fiction books and Star Trek posters communicate whether or not a person belongs in an environment. “Instead of trying to change the women who do not relate to the stereotype, our research suggests that changing the image of computer science so that more women feel they fit in the field will go a long way to recruiting them into computer science,” said Cheryan.

“We want to attract more people to computer science. The stereotype is not as alienating to men as women, but it still affects them as well. A lot of men may also be choosing to not enter the field because of the stereotype. We need to broaden the image of the field so both women and men feel more welcome. In workplaces and universities we can do this by changing the way offices, hallways and labs look. The media can also play a role by updating the image of computer science. It would be nice for computer scientists in movies and television to be typical people, not only computer geeks.”

Co-authors of the research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, are psychologists Victoria Plaut of the University of Georgia (now visiting at Boalt Hall); Paul Davis of the University of British Columbia, Okanagan; and Claude Steele of Columbia University.

* * *

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Brenda Cossman on the Situation of Women in the Workplace,” “Social Psychologists Discuss Stereotype Threat,” “Seeing Your Interior Situation through your Exterior Situation,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes.” A Rose by any other Name Might Become a Judge,” The Gendered Situation of Chess,” The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situational Bind,” The Situation of Gender and Science,Stereotype Threat and Performance,” “The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” Gender-Imbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,” “Sex Differences in Math and Science,” “Women’s Situation in Economics,” “Your Group is Bad at Math,” What Our Exterior Situation Reveals About Our Interior Situation,” “The Situation of Ideology – Part I,” and “The Situation of Ideology – Part II.”

Posted in Abstracts, Choice Myth, Education, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Brenda Cossman on the Situation of Women in the Workplace

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 8, 2010

Brenda Cossman is a Professor of Law, at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. Her teaching and research is in the area of family law, feminist theory, law and film, and sexuality and the law. Her most recent book on Sexual Citizens: The Legal and Cultural Regulation of Sex and Belonging was published by Stanford University Press in 2007.

She recently published a fascinating article, titled “The ‘Opt Out Revolution’ and the Changing Narratives of Motherhood: Self Governing the Work/Family Conflict” in the 2009 volume of the Utah Law Review.  Here’s the abstract.

* * *

“The double shift,” “the glass ceiling,” “the mommy track”: Women’s efforts to balance work and family have given rise to a host of buzz words over the last two decades. Now, it is the “Opt-Out Revolution,“-the title of Lisa Belkin’s New York Times Magazine article in 2003 that described the decision of upper middle class, professionally trained women to leave the work force and to stay home to care for their children. Her Sunday magazine cover story, headlined as “Q: Why Don’t More Women Get to the Top?” alongside the answer: “A: They Choose Not To,” tracked the decisions of eight women graduates from Princeton now living in Atlanta, and four women in San Francisco, three with MBAs, to trade in their briefcases for diaper bags. Belkin maps their decisions onto what she identifies as a larger trend amongst highly educated women to opt out of the labor market in favor of motherhood.

* * *

You can download a pdf of the article here.

In February of 2008, at the New Frontiers In Family Law Symposium, Professor Cossman gave a fascinating talk based on that article.  You can watch the seventeen-minute talk on the following video.

* * *

* * *

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Objectification,” Hillary Clinton, the Halo Effect, and Women’s Catch-22,” Women’s Situational Bind,” The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” and “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes.”

Posted in Choice Myth, History, Ideology, Law, Legal Theory, Life | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Toll of Discrimination on Black Women

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 11, 2009

Black Woman StressFrom Eureka Alert:

African-American women experiencing discrimination no longer feel masters of their own destiny

Racial discrimination is a major threat to African American women’s mental health. It undermines their view of themselves as masters of their own life circumstances and makes them less psychologically resilient and more prone to depression. These findings (1) by Dr. Verna Keith, from Florida State University in the US and her colleagues, are published online in Springer’s journal Sex Roles.

Dr. Keith and her team used data from the National Survey of American Life: Coping with Stress in the 21st Century to analyze the relationship between perceived discrimination and depressive symptoms among 2,300 African American adult women. They also looked at whether personal mastery – the belief that one can control important circumstances affecting one’s life – explained the intensity of the women’s psychological response to discrimination, and whether experiences of discrimination differed by skin complexion. The effects of age and education were also assessed.

African American women who viewed themselves as being able to exercise some control over their life circumstances reported fewer depressive symptoms. Women who were subjected to higher levels of unfair treatment experienced more depressive symptoms, in part, because day-to-day discrimination undermined their overall confidence in their ability to manage life challenges, leaving them feeling powerless and depressed.

The authors’ analyses also showed that skin tone was not linked to level of discrimination, mastery or depressive symptoms. Older African American women reported slightly fewer experiences of discrimination, lower levels of mastery and fewer depressive symptoms than younger women. The more educated women felt more in control of their lives and experienced fewer depressive symptoms.

The authors conclude: “Our results show that perceptions of unfair treatment, like other chronic stressors, are psychologically burdensome to African American women. Our findings confirm that mastery mediates the relationship between discrimination and depressive symptoms and plays a major role in explaining why some African American women are more vulnerable to discrimination than others. Many women suffer emotionally because they are unable to view themselves as efficacious and competent actors when treated with suspicion and confronted with dehumanizing interactions.”

* * *

The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions,” Guilt and Racial Prejudice,” Why Race May Influence Us Even When We “Know” It Doesn’t,” The Cognitive Costs of Interracial Interactions,” “Guilt and Racial Prejudice,” “Perceptions of Racial Divide,” Racism Meets Groupism and Teamism,” and “Banaji & Greenwald on Edge – Part IV.”

Posted in Abstracts, Emotions | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

A Rose by any other Name Might Become a Judge

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 18, 2009

PortiaBentley Coffey and Patrick McLaughlin have recently published their intriguing article, titled “Do Masculine Names Help Female Lawyers Become Judges? Evidence from South Carolina,” in American Law and Economics Review (Spring 2009). Here are some excerpts from the paper’s introduction (citations omitted).

* * *

In Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, a woman named Portia masquerades as a man in order to argue before the court as an attorney. Indeed, for centuries the only way a woman could have practiced law was incognito because the courtroom was a domain reserved exclusively for men. A notable exception on record is Miss Margaret Brent, circa 1640, who was permitted by Lord Baltimore to practice law as a woman; nonetheless, she was still addressed as “Gentleman Margaret Brent” during her several dozen appearances in the Maryland colonial court.

Most jurisdictions in the western world refused to admit women to the bar before World War I. By the end of the nineteenth century, any woman attempting to practice law was labeled Portia, as was the first school established exclusively for the legal education of women. The first Portia to be admitted to the South Carolina bar was Miss James (Jim) Margrave Perry in 1918. Although women no longer needed a male disguise to practice law, a male persona or male moniker still might have helped.

Despite the fact that women made up half of the students graduating from law school in the past 15 years, the legal profession remains a male-dominated world. Consequentially, one would suspect that having a male persona or male moniker might still be advantageous to a career in law. We dub this the Portia hypothesis: females with masculine names are more successful in legal careers than females with feminine names. The purpose of this paper is to conduct the first empirical test of the Portia hypothesis, using data from South Carolina.

We have good reason to expect to find the Portia hypothesis holding in our data. The first female lawyer in South Carolina had a masculine name and today many female lawyers privately express their belief that their nominal masculinity matters. Anecdotally, the legal profession remains one of the last bastions of the “good old boy network”, particularly in South Carolina. Even in Massachusetts – a state that is often viewed as less traditional than South Carolina – females comprise a small minority of all partners in law firms. Just as precedent-bound law changes slowly, the legal profession is notoriously slow to embrace change. On the other hand, females are a protected class under the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment, and no one should understand (and, arguably, respect) that better than lawyers and judges. Yet judicial positions turn over rarely, some even being held for life, so that the equal status for women may not yet have propagated into the upper echelons of the legal profession.

Several different mechanisms could be at work to make the Portia hypothesis hold in the data. A lawyer’s gender could explicitly matter for advancement to some decision makers; for example, some judicial positions are determined by popular election, and the electorate (or sufficiently large subset of it) could categorically prefer men to women. If nothing else were known about an individual besides that individual’s name, the name itself could contain information on the gender of the individual, just as a name contains information on the race of an individual. Just as with the racial discrimination on call-backs for resumes submitted in job applications, individuals may be more likely to get into the pool of candidates receiving serious consideration for the sorts of positions that lead to potential judgeships, i.e. getting their “foot in the door”, when they have a male moniker.

Alternatively, nominal masculinity might matter when opinions are formed about a lawyer’s work, not face-to-face, but through the written word, such as through briefs or publications in law journals. If there is some gender bias in the citation process – that is, if authors are generally more likely to cite a writer with a masculine name than with a feminine name – then we might observe female lawyers with masculine names receiving more citations than female lawyers with feminine names, ceteris paribus, and having relatively fewer citations could affect career outcomes. The mechanism could be even subtler yet. There could be a subconscious preference for male names, even when the gender is known; jurists, clients, superiors, professors, legislators, etc., might just feel more comfortable with a woman called “George” than one called “Barbara”; in the context of the good old boy network, a woman with a male moniker might just feel more like “one of the boys”. Finally, it could just be that the parents who successfully nurture a girl’s ability are the same people who believe that bestowing a child with a masculine name would be advantageous in her future career path.

In this paper, we use the frequency of names and genders of all registered voters in South Carolina to construct a measure of nominal masculinity and assign this measure to each member of the South Carolina bar. Examining the correlation between a lawyer’s advancement to a judgeship and his/her name’s masculinity, we find that nominally masculine names appear to be favored over nominally feminine names. This could be due to the Portia Hypothesis. Alternatively, the correlation between attaining judgeship and masculine names could also arise from the fact that most judges are males, who tend to have more masculine names (by definition).  Because we do not observe the gender of South Carolina bar members, we are unable to control for male domination of the judiciary with that data source.

To separate these two possible causes of correlation between nominal masculinity and judgeship, we combine data on the names and genders of the entire population of registered voters in South Carolina with the publicly available names and genders of judges.  Controlling for gender, we find a significant correlation between nominal masculinity and judgeship, supporting the Portia Hypothesis.  A series of robustness checks confirm the Portia Hypothesis.

* * *

You can download a pre-publication pdf draft of their paper here.

For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Gendered Situation of Chess,” The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situational Bind,” The Situation of Gender and Science,Stereotype Threat and Performance,” “The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” Gender-Imbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,” “Sex Differences in Math and Science,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situation in Economics,” and “Your Group is Bad at Math.”

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Law, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

The Cultural Situation of Tort Law

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 7, 2009

Cultural TortsDavid Engel and Michael McCann, have posted on SSRN their introduction to their forthcoming edited volume Tort Law as Cultural Practice.  Here’s the abstract.

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Most scholars would agree that tort law is a cultural phenomenon and that its norms, institutions, and procedures both reflect and shape the broader culture of which it is a part. Yet relatively few studies have attempted to analyze tort law as a form of cultural practice or to address basic challenges regarding the methods or subject matter that are appropriate to such analyses. This essay introduces and summarizes a new volume of interdisciplinary, comparative, and historical studies of tort law in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, India, Thailand, and elsewhere (the volume is entitled Fault Lines: Tort Law as Cultural Practice, Stanford University Press, 2009). The introductory essay contends that culture is not some ‘thing’ outside of tort law that may or may not influence legal behavior and deposit artifacts in the case law reporters. Rather, tort law and culture are inseparable dimensions of social practice in which risk, injury, liability, compensation, deterrence, and normative pronouncements about acceptable behavior are crucial features. Contributors to this volume demonstrate a variety of ways in which tort law’s cultural dimensions can be explored as they write about such topics as causation and duty, gender and race, the jury and the media, products liability and medical malpractice, insurance and the police, and tobacco and asbestos litigation. Their analyses extend far beyond the confines of the tort reform debate, which has until now set the agenda for much of the sociolegal research on tort law.

* * *

To download the introduction for free, click here.  To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Situationist Torts – Abstract,” “Mark Lanier visits Professor Jon Hanson’s Tort Class (web cast),” and “Why Torts Die – Abstract.”

Posted in Abstracts, Cultural Cognition, Law, Legal Theory | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Gendered Situation of Chess

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 10, 2009

Woman Chess PlayerFrom ChessBase News:  “Normally knowing your enemy is an advantage. Not so in chess games between the sexes. In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Volume 38, Issue 2 (March/April 2008) (pdf here), Anne Maass, Claudio D’Ettole, Mara Cadinu, Dr Anne Maass (et al.) pitted male and female players against each other via the Internet. Women showed a 50% performance decline when they were aware that they were playing a male opponent.”  Here’s the article’s abstract.

* * *

Women are surprisingly underrepresented in the chess world, representing less that 5% of registered tournament players worldwide and only 1% of the world’s grandmasters. In this paper it is argued that gender stereotypes are mainly responsible for the underperformance of women in chess. Forty-two male-female pairs, matched for ability, played two chess games via the Internet. When players were unaware of the sex of opponent (control condition), females played approximately as well as males. When the gender stereotype was activated (experimental condition), women showed a drastic performance drop, but only when they were aware that they were playing against a male opponent. When they (falsely) believed to be playing against a woman, they performed as well as their male opponents. In addition, our findings suggest that women show lower chess-specific self-esteem and a weaker promotion focus, which are predictive of poorer chess performance.

* * *

Here’s the article’s conclusion.

* * *

A number of novel findings emerge from the present study that complement cognitively-oriented research on chess. Most importantly, gender stereotypes can have a greatly debilitating effect on female players leading to a 50% performance decline when playing against males. Interestingly, this disadvantage is completely removed when players are led to believe that they are playing against a woman. This may, in part, occur because women choose a more defensive style when playing with men.

A second and more general message of our study is that self-confidence and a win-oriented promotion motivation contribute positively to chess performance. Since women show lower chess-specific self-esteem and a more cautious regulatory focus than males, possibly as a consequence of widely held gender stereotypes, this may at least in part explain their worldwide underrepresentation and underperformance in chess.

Thus, women seem disadvantaged not because they are lacking cognitive or spatial abilities, but because they approach chess competitions with lesser confidence and with a more cautious attitude than their male opponents. Hence, a motivational perspective may be better suited to understand (and prevent) the underperformance of women in the ‘ultimate intellectual sport.’

* * *

You can dowload the entire article here.  To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes,” The Situation of Gender and Science,Stereotype Threat and Performance,” “The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” Gender-Imbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,” “Sex Differences in Math and Science,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situation in Economics,” and “Your Group is Bad at Math.”

Posted in Abstracts, Education, Implicit Associations, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

The Situation of Gender-Science Stereotypes

Posted by The Situationist Staff on July 8, 2009

Situationist PodcastA BBC podcast of an interview with Situationist Contributor Brian Nosek about Project Implicit’s recent gender-science stereotypes article is available at the BBC World Service’s Science in Action series.

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To read a sample of related Situationist posts about gender and science, see The Situation of Gender and Science,The Behavioral Consequences of Unconscious Bias,” “Stereotype Threat and Performance,” “The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” Gender-Imbalanced Situation of Math, Science, and Engineering,” “Sex Differences in Math and Science,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” “Women’s Situation in Economics,” and “Your Group is Bad at Math.”

Posted in Education, Implicit Associations, Podcasts, Social Psychology | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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