Stereotypes about women include the belief that women are less competent than men and “feminine” jobs are not as valued (Alksnis, Desmaris, & Curtis, 2008). Implicit stereotyping, which operates unconsciously through heuristic processing, might influence explicit actions, leading to workplace discrimination. Therefore, it is important to research conditions that increase implicit stereotyping, so ... [Show full abstract] that steps can be taken to reduce discrimination.
Researchers have linked several factors to stereotyping rates including, mood/arousal. For example, participants in extremely positive or negative moods were more likely to use heuristics to make stereotypic judgments (Bodenhausen, Kramer, & Susser, 1994). These findings support the “mood congruency effect”, whereby judgments are biased with respect to one’s prevailing mood/arousal level. Additionally, these results are consistent with research demonstrating that stereotyping is an automatic process when experiencing extremely high or low cognitive arousal levels. Thus, implicit stereotypic judgments of females in the workforce should be more likely to occur when the evaluator is under high or low levels of arousal (Hypothesis 1).
In addition to mood/arousal, self-esteem is also related to stereotyping rates. For example, stressed participants with either high or low self-esteem were more likely to report stereotypical beliefs (Keinan, Freidland, & Even-Haim, 2000). Thus, participants who are induced to be in either a high or low state of self-esteem should exhibit more stereotypical judgments of women in the workforce (Hypothesis 2). It is unclear however from the previous research whether state levels of self-esteem would interact with mood/arousal to produce differences in implicit stereotyping. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to simultaneously examine the effect of mood/arousal and self-esteem on implicit stereotyping of gender in the workforce.
A total of 75 undergraduates were randomly assigned to either a positive, negative, or neutral PowerPoint presentation (using pictures and music) designed to induce different state levels of mood/arousal and self-esteem. Participants completed baseline and post-tests of mood/arousal (Profile of Mood States by McNair, Lorr, & Droppleman, 1992) and self-esteem (Rosenburg Self-Esteem Scale by Rosenburg, 1965). Following the post-tests, they completed the Harvard Gender-Career Implicit Association Test (Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998) as a measure of implicit gender stereotyping in the workforce.
The results partially supported our hypotheses. All three induction conditions had the expected impact on state levels of mood/arousal (p’s < .05), but only the positive induction condition significantly increased self-esteem levels from baseline to post-test (p = .034). The induction conditions failed to impact implicit stereotyping rates, F < 1. However, male participants with high self-esteem on the post-test exhibited significantly higher rates of implicit stereotyping (M = 6.10) than those with mid-range self-esteem scores (M = 4.72), p = .025. Our results fail to support the mood/arousal research (Bodenhausen et al., 1994), but they do provide support for relationship between high self-esteem states and higher rates of implicit stereotyping in males. Because our induction conditions had minimal impact on self-esteem, future researchers should create a greater manipulation of mood/arousal/self-esteem to determine any impact on implicit stereotyping rates.